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.