It’s often been said that everything went right for the Mets in 2022 and that virtually nothing did in 2023. But everything going right just doesn’t happen in MLB, not even for a perennially lucky team like the Braves. As exasperating as it is to watch good fortune happen consistently for that franchise, no one can deny that they work hard and work smart, in addition to being lucky. With that out of the way, let’s try to see how things played out in both 2022 and 2023 for the Mets. And let’s also try to take a look forward and see what type of luck the Mets will need to be a playoff team in 2024.
First, what is luck? It’s almost impossible to define that accurately and no doubt there are things beyond our comprehension trying to view things from the outside. But for this piece, we’ll attempt to define luck as noticeably surpassing (or falling short) of established norms. If Player X has a lifetime .800 OPS and puts up a .910 OPS in a season, we’ll call that lucky. On the flip side, if Player Y plays 150 games a year and then only plays 115, we’ll call that unlucky.
Without a doubt, the 2022 Mets had things go their way. But a bigger factor than luck in their success was the majority of their key players just performing to the back of their baseball card. Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil rebounded from down seasons. Pete Alonso and Starling Marte essentially did what they were supposed to do based on their track records.
There were six players who fell on the lucky side of things, starting with the health of Brandon Nimmo and Chris Bassitt. Max Scherzer was lucky with his HR/FB rate. Edwin Diaz was lucky with both his walk rate and his LOB%. Adam Ottavino was lucky with his BB/9, BABIP and LOB%. Trevor Williams was lucky with his strand rate.
On the other side of the coin, James McCann was unlucky with both his health and production, Carlos Carrasco was unlucky with his BABIP. At this point in his career, Jacob deGrom’s health couldn’t be considered unlucky. But his HR/9 and LOB% rates definitely qualified. Trevor May was unlucky in both health and BABIP. J.D. Davis was unlucky with his HR/FB rate. Dom Smith was unlucky with his ISO and BABIP. And Darin Ruf saw every one of his numbers crater when he put on a Mets uniform.
Fast forward to 2023 and we see good things happen in a bad season. Remember, we’re using lucky to denote something unusual happen, even if it’s not really “luck.” And vice-versa, too.
Nimmo was lucky with his power. McNeil was lucky with his health. And given that the rest of McNeil’s numbers were similar to what he did in 2021, it’s not really right to say he was unlucky there. Tommy Pham was lucky with his ISO. DJ Stewart was lucky with his hot streak. David Robertson was lucky with his BB% and LOB%. Brooks Raley was lucky versus RHB.
More so than in 2022, we saw players who were lucky in one category and unlucky in another. Joey Lucchesi was lucky with his HR rate and LOB% but unlucky in K/9. Drew Smith – as hard as it is to believe – was lucky with his HR rate but unlucky with his BB/9 and LOB%. Ottavino was lucky with his BABIP but unlucky with his K/9.
Of course, we can’t have a discussion of the 2023 Mets without talking about health. Edwin Diaz being lost for the season was definitely unlucky. And perhaps the best we can say is that it was a sliding scale of unluckiness for the injuries of Jose Quintana, Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Old guys get hurt.
But Alonso was unlucky with his BABIP, Francisco Alvarez was unlucky versus LHP. Mark Canha was unlucky with his wRC+. Omar Narvaez was unlucky with his health. David Peterson was unlucky with his BABIP. And Starling Merte was unlucky across the board.
Which brings us to 2024. At this point, we should be conditioned to see various things go in the Mets’ favor, along with things that just make the franchise feel cursed. We want to see a continuation in performance from Lindor and Nimmo, along with bounce-back seasons from Diaz, Marte, McNeil and to a lesser extent, Alonso.
We want to see Kodai Senga reproduce his initial season in this country and for Quintana to pitch as well as he did in 13 starts last year for 30 starts in 2024. We hope to see the Baby Mets take a step forward, with two of the three needing a leap more than a step. But then there’s the newcomers and where the problems start to become apparent.
Sean Manaea needs to pitch like he did in the second half of 2023
Luis Severino needs to turn back the clock to 2018
Harrison Bader needs to be the 2018 or 2021 version of himself, not the guy from any other year of his career.
Jake Diekman needs to be the guy he was in a partial year with the Rays, not the pitcher he was with the White Sox or Red Sox.
Jorge Lopez needs to be the guy he was for three months in 2022, not the guy he’s been before or since.
It’s not that this quintet has no history of success in the majors. It’s just that their success has been sporadic or limited or a long time ago or all three. If the players who were on the Mets a year ago have a normal/traditional breakdown of lucky and unlucky seasons – how many of this quintet have to hit for the Mets to make the playoffs?
To at least some extent, David Stearns is wagering on all five of these guys. The Diekman and Manaea ones seem to me the most likely ones to work out for the club. Is that enough? It seems like it would take more good fortune than normal with the returning Mets for that to be the case.