Three hours and eleven minutes. That’s how long the postseason lasted for the 2016 New York Mets. That’s the amount of time it took Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants to whitewash the Mets in the Wild Card game on October 5th.
Since the 2015 edition of the team made it to the World Series before succumbing to the Kansas City Royals the 2016 campaign, while being somewhat successful, was a step back from the one that preceded it.
What must Sandy Alderson’s front office do in order to put the club in position to go forward a few steps instead of backwards?
Given the fact that the position players on the field are for the most part established veterans and that there are no super hot prospects bubbling up the pipeline (yes, Amed Rosario is promising but not expected to be a contributor to the 2017 team) improving the offense depends on better health and more production from the primary starters.
The 2016 team scored 671 runs which ranked a dismal 11th in the NL. The offense was geared around the home run ball. Mets batters banged out 218 home runs including three by Noah Syndergaard and one by Bartolo Colon (ah, good times). The home run total was 3rd best in the league.
The pitchers allowed 617 runs which was 3rd best in the league and considering how many starts were missed by Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Jacob deGrom that is very impressive. The team had hoped to get a half season out of the returning Zack Wheeler. They never were able to get him on the mound in a major league game.
So clearly to be a better team the Mets need to score more runs.
It would be unrealistic to expect an uptick offensively from the shortstop and second base positions. Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker hit very well in 2016 and the team would gladly take the same level of production in the upcoming season.
Curtis Granderson, and who knows where in the outfield he will be playing, figures to produce a bit better than in did in 2016 but probably not better than he did in 2015.
Third base is a wild card because we do not know how many games, if any, we will get from David Wright. Fortunately Jose Reyes is around. It is likely that the team’s offense from the hot corner will be about what it was last season.
As this is written we do not know whether Yoenis Cespedes will be returning to the team to man left field. If he does then we can expect another 30+ home run season from him with all the other goodies he brings. If he signs elsewhere then Granderson probably moves to left with Jay Bruce and/or Michael Conforto covering right.
If Juan Lagares can stay healthy then he figures to be the everyday center fielder. He seems to be a capable hitter against lefty pitchers but struggles against righties. One can not reasonably expect a significant offensive uptick there.
Which brings us to the two major holes in the offense. Check out this table.
That is bad bad bad. You can not punt two lineup slots and expect to compete with the likes of the Washington Nationals.
If Duda is over his back issues then he can bring his combination of home runs and walks to infuse more runs to the offense. Duda has a career OPS of 792 which would be most welcome in the coming season.
You may have seen that Eric Campbell has signed to play in Japan. This is just about far enough from Queens to be counted as addition by subtraction. This writer hopes that Loney, currently a free agent, takes a similar career path. While Loney sports a career OPS of 742 which is below par for a first baseman he hasn’t had a season with an OPS over 720 since 2013. The Mets need to be done with him.
If Duda can not stay on the field one would hope that Bruce and Conforto have familiarized themselves with first base sufficiently during spring training to take over. It is crucial that the Mets get production from whomever is playing the cold corner.
Which brings us to the embarrassing offensive hole known as the catching position. This was supposed to be a strength back when d’Arnaud was going to be the next big thing. Now it is a question of whether d’Arnaud is any thing at all.
Can d’Arnaud stay healthy and fix his convoluted swing to return to the production he gave the club in 2015 (.268/.340/.485 in 268 plate appearances)? If the answer to both of those questions is yes then the team’s offense will be in a much better spot.
Rivera, he of the career OPS of 596, is just a poor offensive performer. Clearly he is a skilled defender. In 2016 he hit lefties well. It’s conceivable to carve out a spot for him as the catcher against lefties and whenever Syndergaard starts.
Another wild card is that of Plawecki who must prove that he is more than just an Ed Hearn/Duffy Dyer clone. He has looked like a hitter in the minors. He will need to start hitting at the major league if he really wants to have a major league career.
There is no secret about what the young pitchers need to do: just stay healthy. If the team can roll out Syndergaard, Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler in a regular sequence things should be fine. They can deal with some injuries given the talents of Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. After that it becomes rough sailing.
The 2017 Mets need to set goals of winning back the National League East and then going very deep in the playoffs. With a healthy starting staff and noticeable offensive improvement at first base and catcher they could accomplish those goals.