The Mets finished the 2019 season with a sweep of the Braves, which got them to 86 wins on the year. It wasn’t good enough for the postseason but it’s right about where most people expected the team to be before the year started. As with any season, there were some highs and lows. Yet it feels like the lows were too low with a team that had the highs that this one did.
It’s now peak eulogy season for the 2019 squad and about a week ago, Joel Sherman of the New York Post had an article calling this “an all-time Mets wasted season.” Actually, that was part of the headline, which Sherman may not have written. But that phrase accurately describes his column. He listed things that went right and then concluded his column with these words: “What a waste.”
Things went right but you can say that about any season. Let’s take 2018 as an example. Jacob deGrom won the Cy Young Award, Brandon Nimmo was considered a fourth OFer when the season started but finished the year with a 148 OPS+. Zack Wheeler was even better than deGrom in the second half of the season. Jeff McNeil came up from the minors and put up an .852 OPS. After posting a 4.71 ERA in 2017, Seth Lugo put up a 2.66 mark. And that squad went 77-85.
You can’t just look at what went right in a season to determine how things should be. Since Sherman gave a list of what went right, let’s look at the other side of things and list what went wrong. Here’s a partial list:
The C who was brought in to stop the running game, threw out just 15% of his runners and was so bad defensively that pitchers were asking to have someone else behind the plate for their starts
The 2B was a major disappointment
The 3B started the year on the IL and was bad for long stretches
The SS took half a year to find himself
The CF played for six weeks when he shouldn’t have and then missed three months
The replacement CFers sucked
The 2B gave the RF a concussion and the RF was downright bad for one-third of the year after he returned
Three-fifths of the rotation underperformed
The bullpen was a disaster of epic proportions
One free agent signing missed nearly the entire year
The highest-paid player on the team missed the entire season
Former top prospect finally starts delivering and then gets injured and misses two months
In-season promotions contributed virtually nothing
Management made decisions that seemed designed to lose games
This list was considerably longer than the one that Sherman came up with in his what-went-right piece. And the what-went-wrong list could certainly be busted out and name individual relievers instead of grouping them together and be even longer. If you just woke up from a six-month coma and someone read you that list of bad stuff and asked you to name how many losses the team had, you’d probably say a lot more than 76.
The Mets went 46-26 in the second half of the season with a bullpen that had just two reliable arms. Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz, the two big offseason acquisitions imported to solidify the pen, combined for a 4.70 ERA and a 1.472 WHIP in 53.2 IP after the All-Star break. And outside of Brad Brach, none of the additions made to the pen throughout the year helped at all.
Contrast that with the Nationals. While their bullpen was a disaster, too, Tanner Rainey, Austin Roth and Daniel Hudson joined the team during the season and combined for a 3.15 ERA in 117 IP. Brach had a 3.68 ERA in 14.2 IP. Imagine if the Mets had an additional 100 innings of solid relief pitching from mid-season additions. Some of those late-inning meltdowns might have been avoided.
It’s almost unfathomable to have a year where you add 16 relievers to those who started the season in the majors and 13 of them stink and the other three combine for all of 17 IP.
So, yeah, a lot of things went right for the Mets this season, particularly the years by deGrom and Pete Alonso. It was those strong seasons that allowed the team to overcome the multiple bad things that happened. Only 17 teams in franchise history won more games than the 2019 squad did. It’s hard for me to sum up the season as a “waste.” This team showed an extended stretch of good baseball, including a 13-6 record in their last 19 games against teams above .500 when they played.
Those 19 games came after the disastrous 0-6 stretch against the Braves and Cubs that torpedoed the season. But they never gave up. Chalk that up to inspired managing or a great culture or high-character players on the team or whatever you want. Regardless of what label you give them, the end result was the 2019 Mets were a flawed team that battled until the last day of the season. That’s not a waste in my book.