Lucas Duda and Jacob deGrom must lead second-half surge

Earlier this week, the always insightful Charlie Hangley asked a question sitting at the forefront of most Mets fans’ minds: are they a second-half team? More specifically, can we expect a mad dash towards the postseason in the season’s second half as we’ve witnessed the last two years? It’s a shining, albeit dim, beacon of hope in an otherwise lost season. Is this a reasonable hope, though, or have we reached the point of no return?

First, let’s take a look at where the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Mets stood at the break.

  • 2015: 47-42
  • 2016: 47-41
  • 2017: 39-47

Well, that certainly doesn’t look promising. Still, the break wasn’t the low point for those 2015 or 2016 teams. “Low point,” however, is very much relative here. The 2015 low was their 52-50 record on July 30th before their surge. In 2016 it was on August 19th, when they sat at 60-62. Their low point so far this year was on June 22nd, when they were 10 games under .500 at 31-41. You can see that the low this year, and for sure there’s still time for worse, is nothing like 2015 or 2016. Those teams were good teams that struggled but ultimately turned it around. The 2017 version of the Mets have just not played well at all.

Ya gotta believe, as we say. But does the team have the second-half horses to pull it off? Are there any “second-half players” on the roster to whom we can look to light the way? To keep this bit of analysis from getting too overwhelming, we’ll take a quick look at a couple of key, historical second-half stats for hitters and starting pitchers likely to have a prominent role on the team (if they’re not traded) as we head out of the break.

This is obviously far from perfect, but it frames what we’re trying to assess at a high level. Note that some of these players have much longer track records than others.

Hitter wOBA wRC+
Lucas Duda .358 131
Yoenis Cespedes .358 129
Michael Conforto .353 126
Neil Walker .347 121
Curtis Granderson .349 116
Asdrubal Cabrera .334 108
Jose Reyes .333 104
Jay Bruce .326 101
Travis d’Arnaud .313 100
Wilmer Flores .310 98
Juan Lagares .293 87
Rene Rivera .260 63

Assuming most of these players are still on the roster after the trade deadline, the Mets are not without firepower. Lucas Duda leads a pack of strong second-half performers that should, theoretically, keep the Mets a top ten offense in baseball through the remainder of the season. Yes, you read that right. By most measures, this team is mashing with the best of them this year.

Pitcher WHIP xFIP
Jacob deGrom 1.08 2.87
Noah Syndergaard 1.12 2.91
Matt Harvey 1.01 3.01
Steven Matz 1.27 3.05
Robert Gsellman 1.28 3.38
Zack Wheeler 1.31 3.67
Rafael Montero 1.66 4.56
Seth Lugo 1.1 4.71

This is where things get dicey, both in terms of current performance and lack of a track record for many of these players. On the whole, however, if the pitchers on this list put forth the performances suggested above then the second half would take on a decidedly better tone. It remains to be seen how much of a factor Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard will be the rest of this year, but the team will obviously be in a better position with those two healthy and pitching near their norms. Jacob deGrom will need to lead this staff in some manner of turnaround if they hope to salvage this season. While the above stats don’t particularly make us warm-and-fuzzy, they’re notably better than we’ve seen so far this year.

So, do we believe that the Mets have it in them to perform an even bigger miracle than in 2015 or 2016? It’s not impossible, but it sure as heck isn’t probable considering their current predicament. Stranger things and all that, but there are enough strong second-half performers to at least entertain the notion. The more important question is this: does the Mets front office believe? Their activity at the deadline will shed much light on that and determine whether we should continue to believe or not ourselves.

5 comments for “Lucas Duda and Jacob deGrom must lead second-half surge

  1. July 15, 2017 at 9:27 am

    One thing we know about the FO is they’ll put the decision off as long as possible.

    My preference is to believe and chase a playoff spot. It’s just hard to do either of those things with the pitching we’ve seen so far. JDG gave us the blueprint – move the ball around and don’t be afraid to pitch upstairs. But that’s not something we typically see with the other pitchers on the staff.

    Hopefully Lugo gives a strong outing tonight.

  2. Chris F
    July 15, 2017 at 11:16 am

    I think pursuing a WC spot is as ridiculous as can be imagined. I cant see any purpose in that at all. If there are trades that can help bolster the farm I do them. This team is in the bottom half of the teams past the 2 accounted for WC spots today. deGrom cannot pitch every game. I just cannot comprehend “believe” despite obvious circumstances. I think this is the exact cause killing the miserable draft picks we get year after year. Trade off what can be had. Get the kids up that may have potential. And desperately try to get better with the drafts. Finishing 3rd in the east and between 11-21 in MLB record is a complete wasteland. Thats where this team strives to reach…for the life of me, I cannot see why. I apparently forgot to take my “miracle believing” pills this morning.

    As an aside, the interview with SA was affirmational if not terribly great news. He clearly has no interest in defense. He believes only in power bats and power pitching. HR and Ks. Hes reduced the game only to those components. Like a tyrannosaur looking up at an incoming meteorite he comes from a bygone era, one I wish we could send him back to.

  3. Pete from NJ
    July 15, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    I don’t know what to say. Last Sunday everything looked dismal. After a great performance by JDG everything looks so different.

    So let’s see where we after Sunday night.

    At least we can see some interesting games and write with some optimism instead of selling assets and talking about next year.

    Maybe the squad stays together for the entire season with some {unrealistic} hope for September baseball. A couple of years ago that’s all we wanted to see: “meaningful September baseball.” Remember?

  4. Rob SF
    July 15, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Good perspective.

    The fire sale approach is no guarantee of success. You have to be bad many years for this approach to work, and it doesn’t always work. And the MLB draft is a crap shoot anyway, unless you have a top 5 pick, and even then…

    This is an interesting, bizarre year in baseball. And a roller coaster year for the Mets, mostly in the troughs. Is there one climb in us? Who knows, but it makes sense to wait as long as possible and see what options unfold. Besides, it’s not clear our FAs are really worth much in the market, unless we just want to create space to see what Dominic and Amed can do… and there’s still time for that in September.

    Give these guys one more shot at it, and support them. Every WC contender is flawed in their own way. Anything is possible, especially if guys start trickling back and have a little bit in them. Who knew Lugo and Gsellman would pitch so well last year?

    It’s really up to the O to carry the team. They’ve done well without Yo, so more is possible. Plus it’s not as if anyone is having an extraordinary season, it seems statistically they’re each average or below career-wise, except for Comforto. If they can improve their approaches a bit by being more patient, working the counts, hitting situationally, driving it up the middle… instead of trying to crush every pitch, they’ll put themselves and their teammates in better counts and positions to crush the ball. Then it creates a virtuous cycle where our pitchers can pitch with less pressure, and rebuild confidence. (Yes, the D will still be bad, look the other way this year.)

    Go for it, play hard, cheer hard, have a little fun.

  5. Metsense
    July 15, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    In order to consider that the Mets could get “back into it” they would need to immediately improve their starting pitching. That would mean strong consistent performances from Wheeler and Lugo but even then there is no fifth starter. The bullpen is a disaster and it will difficult to hold leads. The Mets don’t have the pitching talent to make a playoff run.
    They should decide which expiring contracts they think would be beneficial for 2018 and try to extend them before the trade deadline. If an extension can’t be agreed on then move them to replenish to minors. It is time to shop the potential free agents that are not in their 2018 plans.

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