The Mediocre Mets
Reading Time: 5 minutes
With the New York Mets barely missing the playoffs last season with an 86-76 record (their first record over .500 in the past three years), expectations were high as they began the 2020 MLB season. On paper, the team was loaded with talent. Utility player Jeff McNeil led the team in batting average (BA) last season at .318. Michael Conforto was another consistent hitter who had been improving each year. The team also had a young power hitter, first baseman Pete Alonso, who crushed 53 home runs last season and had 120 RBIs. The trinity of the Mets’ offense was supported by skilled veterans such as catcher Wilson Ramos, who looked like he was hitting in his prime last season. It seemed like their offense was going to be a pitcher’s nightmare in 2020.
But their offense wasn’t even supposed to be the strongest part of the team. Back-to-back Cy Young winner Jacob Degrom was the reliable ace of their pitching staff and upcoming minor league talent David Peterson was sure to impress this season. Noah Syndergaard, who came second in the rotation, was undergoing Tommy John surgery and would be out for the season, but with the Mets signing Michael Wacha and former Cy Young Rick Porcello, many felt they would fill his shoes. Finally, with Seth Lugo being promoted to closer, coupled with the unfaltering Jeureys Familia in relief, the Mets bullpen was finally going to stop blowing games and park the bus. For the first time in a long time, the Mets had a strong lineup to pair with their elite pitching staff, which left many fans confident that they would be going on a trip to the postseason.
So how are the Mets currently doing, you ask? Just the usual. The Mets are a middle-of-the-road team in the National League with a 22-27 record, a small chance of reaching the postseason, and an even slimmer chance of reaching the World Series. Why am I not surprised?
As it is with the Mets every year, their offense has been rendered obsolete. The key hitters that contributed to the Mets’ terrific performance in the latter half of the 2019 season haven’t shown up. Shortstop Amed Rosario is hitting .250, far from his .287 at the end of last year. Pete Alonso is all but a threat, as he has been potentially the worst hitter for the Mets with a .215 batting average, and has failed to make up for his lack of getting on base with homeruns like last year. Wilson Ramos used to make up for his liability behind the plate with his hitting, but he has been slumping with a .23 batting average as well.
Despite poor performances from a third of the starting lineup, the Mets still lead the MLB with a collective batting average of .279. The organization has made an effort to boost their offense these past few years, developing a solid 1-2 punch of Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo (whose ability to draw walks is another feat). Hitters such as J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil made their mark on the organization in 2019 and haven’t let up. All of these players took a team from being ranked 20th in hits per game just four years ago to the fourth best hitting team in the league. Yet the Mets still aren’t among the top eight teams in the National League with their seemingly potent lineup. How? Despite the ability of these runners to get on the bases, the Mets continue to falter in driving runners home, an issue that has truly sunk the team this year.
Over the past four years, the Mets have increasingly left more and more runners in scoring position. The Mets rarely left runners stranded on the bases in 2017, which allowed them to come back into the game despite their lackluster hitting. Now when the Mets are down by two runs in the bottom of the seventh, all hope is lost. This year, the Mets leave an average of four runners in scoring position stranded per game. This statistic is the worst out of the 30 teams in the MLB, and the Mets currently rely on one man to get their big hit: Robinson Canó.
Canó, a 37-year-old second baseman, has been a stable presence in the lineup throughout his entire career. He currently has a .318 BA and an overall .320 BA when runners are in scoring position. Canó has played beyond expectations this season, but with his contract ending in 2023, his age may become a liability.
The only other stability the Mets have seen this year is with their ace-pitcher, Jacob Degrom. Humble and hardworking, Degrom is one of the best pitchers in the National League with a 1.69 ERA, and has won back-to-back Cy Young awards. His excellent pitching isn’t expressed in his four wins though, as he earned three no-decisions in games where he let up only one or two good runs because the Mets’ offense grew stagnant. That seems to be the story of the Mets’ season year after year: good pitching but no offense to support it.
The lack of support DeGrom gets offensively isn’t helping the rest of the starting rotation either, which has its own difficulties. Steven Matz has yet to deliver a performance mimicking his ascension to dominance in the second half of the 2019 season, as he holds a record of 0-4. Michael Wacha, who was acquired from the Cardinals, has been inconsistent with a 1-3 record. Worst of all, Rick Porcello, whom the Mets signed as a free agent from the Red Sox, has severely struggled. He currently holds a record of 1-5 and allows more than one hit per inning on average. The logic in signing Porcello, who despite having a winning record last season, had an abysmal 5.52 ERA in Boston (and currently has an ERA of 6.06), is incomprehensible. When the Mets have the liquidity to sign free agents, they spend a combined $13 million on two underperforming and historically average starting pitchers. Meanwhile, Zack Wheeler, whom the organization couldn’t keep in free agency, is now a Phillie and a major contender for the Cy Young award. Wheeler has four wins and zero losses, and throughout his six years with the Mets, his total annual salary was a little less than $10 million, which is the same price the Mets paid for one year of Porcello.
With the Mets’ offense igniting in recent weeks and with some help from an expanded playoff, the Mets somehow still remain only two games behind a playoff position. However, with fewer than 15 games to go, the team has a series against the Phillies, Braves, and Nationals. The Mets’ performance against these top-caliber teams will determine their fate. Will they have another season of above-average performance and leave Mets fans with hope for the future, or will they continue to be a mediocre team that just can’t quite compete with the powerhouses of the MLB? My pick is the latter.