The 2019 Mets went into the new season with raves about their pitching and questions about their hitting. Now, a month later it’s all upside down…
The 2019 Mets were supposed to follow the formula of previously successful Mets teams, led by outstanding pitching with a jolt of situational hitting to avoid long losing streaks. Now, a full month into the season, it’s the pitching, especially starting pitching, that is a cause of concern and not the hitting.
To save time, read this chart from the bottom up: (NL Team Pitching)
The 2019 Mets are surrendering a full run more than the National League average of 4.30. And yet, the are near the top of the league in fewest base on balls surrendered (sixth) and most strikeouts (fourth). The culprit seems to lie in the .264 batting average against, which is a full twenty points higher than the league average, suggesting Mets pitchers are giving up too many hits and therefore too many runs (160 to lead the league).
Individually, the start to the season by Cy Young Winner Jacob deGrom was not in the cards. And while no one could reasonably expect a duplicate season from last year, deGrom is handily getting beat up in his starts this year, removing the “stopper” role on the staff.
Ironically, it’s been Steven Matz who’s picked up the team, and despite one horrendous start that ballooned his ERA, in his other starts he’s pitching to a 1.74 ERA.
Noah Syndergaard looks as though he’s about to blow a gasket and is having ongoing command issues in what was supposed to be his “deGrom season” this year. Zack Wheeler is struggling to recall the reasons why he was so effective in the second half of 2018 and Jason Vargas is run out there every fifth day by the 2019 Mets, with a hope and a prayer they can get four decent innings from him.
Conversely, the 2019 Mets lineup is producing as the following chart shows:
While not lighting it up, the 2019 Mets remain among the leaders in batting stats. Their .261 batting average is almost twenty points higher than the league average and it begins to shed light on how the Mets are making up for their pitching deficiencies.
In 2018, the Mets were next to last in the National League with a batting average almost thirty points lower (.234). Only three teams scored few runs than the Mets and only one team had fewer hits. The 2019 Mets are reversing all of that, playing their own version of small ball while still having the threat of the home run in the middle of their lineup. It’s working.
Jeff McNeil, a man on a mission, continues to be a thorn in the side of opposing pitchers and ranks second in the race for the NL Batting Title. Brandon Nimmo, after an agonizingly slow start, has moved back into the leadoff spot as a table setter along with McNeil for Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto, an especially key player for the 2019 Mets. Together, the 2019 Mets are fourth in the NL in hits and fifth in on-base percentage. Get men on base, score runs, that’s the way it’s done.
2019 Mets Are Moving With The Pack
With the exception of the Miami Marlins, the remaining four teams in the NL East (ranked in current order), the Phillies, Mets, Atlanta, and Washington are separated by only three games, and it is expected to stay that way from here on in.
Which means if the pitching comes around, and barring injuries there’s no reason to believe it won’t, the Mets would then have a chance to do what no team has been able to accomplish in the Division – by putting together a streak separating themselves from the others.
Many in the baseball media insist that it’s early, so don’t pay any attention to anything. I don’t think so. Trends are becoming apparent for both teams and individual players. Teams will soon be making “adjustments” to their rosters by adding and subtracting based on those trends.
The Mets have already begun to do that when they designated Travis d’Arnaud for assignment and in the process, doing the unthinkable (for the Mets) in eating some $3 million in salary. Whether or not that move by Brodie Van Wagenen is supposed to be a “wake-up call” for others (think, for instance, Robert Gsellman), who knows?
But that one move does send a clear signal that the 2019 Mets are in it to win it – and only the 25 best players Van Wagenen can assemble at any given time – will occupy a locker in the Mets clubhouse.