The Mets are down, but it could be worse

The 2017 season has not been what the Mets or the fans expected. At least there is an explanation for the club’s record, specifically the historic run of injuries to key players. I’m not going to list them all, but some that stand out include Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes.

However there are other NL teams who have seriously underperformed, and the explanations in those cases were not always health related.

Let’s start with the World Champion Chicago Cubs. Their record last year was 103-58. As of this writing their record is a pedestrian 35-34, putting them 1 ½ games out of first in the NL Central Division. They cannot point to injuries as the source of their woes. Starting pitching has been their biggest problem.

Kyle Hendricks has a 4.09 ERA, Jake Arrieta is up at 4.64, and John Lackey’s ERA is at 4.98. The position players have not been immune either, Kyle Schwarber sports a slash line of .174/.296/.384. Kris Bryant is shy of his 2016 MVP form and Anthony Rizzo had a slow start, although he has gotten hot after being moved to the lead-off slot.

As to why the Cubs are underperforming, it could just be a combination of aging starters regressing and perhaps a bit of a let down leading to overconfidence after their big year last year. The Cubs probably will make the postseason this year despite their mediocre play so far, especially since their division is not as strong as last year.

Another 2016 post-season NL team that has badly underperformed are the San Francisco Giants. In 2016 the Giants beat the Mets in the wild-card game, then gave the Cubs a scare in the NLDS. This year they are sitting at 26-46, 20 games out of first, and only the lowly Phillies have a worse MLB record so far.

The Giants do have a significant injury, ace pitcher Madison Bumgarner is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, following a questionable decision to go dirt bike riding in April. But it could be argued that the loss of Bumgarner is comparable to the Mets losing Syndergaard, and of course the Mets have had a whole raft of serious injuries in addition.

Plenty of players are having down years for the Giants including starters Johnny Cueto and Matt Cain, with 4.42 and 4.99 ERAs, respectively. The bullpen has been bad, closer Mark Melancon has four blown saves already, the same amount he had all of last year, and his ERA is a stratospheric 5.09.

Why are the Giants struggling? They are not executing, especially on offense. First baseman Brandon Belt has a .222/.338/.409 slash line, and outfielder Hunter Pence is not getting on base or hitting for power with his .246/.287/.348 slash line. Despite slugging catcher Buster Posey still crushing the ball, the Giants have scored only 265 runs all year, while they have yielded 356 runs. That is the recipe for a bad season. Please note all statistics/records cited in this article are through the games of June 19.

Injuries are not the only problem for the Mets, starting pitching has been inconsistent which has led to some bullpen stress. But the team is still playing hard, and scoring runs. Making the playoffs this year is a longshot, but I would not be surprised if the team turns it around some later this year and then builds on it next year, that time lost to injury may even out at some point.

9 comments for “The Mets are down, but it could be worse

  1. MattyMets
    June 21, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    I think the Cubs are suffering from the hangover effect of pitchers throwing a lot more innings last year. Can’t really explain some of their hitter slumps though. The Giants, more than any other team are built around pitching. Beyond the Bumgarner injury, Samardja and Cueto have really struggled. That 1-2-3 is the key to their team.

    It’s still early enough in the season that I think a few teams will come back to reality. I mean, what are the Minnesota Twins doing playing over .500?

    As you pointed out, the Cubs will be fine because their division stinks. I still believe they’ll win the Central, but may do so with only about 90 or so wins this time.

  2. Pete In Iowa
    June 21, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    John, I must say I admire your optimism. Please send some my way.
    As far as the injury excuse goes — perfectly healthy pitchers Wheeler, DeGrom, Gsellman and a slew of healthy relievers and a pair of unknown cast-offs far too often have made giving up bushel loads of runs and home runs into some sort of perverse art form. Not so much Wheeler and DeGrom, but they certainly have had their moments of arson. I won’t even include Harvey because I believe he hasn’t been healthy all season. I believe all of the Mets problems revolve around their utterly incompetent pitching.
    While injuries certainly haven’t helped, for the most part, the offense has performed well enough for this club to be very relevant in any post-season discussion. Even without Cespedes, we were still scoring sufficient runs.
    To be sure, it is early enough and anything can happen. But the pitching has been getting worse (except for one six-start stretch a week and a half ago), not better.
    Not to mention our healthy players playing 1962 style defense….

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • John Fox
      June 21, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      thanx, whatever optimism I had was certainly diminished by last night’s game, needless to say it was written before the 12-0 shellacking.

  3. Chris F
    June 21, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    I guess there is some solace in knowing we are not alone in stinking up the house. That said, all we can say is that for a team variably predicted to win up to 95-100 games, this is a severe disappointment.

    Although the team has experienced a lot of injuries, using that as an excuse for the poor performance we have seen only sweeps the dirt under the carpet. Starting pitching has been terrible from day 1, even those starters that have been healthy. The poor pitching (lack of command and control leading to high pitch counts), exposed the pen, lack of speed, and the substandard defensive skills. These need to be addressed before the team is relevant. Alderson would be making a severe mistake believing he has a swing and miss rotation where defensive skills dont matter. Likewise, the HR ubber alles approach has run its course. Alderson will have to field a different team next year with all the FAs coming off the books. It will be interesting to see if he continues the same ol same ol (sign Duda, Walker, pick up option on Cabrera) or uses these guys to help build a new look team that is younger, faster, and better.

  4. Wilponzi
    June 21, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Met fans should be happy because the Cubs, Giants and other teams are having problems. Shabby excuse? Things are that bad with the Mets. The Braves (even without FF) and the Marlins are out playing the Mets. Yes, things are about as bad as could be. The Mets minor league teams are a mess, look at their records. So next the new rebuild will happen. Oh, yeah, don’t tell me about the “young guns.”

  5. Chris F
    June 21, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    Wheeler now on DL with biceps tendinitis. Excellent.

    …or as I heard earlier today: Being a Met is a preexisting condition.

  6. Chris F
    June 22, 2017 at 8:22 am

    You know it’s bad when there isn’t even a comments box to the Gut!

    • June 22, 2017 at 8:46 am

      Sorry Chris – my fault and this has been fixed.

    June 22, 2017 at 9:42 am

    It Could Be Worse!

    I like it – perhaps this should be their second half marketing slogan.

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