The New York Mets are coming off of back-to-back playoff seasons, but, as is often the case in sports, the focus for everybody involved with the franchise is to take it a step further and win the team’s first World Series crown since 1986.
Unfortunately, last year was a letdown from the year before. In 2015, the Mets played in their fifth World Series and first in 15 years, where they were defeated by the Kansas City Royals in five games. Although another playoff appearance followed, marking the first time since the 1999 and 2000 campaigns that the Mets have played into the postseason, it only lasted one game.
New York snuck into the playoffs after finishing the regular season with an 87-75 record, the same mark as the San Francisco Giants, while both of those teams were a game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals. As a result, the Mets and Giants met in the wild card game, and Madison Bumgarner quickly quieted the Citi Field crowd in helping lead San Francisco to a 3-0 win.
The regular-season record was just three games less than the 2015 National League champions earned, but that was enough to keep them from repeating their division-title winning campaign. That provided them with a much more challenging route through the playoffs, which was not navigated.
Many believe that pitching troubles contributed to the team’s fortunes taking a turn for the worse in 2016. Poor performances from the mound combined with injuries to starting pitchers resulted in 12 different throwers starting a game that campaign. Only one, Noah Syndergaard, started at least 30.
The offense was hit by the injury bug too as David Wright and Lucas Duda both suffered injuries. Meanwhile, fans were looking for Michael Conforto to start becoming a mainstay in the outfield, but he struggled, only hitting at a .220 clip and ended up spending a bit of time with the Las Vegas 51s instead.
But there were plenty of positives in 2016 as well. Both Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon excelled, Syndergaard with a 14-9 record and a 2.60 ERA and Colon with 15-8 mark and an ERA of 3.43. However, Colon departed for Atlanta in the offseason. Meanwhile, Jose Reyes turned in a solid season, recording a .267 batting average after having started the campaign with Colorado’s AAA affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes.
Heading into the 2017 campaign, many prognosticators stated that if New York’s pitching arms can remain strong and not get injured, the team should be able to return to their division-winning ways and then make a deep postseason run, hopefully to the World Series and maybe even to a championship. In other words, most did not believe that much needed to change other than ensuring that the team’s medical staff is not being kept busy working on pitching arms over the season’s six months.
Also important is that right fielder Jay Bruce and center fielder Curtis Granderson provide enough spark with their bat to make up for their lack of defensive skills relative to other outfielders in the game. Duda and Wright need to keep healthy as well while plays such as Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera need to perform as is being expected of them this campaign.
Of course, some criticize the fact that the Mets did not do much with the roster in the offseason, banking on having a healthy 2017 campaign, saying that it was irresponsible and that improvements should have been made to the areas of the team that are currently being held by injury-prone players, and it’s difficult to argue that point. However, David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes are earning more than $40 million combined, which hampers the team’s ability to make too many changes, especially if you’re looking to add competitors who can make a significant difference.
However, heading into a middle-of-May series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Mets are 16-20, seven games behind the NL East-leading Washington Nationals (23-13) and four games behind the second wild card, which is currently held by the Milwaukee Brewers (21-17).
Although eight pitchers have already started at least once less than a quarter into the season, three of those have only started one contest apiece (Tommy Milone, Rafael Montero and Adam Wilk), so it doesn’t appear that this has been a serious issue so far. However, the quality of the pitching staff is as the Mets occupy the bottom spot in the entire majors with a team ERA of 4.89.
Of those who have started at least five games, Syndergaard is performing as expected, recording a 3.29 ERA to go with a 1-2 mark while Jacob deGrom and Zach Wheeler have decent ERAs, 4.07 and 4.18. However, Matt Harvey, who many fans used to view as one of the team’s most promising talents, has posted an ERA of 5.63, and Robert Gsellman’s is 7.07.
It doesn’t help that the team’s team batting average of .238 is 20th-best in the majors. Wright has not even remotely been able to overcome the injury bug as he has yet to play a game this season after suffering a shoulder injury in late February. Meanwhile, Duda has not been healthy either, having injured his left elbow during a collision at first base in April. And he has only hit .231 this season.
However, not all of the news is bad as Conforto’s stellar .343 batting average places him sixth among all National League players. He has also shown a bit of power, smashing nine homers and tallying 16 extra-base knocks. The Seattle-born outfielder is well on pace for his best offensive season ever.
Bruce and Granderson have provided mixed results as the former has one of the best batting averages on the team (.274) and has hit a Mets-leading 10 home runs, but the latter has the worst batting average of any regular player on the team (.144).
Although there is time for players having subpar campaigns to turn around their seasons, it is likely time for the Mets front office to start looking for players to trade for in order to make another postseason run. This is especially true for the pitching staff, but offensive players who could help should be considered too.