Last year the Mets were terrific in the regular season, winning 101 games, which was the second-most in franchise history. That still means they lost 61 times. Losing is part of the game. You can have games where you lose in a frustrating fashion. But shouldn’t that mean there are games where you just, you know, lose?

When was the last time the 2023 Mets just, you know, lost a game? With 52 losses in 98 games, it seems like there should be plenty of opportunities. Instead, they all seem to be frustrating beyond belief. Last night’s loss came because Max Scherzer gave up four home runs – four! The previous loss came when Drew Smith brought his gas can to the mound and gave up a bunch of runs. How can they keep bringing him into high-leverage situations?!? The recap for the previous loss said it was, “the fourth game in a row where the offense didn’t get the job done.”

To an extent, every loss is frustrating. And no doubt it’s magnified here when you need to reel off a big winning streak to get back to .500 and start realistically thinking about a playoff spot. But when was the last time the Mets lost and you sort of just shrugged your shoulders and said something like – can’t win ‘em all?

My nomination for the last time the Mets simply lost a game was June 17. That day the Mets and Cardinals each hit two homers and got three runs from them. The difference was that the Cardinals scored twice without benefit of a homer and they won, 5-3. The Mets have lost 15 times since then. Maybe it’s just an individual thing and my breaking point with the losses happened then. Perhaps the only cure is a 10-game winning streak to reset the season.

THE RIGHT IS JUST WRONG FOR MCNEIL – My preference is to judge players on what they produce, with no allowance given for what they did last year or how nice they seem to be. Jeff McNeil was great last year and chances are you think he wants to win more than the average player on the team. But he’s been terrible this year and everyone seems afraid to say it. We couldn’t wait to bench Eduardo Escobar or Mark Canha but no one says boo when McNeil plays day after day after day with his 81 OPS+.

McNeil has 351 ABs this year, with 87 hits, which means he’s made 264 outs this season. We know there are 50 ways to leave your lover and there must be an equal number of ways to make an out. McNeil has struck out 46 times, which means he’s made both contact and an out 218 times. Over one-third of the remaining time, McNeil has made an out with weak contact to the pull side of the infield. Using the Play Log on McNeil’s page on FanGraphs, there were 36 times he’s grounded out to second base. It sure seems like more than that. There are also 16 times he grounded out to the first baseman. Then you add fielder’s choices and double plays and popups and there are 77 times where McNeil made an out on a ball hit to the first or second baseman. It sure would be nice to see more balls hit into the outfield gaps or over the wall.

OTTAVINO TRIES TO RIGHTEN THE SHIPAdam Ottavino was so good last year that it was hard to expect him to duplicate that performance here in 2023. He got off to a bit of a tough start, yet Buck Showalter continued to use him as the club’s primary setup guy and fans considered him a lockdown reliever despite a 4.38 ERA after his first 27 appearances.

But since June 10, Ottavino has been in 15 games and in that span, he has a 2.45 ERA, a 1.227 WHIP and has limited opposing batters to a .597 OPS. This is much more in line with preseason expectations for the veteran reliever. He still has had a problem with walks, as he’s allowed 9 BB in 14.2 IP. And given Ottavino’s troubles with allowing stolen bases, those walks are troublesome. Still, let’s celebrate his improved performance, even if Brooks Raley deserves to leap frog him in the pecking order.

MYSTERY MAN HITS LIKE ALONSO – It’s not been a particularly good season for Pete Alonso. But he’s still produced a .793 OPS, good for a 117 OPS+, the fourth-best mark on the team among the 15 players with at least 20 PA this season. Since June 16, when he returned from a break of eight days, Daniel Vogelbach has put up a .266/.309/.484 line in 68 PA, which is a .793 OPS. Ideally, we’d see more walks in this span. But given that everyone was complaining about his passivity before his time away, trading walks for power is a good thing.

Everyone long ago made up their minds that Vogelbach is a bum who needed to be cut yesterday. But he’s finally delivering the power – .222 ISO – that the club was expecting to get from him this season. Perhaps if some – certainly not all – of the venom that’s been directed towards Vogelbach went to McNeil, instead, we’d have a better grip on who’s to blame for the disappointment of this season.

THE MAX IN GOPHER BALLS – Pitchers are going to give up homers and having an elevated HR rate is in no way an insurmountable impediment to success. Robin Roberts led the league in HR allowed five times in his career, including four straight seasons. In 1956, he allowed 46 HR. Yet Roberts is in the Hall of Fame, with a lifetime 74.6 fWAR. Tom Seaver didn’t quite reach the HR levels of Roberts. But he surrendered 380 HR in his Hall of Fame career.

More recently, we’ve seen that the best way to beat top-notch pitchers like Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander is to hit homers. In his All-Star season of 2018, Greinke allowed 28 HR. In his last full season in 2021, Greinke had a 1.6 HR/9 yet still went 11-6. In his CY Award season of 2019, Verlander gave up almost as many HR (36) as BB (42) in a year where he went 21-6.

But what Scherzer is doing this year almost defies description. He’s allowed 22 HR in 100.1 IP, which translates to a 1.97 HR/9. It’s the second-worst HR rate among pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the leaderboards, trailing only Lance Lynn and his 2.19 rate. Lynn has a 6.18 ERA, nearly two full runs worse than Scherzer’s 4.20 mark.

Scherzer has allowed 48 runs this season and 31 of those have come on balls that left the park. He’s given up 14 solo shots, seven two-run homers and one three-run blast. And it seems like too many of them have come on sliders that were left in the heart of the plate. Scherzer still has the stuff to get MLB hitters out. The problem is that when he misses with his pitches, they’re not out of the strike zone. Instead, they come across middle-middle with a big sign on them saying, “Hit Me.”

2 comments on “A normal loss, Jeff McNeil’s weak contact to the pull side, Max Scherzer’s HR problems

  • Mike W

    In the eye test, McNeil looks like he is swinging a Wiffle Ball bat. Too many really weak grounder. Very concerning. And yes, he stinks thos year. Part of the many reasons this team is losing more than they win. Have to question is he part of the solution in 2024? Maybe not, Mauricio has a lot more pop and can drive in runs even if he hits .230.

  • Metsense

    McNeil’s playing time should have been reduced way back in the beginning of June. Mauricio should have been promoted and should have been in the mix with McNeil, Marte, and Vogelbach for playing time. If McNeil does not turn his season around then it will be two of three subpar seasons for him. The Mets should not rely on him in 2024. In the off season they should look into trading him.
    Raley should leap frog Ottavino because he is a better pitcher. Ottavino has a problem with the stolen bases. The seventh inning is more suited for him because if he gives up a stolen base and a RBI single then the Mets have more time to make up the run in the 8th and 9th inning.
    Career wise, Scherzer giving up more home runs than ever. It is alarming. This year he is a low starter #3 starter in MLB. If Eppler can trade him then it would free up money and a rotation spot for 2024.

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