The Mets approach the All-Star break in worse shape than a guy finishing his first marathon after never running for more than five miles. Was this predictable? My opinion is that most people thought this was a team that would finish with between 80-89 wins. Right now it would take a strong close to finish with 75 wins. Any way you look at it, the season has been – and likely will continue to be – a major disappointment.
But we could say the same thing about 2018. And 2017, too. A majority of people blamed the past two years on the “flawed” design of the Mets under former GM Sandy Alderson. Yet we’re seeing the same results with a new GM who certainly didn’t act from the Alderson playbook.
It seems like we can benefit from looking at what went right versus what went wrong with the team that Brodie Van Wagenen assembled, one we expected to post in the vicinity of 85 wins.
What went right
Pete Alonso putting up a ROY-type season and beating the club’s HR record for a rookie before the break.
Jeff McNeil showing that what he did in 248 PA last year was not a fluke.
Todd Frazier’s injury allowed playing time for McNeil and others and in his last 185 PA heading into Saturday, Frazier had a .902 OPS.
J.D. Davis, Adeiny Hechavarria and Dominic Smith all performed well in part-time play.
Among NL SP with at least 40 IP (74 total), Jason Vargas has the 14th-best mark with a 3.31 ERA, not counting his disastrous relief outing.
What went wrong
A bunch of money and trade assets went into “fixing” the bullpen, which is likely the worst one in team history.
The top four SP have all taken a step backwards from last year, in no small part due to gopher ball problems.
Wilson Ramos wasn’t expected to be a star defensively and he’s been much, much worse than expected.
Robinson Cano did not come close to being worthwhile, either offensively or defensively.
Amed Rosario did not improve offensively and got worse defensively.
Brandon Nimmo got hurt and his return is unknown
Juan Lagares lost a step defensively, which he could handle, and lost 150 points of OPS from his lifetime mark, which he certainly could not afford to have happen.
After his collision with Cano, which sent him to the IL, Michael Conforto has posted just a .719 OPS in 159 PA. The Mets are 14-23 (.378) since Conforto’s return. He had a .912 OPS before the IL stint and the Mets were 20-21 in games before the collision.
So, what can we learn from what’s gone right? Play your best 25 guys, whether they’re rookies who’ve never played in the majors before, or guys who didn’t reach the majors until they were 26 or starters who got bogged down by injuries previously.
What can we learn from what’s gone wrong? Don’t spend major capital to acquire an old 2B and a reliever. The bullpen won’t fix itself just because you spend a lot of money on it and plan on pitching guys in well-defined roles. The second one is a major problem. The Mets’ particular well-defined roles are hurting the club. They need to be completely redefined. Also, catcher defense matters. And middle infield defense is kind of important, too. Finally, have fielders yell for the ball.
Right now, the Mets’ best chance to win probably is by going with Tomas Nido at catcher, McNeil at 2B, Hechavarria at SS and Conforto in CF. That would mean sitting two of this offseason’s main acquisitions. Do they have the stones to do that? Probably not. Why Conforto in CF? Because right now they have the exact same UZR/150 in center and Conforto has a 322-point edge in OPS. There’s a mythology built up – at one time deserved – about Lagares’ defense. But if you believe he’s a Gold Glove defender now, you’re living in the past. There’s not much to be done about the outfield defense right now. Upgrade behind the plate and in the infield and live with what you get in the OF.