We’ve now had a little bit of time to digest the wild card loss to the Giants, and the end of another pretty good season in Queens. Any time the Mets make the playoffs—particularly while the Yankees miss out—feels like a fun year once the disappointment of elimination starts to pass. But here I want to take a look back at how the Mets and their key players performed versus expectations this season.
The Mets In The Playoffs
This is a tough concept to measure, but if we’re going by preseason expectations, it’s probably fair to say that the Mets performed slightly worse than people thought they would. Preseason World Series odds listed the Mets with the fifth best chance at claiming a World Series, which more or less implies that they should have made it to the division series. Naturally,this is a fluid concept. Significant midseason injuries hampered the Mets more than most other contenders, and there are some who would say at this stage that the club overachieved even by making the wild card game.
The Mets In The Division
It’s also fair to say that the Mets fell slightly short of expectations, unfortunately. Heading into the 2016 season the betting markets tabbed the Mets as favorites in the NL East, and while it was a competitive division at times, the Nationals wound up with a pretty decisive first place finish. For those who might have stopped looking when it became clear who would clinch the division, the final count was an eight game lead over the second place Mets.
We all know what happened with Matt Harvey this season, and it feels unfair to judge him one way or another against expectations. Mets fans and baseball followers in general expect the best of Harvey these days, but after pitching well below his standards for the first few months of the season, he was forced to undergo surgery to fix a problem with his shoulder. This one’s a wash—we have no way of knowing how well Harvey might have pitched, or how different this season might have been, had he remained healthy.
Syndergaard was probably the most enjoyable part of this Mets team. After his stellar 2015 season the expectations were cautiously high coming into this year. We all knew we’d seen a potentially great pitcher, but you just never know with these young guys. As it turned out, Syndergaard was better this year by just about every measure. Consider this: In six more starts and 33 more innings than he pitched in 2015, Syndergaard let up only one more run than a year ago. That pretty much says it all. Right up to the incredible pitchers’ duel he staged against unfairly-dominant postseason phenom Madison Bumgarner, he was better than we dared to expect.
Steven Matz probably deserves some mention for bolstering the Mets’ rotation without Harvey as well, but Bartolo Colon should be a highlight in any conversation about expectations. 43 years old, overweight, and coming off a
season that seemed too good to be true in 2015, he was significantly better this year. He cut his ERA by nearly a full run and led the team in wins with 15 (after going 14-13 last season). Colon outpaced expectations about as thoroughly as any player in the MLB. Now we just have to decide if he should be re-signed.
I might be in the minority where Cespedes is concerned, but my own expectations were actually not particularly high. As talented as he is, it’s hard not to think of him as slightly unreliable simply because he seems to bounce around the league so much. But the Mets wound up getting more or less the player they had for parts of 2015, which amounts to one of the best all-around players on the roster. As always, there are questions about whether or not he should be brought back. But after Cespedes performed at a consistently high level, we at least know that Cespedes
has the support of some teammates.
Cabrera was a much-needed offseason acquisition at shortstop, and seemed like a strong piece of the new lineup. But I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that he performed better than we thought he would. Cabrera posted his best average
(.280) since 2009 (.308), was every bit as good as expected in the field, and ultimately became one of the most reliable members of this team. There’s no arguing with the assertion that he beat expectations.
This is of course a small selection of star players, but looking at performance as it relates to expectations, there’s a pretty clear pattern with the 2016 Mets. The team slightly missed a high mark that was set for it, despite the best players playing as well or better than we hoped we’d see. That suggests at least to some extent that injuries to the likes of Harvey and even David Wright derailed what could have been a special season, rather than just a good one.
That ought to give Mets fans some hope that next season, if all the pieces fall into place, could be even better.