The Mets’ season is not over

What do you do when your team built on pitching is, well, bad at pitching? To be fair, it’s more a case of “pitching badly” than “bad at pitching,” but this team was explicitly built on the concept of run prevention vice run production. That was the understanding, anyway, with the hope that a possible offensive improvement could propel this team to great heights in 2017. Well, that’s only been partially true so far this season, and maybe not in the way you think.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. The Mets were 47-41 at the All-Star break last season and tied with the Marlins for second place in the NL East. It wasn’t necessarily a bad spot to be in, but certainly not quite what fans expected from a team mere months removed from the World Series. Do you remember the issue dominating discussions on their performance up to that point last year? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t the pitching.

The Mets’ offense had a wRC+ of 96 during the 2016 season’s first half. It was a middle-of-the-pack performance that technically should have been just fine for a team with an elite-level pitching staff. The problem was that the team just wasn’t turning that average offensive performance into actual run production. Their 335 runs scored in the first half last year was better than only the lowly Phillies and Braves.

Their pitching staff, on the other hand, was performing as hoped. The staff ERA- of 85 was third in the MLB and their FIP- of 84 was tied for first. We waxed poetic about where the team would be if they could just score some damn runs. The lack of execution with runners in scoring position seemed to be a very “Metsian” statistical anomaly in that something has to go wrong for this team in any given season.

It was maddening but not something we should have feared a consistent issue nor expected to be a problem this season. Of course the other side of that coin was what the 2016 team would have looked like had the pitching staff not been so stellar. We’re getting glimpses of that in 2017 and the results aren’t pretty.

The Mets currently stand at 23-30, barely hanging on to second place in the NL East and a full 11 games behind the Nationals. It’s no secret that the pitching has struggled, and we’ve been harping on it for a while now. But it could be so much worse than it has been, and the Mets should be thanking their lucky stars that the RISP issue from last year actually turned out to be just an anomaly.

The Mets’ wRC+ is at 99, 10th in baseball and only a slight improvement on where they sat at the break in 2016. The difference this season is that they’re bringing runners home, as their 264 runs scored places them ninth in the MLB. On the other hand, their pitching staff ERA- is 121 (dead last) and their FIP- is 19th at 105.

Just as our dream hypothetical scenario in 2016 brought frustration as to what could have been, the pitching staff’s poor performance in 2017 coupled with another lack of run production would have led to an absolute disaster scenario. Think about that. This team has had three separate stints of losing four or more games in a row, including six- and seven-game losing streaks, in just the first 40 games, and it still could have been worse.

Instead, and despite how it may seem, there’s still reason for optimism. We’re just a third of the way through the season, and there’s a lot more ball to be played. More importantly, there’s room for improvement with the pitching staff. Sandy Alderson will not be acquiring a front-line starting pitcher (and there’s no need to), but he’ll surely look to bolster the bullpen. Jacob deGrom‘s elevated strikeout rate will likely pay more dividends as his uncharacteristically high HR/9 settles back to his norm. Steven Matz and Seth Lugo will be coming back soon as well, and Robert Gsellman is better than he’s shown.

Yes, Matt Harvey is still a major question mark. Zack Wheeler is sure to keep running out of steam as he barrels towards some innings limit in his return from an extended Tommy John recovery, too. This staff can survive even without Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia, though, and the offense has performed better than reasonably expected considering the injuries. They’ve got an .877 OPS with RISP for goodness’ sake.

The point is that there is still hope for a successful season of Mets baseball in 2017. It starts with the starters getting their act together and includes some tweaks the team should consider to put the staff as a whole in a better position to succeed. Top it with a small dash of “seriously it can’t get any worse” and a pinch of realistic expectations, and we have every reason to be cautiously optimistic. There isn’t much else we can do but believe, after all.

12 comments for “The Mets’ season is not over

  1. Popeye
    June 3, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Rosario? Stop playing Reyes and Granderson every day.

