The Mets Are Who We Thought They Were
It’s only May 9th, we’re almost at the 1/4 mark of the 2018 MLB season, and boy have the New York Mets brought their fans on a roller coaster ride already.
The Mets came into the season with some legitimate hope but not the lofty expectations that was bestowed upon them in 2016 (the year following their World Series appearance) and 2017 (the year after they missed out on the postseason when they ran into a buzzsaw named Madison Bumgarner in the NL Wild Card game). With an injury riddled 2017 to many key players and a slight step back in 2016, the expectations were brought down for 2018, especially with a new coaching regime coming in. Something about this team and expectations that just don’t mix well together. Just look at 2015 when they went to the World Series, nobody saw that coming. The Mets got really lucky with a monster second half from newly acquired Yoenis Cèspedes, great health and fine pitching from their starters, and a magical postseason barrage by Daniel Murphy. That was 3 years ago (shockingly) and this is a totally different Mets team stepping in the dugout every night.
The expectations for the Mets jumped a bit at the end of Spring Training thanks to Cèspedes showing he’s back healthy and hitting bombs again and the fact that the vaunted “Fab 5” starters all came out of spring training healthy for the first time. One minor hiccup was that Zack Wheeler started the year in AAA and Seth Lugo had what is now Wheeler’s rotation spot. A snow out early vs Philly pushed Lugo back and allowed him to make a couple of bullpen appearances where he looked fantastic, so the Mets decided to keep Lugo there and ultimately called up Wheeler to take that #5 spot when it was time for that starter to pitch. So when Wheeler came up and made his 2018 debut, it signaled the very first time EVER that the “Fab 5” of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Wheeler all took a rotation turn together and came away unscathed at that.
When Wheeler made that start on April 11th in Miami, he pitched brilliantly for 7 innings, allowing just one run on two hits and one walk, striking out seven. The Mets won that game 4-1 and were in the midst of an 8 game winning streak that eventually made it to 10 games and brought the Mets to 11-1 to start the season. It was an unbelievable start that no one saw coming and started making believers out of not just the fans but big time reporters, journalists, and executives alike. Were these the Mets that a lot of people thought that with some luck could absolutely wreck havoc on the NL? Were these what the Mets should’ve been in 2016, fresh off their first sampling of postseason baseball and playing World Series games at Citi Field?
It’s been almost exactly one month since that Wheeler start in Miami that helped catapult the Mets to that incredible 11-1 start. So where does the Mets’ record currently stand?
18-16, a measly 7-15 record since the hot start.
The fantastic bullpen we saw has come back down to Earth. The offense has become and looked completely inept at times after showing so much fight and clawing back from deficits quickly during the great start. The rotation is also in shambles. Let’s start with the #1 ACE of this staff, Jacob deGrom. Jake has without question been the best and most consistent rotation piece this season as he’s pitching to a 3-0 record, 1.87 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 54 K’s in 43.1 innings. Unfortunately in deGrom’s last start, he hurt his elbow while batting and was recently put on the 10 day DL and is only expected to miss one start. Then you have Noah Syndergaard, who is another ACE but hasn’t been doing it as dominant or consistently like deGrom, pitching to a 2-1 record, 3.09 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 54 K’s in 46.2 innings. Walks have been a problem and Noah always seems to find himself with a high pitch count by the time the 5th inning comes around.
Those have been the only two somewhat success stories with the rotation, which features a lot of bad behind Jake and Noah. For starters, there’s Matt Harvey, who many people, myself included, picked to win comeback player of the year and perhaps regain his form and get back to being the pitcher he was in just 2015 (post TJ surgery) and not necessarily 2013 (one of the most dominant pitching seasons in franchise history & pre TJ surgery). Harvey pitched 5 shutout innings, allowing only 1 hit, 1 walk, and struck out 5 in his season debut, a victory over the Phillies in April 3rd. Many people thought the “Dark Knight” was back. Wrong.
