What went right (and wrong) in the first half for the Mets

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.

13 comments for “What went right (and wrong) in the first half for the Mets

  1. MattyMets
    July 7, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Rather than going by the book and simply trading away the walk year guys (Wheeler, Vargas, Frazier) to save a few bucks and stockpile second tier prospects, the Mets should be aggressive and creative at the trade deadline with an eye on 2020.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I’d attempt to lock up Wheeler. Alonso, McNeil, and deGrom are off the table. Anyone else, including Conforto, Matz and Syndergaard are fair game. This is a golden opportunity for BVW to right some wrongs. Once the focus firmly flips to 2020, Callaway should be fired as well.

    • Chris F
      July 7, 2019 at 11:51 am

      Matt, tell me the moves with some money involved as well as potential exchangeable personnel. Without that, there is little meaning in “the Mets should be aggressive and creative at the trade deadline with an eye on 2020”. Locking up Wheeler does not gain this team a single additional win.

      • MattyMets
        July 8, 2019 at 2:02 pm

        Chris F –
        I don’t like to do the Vinny from Queens trade proposal like you hear on WFAN, but if you insist, I like the one suggested on MLB radio by Jim Memelo or Jeff Joyce. That was to package Syndergaard and Smith to Houston for their top 2 prospects – Whitley and Tucker. Both are near ready for promotion.

        • Chris F
          July 8, 2019 at 3:02 pm

          Ok, I like that kind of thinking, but I wonder seriously if all the sudden that means 202o is a hard press. Id rather dump contracts and fill in once we see if trades of that type are valuable assets in the end.

          That would drop 8ish M$ too losing NS, but keep in mind that free $$ are at a real premium next year.

  2. Chris F
    July 7, 2019 at 11:49 am

    I think you are pretty much right on Brian. Thanks for articulating this so clearly. The only thing missing is The Mets “X Factor”, whether it be ownership meddling, FO/field disarray, clubhouse poison or all of the above, this team has it in spades. And its a very dark cloud.

    One thing I would add is that the team design is still flawed. Alderson was an abysmal failure; BVW is no better, and possibly even worse. While there is a change in approach at the plate (and truth be told, the team scores plenty of runs), there are terrifying similarities as you identify: defense does matter. Alderson and BVW apparently share the perspective that it literally does not mean anything. We have witnessed some of the most atrocious defensive play that can occur on a baseball diamond. Older better than younger. Im not afraid of adding the right vets to provide leadership, perspective, but both Alderson and BVW has sold their soul to bad vet choices to play regularly, all in the name of “going for it”. Lastly, and it connects with the both of these is an absence of fear of playing people out of position to help score runs at the expense of not caring for any aspect of defense. Any moment McNeil is playing a position other than 2B is a crime. Any moment Dom Smith is in the OF is a crime. Any moment that JD Davis is in the OF is a crime. Yet to keep Frazier and Cano in the line up these are musts. The last comment about balance is not just doing the above, but putting people in positions where they are not good because there simply is not a capable player on the team at that position, for example CF now (and for a while), but we’ve seen it at 3B, SS, C.

    • July 7, 2019 at 12:50 pm

      I think keeping Frazier in the lineup is a good thing. He’s clearly the best defensive third baseman and he’s been hitting for most of the year when he’s been active.

      Off to Hickory to meet up with Metsense and see the Fireflies play. Unfortunately, Uriarte caught yesterday so probably won’t get a chance to see him. But it looks like Newton is heating up and definitely looking forward to seeing him and Mauricio.

      • TexasGusCC
        July 7, 2019 at 2:13 pm

        Have fun guys.

  3. TexasGusCC
    July 7, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Let’s use today’s lineup as an example of “what’s gone wrong”. With four straight off days coming, Conforto isn’t playing and JD Davis is an afterthought. While Frazier has been better this year, do the Mets really think that another team will see Frazier in a better light by playing him everyday? Where is your best hitter?

    I don’t know if Lagares has really lost as much range as the metrics claim, but metrics for defense are much more judgmental than for offense. He have seen instances of him playing deeper than he used to, but even with decreased range, he’s the best defensive CF on the team. But, that bat… oh boy.

    Brian, the best players play only if the GM isn’t buddies with another player playing that position. Dumbest team in the league.

  4. Mike Walczak
    July 7, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    Alonso, McNeil have been great. Besides the bullpen, the lousy defense, poor base running and lapses in judgement have really hurt.

    Baring players dropping into our laps, Its probably going to take 2-3 years to gain respectability.

  5. July 7, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    So what happened with all the new sabre matric personnel that was going to help the club? I thought our latest new GM was supposed to use these guidelines? Can? The less said the better. He must be off his PED’s. And if The GM was so sure about this great move why add Lowrie? There are very few options for next year in FA if any as I keep harping about the payroll for 2020 is at 127 million before arb hearings. The SP has regressed except for DeGrom. Familiar and Diaz are sent out to pitch no matter how bad they have been. That’s MC’s way of sticking it to our beloved GM. Isn’t that the premise this bullpen was built on? Maybe package Smith and Wheeler for a third baseman at the trading deadline? Let’s hope the Marlins don’t pass the Mets. Let the finger pointing begin.

    • July 7, 2019 at 2:30 pm

      Sorry that should of read Cano

    • Chris F
      July 7, 2019 at 4:44 pm

      Yeah, 127M$ pre-arb. I think you are looking at 145M$ post arb. Leaving the team not more than about 10M$ for addressing 2020. And so its obvious nothing will or even can change next year.

  6. July 8, 2019 at 11:26 am

    I can only imagine and think what this minor league system would look like without that disastrous Cano/Diaz trade.

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