    • Eric
      June 3, 2017 at 9:28 am

      Did you not read the piece? It’s all about the pitching my friend, not the offense.

      • Jimmy P
        June 3, 2017 at 9:40 am

        It’s also about the defense and the tone of the team.

        It’s never exclusively one thing. You improve where you can.

        But, yes, unless the pitching gets right there’s not a chance in hell. It won’t matter how anybody plays.

        I’m of the school of thought where every little bit helps, where small things can makes a difference between a win or a loss, and where a game or two can make a difference whether a team makes the postseason or falls short.

        It all matters.

        But sure, for this team at this moment, the pitching matters most. Later on we might suddenly want a shortstop who can move, a third-baseman who can throw . . . a player who stands on the top step compared to one sulking on the bench.

  2. Chris F
    June 3, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Starting pitching is the critical concern. Ive been saying it for many weeks, but now it has moved from a “feeling” to a genuine five alarm fire. I get that the pen is all kinds of ugly, but I am of the belief the vast majority of the problem is chronic abuse, thaks to a failed set of starting pitchers. We need 21 outs nearly every day for this to work – 15-17 outs will never cut it. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that is coming after 2 months of games.

    • Metsense
      June 3, 2017 at 10:52 am

      It surely is the starting pitching. For the most part it is lack of command with not enough put away pitches resulting in very little distance. Much is being placed on the shoulders (or elbows) of Matz and Lugo. Lugo is one pitch from the DL and Matz has a problem being durable. That is not very comforting. Can the improving Gsellman give us more than “this” Matt Harvey who is not the pre-surgery Harvey? Tough decisions need to be made because too often this season the Mets starter has started a game with a 5.00+ ERA. That is not conducive to winning. It may be time to bring in a solid #3 starter to eat up some innings via trade.

      • Chris F
        June 3, 2017 at 11:17 am

        As we mentioned a number of times, the lack of being able to have a put-out pitch is frustrating. The number of times our pitchers lose on 0-2 counts is staggering. Opposing hitters are not swinging out of the zone or doing tons of fouling off. I cant get over the number of foul balls in pitchers counts. Batters are simply not afraid of what we have.

        • TexasGusCC
          June 3, 2017 at 6:53 pm

          Chris, you may have a point in the insistence on always throwing strikes and not using a pitch to make a hitter a little uncomfortable make even the scrubs feel bold. I’m not talking headhunting, I’m talking throw it inside about belt high to move the hitter’s feet and make him reset.

      • Chris F
        June 3, 2017 at 11:33 am

        Also, I think the main difference is that so many of the starters are not just losing control, they are also losing command. If opposing batters dont believe you can actually throw a slider, let alone control it, its easy to sit dead red or swing at the hanger. And thats what they are doing. I mean, Eric Sogard had 3 BB the other day. Absolutely zero respect for the pitchers.

  3. Chris
    June 3, 2017 at 10:18 am

    The password is “toast”. It’s over. Collins said deGrom and Harvey had figured it out…yeah right. The bullpen sucks. Matz and Lugo will get hurt again. Ces has yet to return…his legs suck. It’s not happening this year.

  4. Ironman777
    June 3, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    That Cespedes signing might be starting to worry some in the front office and some fans too! How many of those 100 million dollar deals work out? Remember when everybody was worrying about losing Harvey? It will be interesting to see what happens with Harper and Machado.

  5. Bob P
    June 3, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    The old saying is true that you are never as good as you look when things are going well and never as bad as you look when things are going bad. There is still hope but the Mets are going to need to run off a streak pretty soon where they win 7 in a row or 10 out of 12, or something of that nature. To do that, they are going to need the pitching to be a whole lot better. If they do that at least they can make a run. If it doesn’t happen in the next few weeks though, it’s going to start getting late early.

  6. MattyMets
    June 3, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Optimism is contagious.

    Next week we get Cespedes, Matz and Lugo back. Watch out National League. The Mets are about to come roaring back into contention

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