After that start Harvey was a complete dumpster fire when he took the mound and showed no signs of life after that gem vs Philadelphia. Harvey allowed 14 runs on 25 hits in his next 3 starts. Along with his poor performance, he showed a very bad attitude with management and the media which didn’t help his case. Finally the Mets decided to move Harvey to the bullpen, which I was a fan of and thought maybe he could rediscover himself with less stress and innings to pitch. Boy was I wrong as Harvey made four relief appearances, totaling 6 innings, and allowed 8 runs. During his last relief appearance, a 2 inning, 5 run drubbing by Atlanta to cap a sweep for them, the Mets asked Harvey to accept a minor league assignment. Harvey quickly declined that request and was subsequently designated for assignment, which means the Harvey/Mets marriage is officially over and done with. Harvey was officially traded to the Cincinnati Reds about 17 hours ago for catcher Devin Mesoraco. Very bittersweet and as a Mets fan, I’m gonna take the optimistic approach and thank Harvey for basically leaving his arm on the Citi Field mound on that chilly night of November 1st, 2015 trying to win this team a championship. Mr.Harvey, I thank you and salute you. Good luck.
Now the next two guys, Matz and Wheeler, two guys loaded with potential, especially Matz IMO, who just can’t get or keep it together. Wheeler has been mediocre at best since that brilliant start in Miami. Matz has been about the same but recently turned in his best start of the season with a 6 inning, one run allowed on three hits performance against Colorado. Unfortunately the Mets lost 2-0 and didn’t support Matz anyway. Could it be a sign of things turning around? We’ll see.
I saw a stat the other day before Harvey was DFA’d that said the Mets starters not named Syndergaard/deGrom, have a 6+ ERA. That’s putrid, disgusting, and not gonna cut it whatsoever. What’s even worse is that Jason Vargas, the “prized” starter we bought in free agency is finally healthy and has turned in 3 straight garbage starts to start his Mets tenure. When it rains it pours as they say.
Cèspedes is exhibiting great power but is striking out a ton too. Michael Conforto shattered timetables by coming back very early from shoulder surgery but has looked dreadful at the plate. Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez, two of the better vets, have come as expected, striking out a ton, hitting homers, but also being clutch and coming through when needed for the most part. Todd Frazier has been a welcome addition with his solid defense at the hot corner and grinding at bats and being amongst the league leaders in walks. The catcher position has been a disaster, thanks to Travis d’Arnaud being knocked out until 2019 with Tommy John surgery and Kevin Plawecki fracturing his hand in Miami a month ago. So because of those injuries and before the Harvey/Mesoraco trade, the Mets have been trotting out Tomas Nidó and José Lobaton behind the plate and it’s basically like forfeiting a spot in the lineup when they come up. Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares have looked real good in limited action but aren’t seeing any sort of increase in playing time although Conforto is doing nothing, Bruce is doing nothing, and Cèspedes is battling some minor nagging injuries. It’s kind of mind boggling really.
The bullpen has definitely cooled off as expected and is down to being average, not terrible. Jeurys Familia has been rock solid at closer, with 10 saves and a 1.59 ERA. Seth Lugo has been pretty stable, pitching to a 1-0 record, 2.66 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 19 K’s. A.J Ramos and Robert Gsellman have been decent and free agent acquisition Anthony Swarzak has been M.I.A with an oblique injury after only appearing in two games. Jerry Blevins has been pretty awful and lefties are pounding him. I can definitely see a reliever acquisition at the deadline if the Mets stay in the race.
It’s pretty much the same song and dance like in years past. Hope the rotation stays healthy, hope the bullpen finally figures it out, and hope the offense keeps hitting homers all season long because that’s pretty much how the lineup is built every year, feast or famine with home runs and strikeouts. It’s just so hard seeing that formula work anymore.
The Nats are said to be the “class” of the NL East, the Phillies and Braves both boast young and exciting teams that are ready to start playing meaningful games down the stretch, and you got a pretty dang good NL Central and NL West crop that are all diverse and strong at all different facets of the game. The 11-1 start was nice but all it threw back was false hope. Yes, i know what you’re gonna say, it’s only May 9th and there’s plenty of baseball left, and yes, you’re right, but this song just sounds all too familiar with the Mets and the NL is just so loaded with talent right now. I hope and pray to be proven wrong on this team as it does certainly have potential but I’m just not all that confident in that actually happening right now. Sorry Mets fans. Throw this back at me come October if the Mets are so lucky to still be playing that month.