After Saturday’s game against the Phillies, the Mets had a 44.4% chance of making the playoffs, according to Baseball-Reference. Given how bad they had played recently, that seemed almost encouraging. Considering how their pitching has been decimated, how they’ve suffered a Covid suspension of play and how the manager/front office has made some truly head-scratching decisions, should we be grateful for their current position, one where they have a pretty decent shot at the post-season?
As in most years, there have been a fair number of things you can point to as breaking in the Mets’ favor, along with a bunch of things that have just gone wrong.
If you were told before the start of the season that on September 6, that five of the nine hitters with the most PA on the team had an OPS of .842 or greater, including Michael Conforto with a .961 OPS, Dominic Smith with a .992 mark and Robinson Cano with a .994 – you’d probably be ecstatic. And if on top of that you were told that Jacob deGrom had a 1.76 ERA and that Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo had combined for a 2.08 ERA, well, you might think the Mets were in first place.
But if instead of that good news, you were told that Marcus Stroman opted out without throwing a pitch, that Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha were a combined 2-10 with a 6.83 ERA and that Justin Wilson had an ERA of 5.27 and that Dellin Betances was at 6.10 and on the IL – well, you might figure this as a last-place squad.
And on top of that, there have been some serious growing pains with whoever is responsible for decisions that in the past we would have considered to be exclusively in the manager’s domain. Everyone wants to like Luis Rojas. He’s a young guy with a great baseball pedigree who has worked his way up the managerial ladder. His players unanimously praise him. He aces the people part of the job. It’s just the decisions – both the in-game ones and the bigger-picture items – that have caused so much consternation, at least from this vantage point.
Early on there was the insistence on batting Amed Rosario leadoff, despite his lousy career numbers at getting on base, along with his dismal performance overall in the current season.
There was using Wilson four times in six days while other relievers went a week between appearances.
Yoenis Cespedes was used as a regular after missing well over a year of action and despite virtually no success while he was in the lineup.
Robert Gsellman, Corey Oswalt and Walker Lockett were all given shots at starting before Lugo finally got a chance.
David Peterson was sent to the bullpen despite a 3-1 record and a 3.51 ERA as a SP.
Perhaps you can justify showing as much faith as they did in Cespedes but that still leaves a lot of baggage accumulated in the first 30-35 games.
Has Rojas/Van Wagenen learned from this poor beginning? In the name of all things holy, let’s hope so. But if you look around, you can see encouraging signs.
They’ve announced that Peterson is moving back to the rotation, so at least now, two-thirds of the way through this shortened season, they’ll finally have their three best options as starters in the rotation at the same time.
Outside of the just-recalled Erasmo Ramirez, none of the other seven relievers has gone more than two days without appearing in a game.
Rosario is not only batting in the bottom third of the order, he’s been on the bench as often as he’s started here lately, with Andres Gimenez getting some playing time. Gimenez is a better defensive player and he’s more willing to use his speed, as he’s stolen all seven bases he’s attempted. Rosario, who has excellent speed, too, has been caught on his only SB attempt.
With Cespedes gone, there’s not as much of a lineup crunch. But Rojas has rotated people in and out of the lineup, giving guys days off and still giving playing time to those who deserve some ABs. It results in a different lineup every day but it’s exactly what the current situation requires.
So, right now the rotation doesn’t resemble what we hoped for at the beginning of the year, but it’s in the best situation to succeed that it could possibly be. The bullpen is being used in a more judicious manner. The lineup decisions make a whole lot more sense. The roster is relatively healthy. A couple of relievers are on the IL but nothing that is earth shattering in any way.
Four games under .500 with 20 games to play isn’t anyone’s idea of a good spot to be. But hopefully the Mets have navigated the worst waters of the season and can finish the year on a strong note. Now, if they could just get some hits that actually drive in runs when they get guys in scoring position, perhaps they could go on an extended winning streak. They’ll have to go 13-7 in their final 20 games to reach the 31-win plateau, which guaranteed a playoff spot in our three-year look at 60-game records.