With just 23 games left, the Mets season can wind up anywhere from a disappointing fourth place finish to a surprising wild card playoff berth and some October baseball. This has been a season we won’t soon forget, full of both incredible performances and heart-breaking losses. Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but a look at a few pitching stats illustrates a pretty clear picture as to how they Mets wound up at this crossroads. As usual, it all comes down to to the guys on the mound.
The rotation has been good, but not great
Before the season began, if you knew that not only would our big four stay healthy but that we’d swap out our #5 for a proven #2, you’d have bet the house on us making the playoffs, right? Well Jacob deGrom continues to pitch like an ace and even has a shot to be the first ever Met to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards, however the team still doesn’t seem to score when he’s on the mound. In his last 57 starts, deGrom has a pristine 2.13 ERA and a 16-17 record to show for it. Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard seem to have hit their stride after uneven first halves, while Zack Wheeler has been a bit of an enigma this season. Following a stellar 2018 second half, Wheeler has stayed healthy, given us innings and continues to light up the radar gun, but he’s had trouble avoiding the one bad inning that has wrecked too many of his starts. Marcus Stroman was an exciting addition, but has yet to give us even one great start. All in all, this has been a better than average rotation, but not among the tops in the game. Having our starting five (including Jason Vargas before Stroman arrived) make 131 of a possible 139 starts with a rotation ERA of 3.95 (6th in the Majors) is good, but not good enough to carry an awful bullpen.
Last season, the Mets bullpen blew 16 saves, so the front office wisely put an emphasis on retooling the relief corps over the winter. We brought in not one, but two proven closers, in Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia, plus, two proven lefties in Justin Wilson and Luis Avilan. These four plus swingman holdovers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman and a an endless collection of hard-throwing young righties to fill out at the margins, gave us a strong bullpen, at least on paper. Wilson and Lugo have gotten the job done with nice seasons. Gsellman was mediocre before getting injured and Avilan has been a disappointment. The parade of hard-throwing righties are all batting practice pitchers who can’t even handle mop-up duty. The real train wreck involves the two previous closers who were supposed to give us the best 1-2 bullpen punch this team has seen in many years. Last year, Diaz was arguably the best closer in baseball with 1.96 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. This year he’s lost his slider and his confidence en route to putting up putrid numbers – 1-7, six blown saves, a 5.65 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. If possible, Familia has been even worse. The righty entered the season with a 3.12 career ERA but this season, he sports a hideous 6.43 ERA. Both still throw as hard as ever, but Familia has lost his control, frequently walking batters as soon as he enters the game, while Diaz has lost his nerve, frequently leaving pitches over the fat part of the plate.
Whether you blame it on Mets starters for not being more efficient or their manager for being too quick to pull them out of games, there have been a number of times where we might have had a better chance to win had we not leaned so hard on a damaged bullpen. The Mets bullpen has already blown 25 saves, third worst in the Majors, but that’s not the ugliest stat from this bunch. That honor goes to 56% save percentage.
One thing that jumps off the page when you look at the standings is that the Cardinals seem to be overachieving. No stars on either side of the ball, unless you count Paul Goldschmidt, yet they sit in first place in front of the far more talented Cubs and Brewers. One stat that may explain it? A league high 78% save percentage.