The Mets 2023 season is marked by inconsistent play as a team. Individually, though, it’s easy to separate the good, the bad, and the ugly…
From this writer’s view, here are the grades assigned to most of the key Mets players as we near the quarter pole of the 2023 season.
Mets Starting Pitchers
I don’t mean to start on a sour note, but with Max Scherzer, it is what it is – which is virtually nothing from this soon-to-be 39-year-old veteran pitcher.
Over five starts, Scherzer is 2-2 and has managed only 22.5 innings. Caught with his hand in the cookie jar for “sticky stuff on his hands, Scherzer received a ten-game suspension from MLB that ultimately led to a missed start against the Atlanta Braves.
More recently, Scherzer was shelved from the start last night against the Cincinnati Reds, and it has yet to be determined if a stint on the IL is in order. More importantly, perhaps, Scherzer’s efforts behind the scenes are becoming more of a nuisance and distraction to the Mets.
Much like Scherzer, Justin Verlander‘s start to the 2023 season has been far less than advertised. Out with an injury until last week, when he completed five innings of work against the Detroit Tigers, a game ultimately lost by the Mets.
Shaking the rust off after surrendering back-to-back home runs in the first inning, Verlander settled down, allowing one base-on-balls and striking out five.
Unlike Scherzer, Verlander has quietly gone about his business, following the training regimen set forth by the Mets. The hope remains that Verlander will find a way to keep himself healthy, emerging as the Mets’ Game One starter in the playoffs.
Fittingly, Verlander answered the call last night when the Mets needed him most, spinning seven shutout innings against the Red, paving the way for a 2-0 victory.
Tylor Megill has made five starts for the Mets in 2023. Three of those starts have resulted in losses by the Mets, and Megill has gone beyond the fifth inning in only one of those starts.
At the same time, Megill has surrendered more than three runs only once, and it’s starting to look like he’s one of those pitchers, perhaps like Roger Craig of the 1962 Mets, who pitches well enough to lose as the Mets struggle for run support behind him.
Megill is firmly entrenched in the Mets’ rotation, and he cannot be expected to give more than what he’s got – a solid number three or four behind Scherzer, Verlander, and Carrasco (if he ever comes back).
Kodai Senga is progressing just fine in his first season with the Mets. He’s won four of his five starts and is pitching to a 3.38 ERA.
With each start, he is gradually adjusting to the American brand of major league baseball after several years of pitching in his native country, Japan.
His devastating splitter is taking the form he is used to, and every indication is he will grow to be a mainstay in the Mets rotation far beyond 2023.
The Position Players
As the defending National League Batting Champion, Jeff McNeil maintains his spot as an integral part of the Mets’ team.
McNeil continued his hitting ways in April, pounding out 28 hits in the Mets’ first 27 games. May has not been so fruitful, and he’s hit only .226.
More importantly, perhaps, Jeff McNeil has made starts for Buck Showalter at second and third base, plus left and right field, and he has yet to make an error at any of those positions.
Much like Pete Rose, McNeillis a hitting machine, and you can bet your last dollar he will finish in the top ten in hitting in the NL again in 2023.
Pete Alonso can be counted on to be in the top five in home runs and RBI when the 2023 season ends. Already, he’s amassed thirteen home runs and has 31 RBI, so if you project that out over 162 games, that 48 home runs and 120 driven in.
A team leader who prides himself on being the consummate New York Met, Alonso had dedicated himself to becoming an all-around player. This is best seen in the improvements made in the field where over 2612 chances, Alonso has made only one error while participating in 28 assists.
Pete Alonso sorely needs a big bat behind or ahead of him in the Mets lineup. Hopefully, Mets GM Billy Appier can supply the team with one at or before the July trade deadline because, with that, the sky’s the limit for Pete Alonso.
Francisco Lindor is having a pedestrian season for the 2023 Mets. The RBIs are up there (27), but in all other categories, the numbers are anything but Lindoresque.
Lindor is having a whale of a time at shortstop with the new rule banning the shift, and his athleticism is shining while on a pace to make only nine errors playing (arguably) the most challenging position in baseball.
But the Mets need his bat, too, mainly when he’s occupying the number two position in the lineup behind Nimmo.
The power numbers of the past (33, 38, and 32 home runs) would be excellent, but that’s not the primary job for someone hitting that far up in the lineup. Instead, a return to the 40, 44, and 42 doubles Lindor hit from 2017-2019 would be more than welcome and valuable.
Nevertheless, Francisco Lindor has bought into the Mets organization, and Lindor stands as a valued commodity both on and off the field.
There is no one more disappointed in the season Starling Marte is having than Starling Marte himself.
Holding a .223 batting average with a bare one home run and a paltry eight runs driven in, Marte is as confounded as anyone in the 2023 Mets season.
Still, finding a Mets player who plays harder, with or without injury, is difficult. Last year, for instance, Marte returned for the Wild Card Series after missing all of September, but the pain in his finger, he says now, was a 10 out of 10. More than that, Marte was still dealing with a bout of nagging leg soreness that had bothered him for most of the summer.
So too, it is the same this year as Marte struggles to regain 100% health, even while Mets manager Buck Showalter has approached him several times to “give it a rest,” only to be rebuffed by Marte as he sees his team struggling.
With Starling Marte, it all boils down to good health. But at the same time, his spot in the Mets lineup demands more production than he’s provided.
It’s safe to assume that if Mets owner Steve Cohen had let the winter pass by without signing Brandon Nimmo to a generous contract extension, Mets fans would have taken to rioting in the streets.
But Nimmo was signed, and already the Mets are reaping the rewards.
Nimmo’s .311 batting average and .406 on-base average barely measure his overall contribution to the team.
Add in a .858 OPS (the league average is.741) and a 139 OPS* (league average – 100), and the whole thrust of Nimmo’s value comes to light.
The only mystery surrounding his performance is why he doesn’t take advantage of his speed more in stealing bases.
With apologies to Pete Alonso, Brandon Nimmo is the MVP on this Mets team.
Overall, the Mets’ bullpen has been shaky at best. They rank in the middle of all major league teams with a 3.97 ERA.
The absence of Edwin Diaz due to injury has been significant. Buck Showalter has tried to mix and match an assortment of relievers, but occasionally he misses a call to the pen that turns out wrong.
Due to the inability of the starting rotation to pitch deep into games (Verlander’s seven innings last night was only the second time a starter had done so), the bullpen has been adversely taxed.
Nevertheless, two Mets relievers have outstanding seasons underway:
Since 2019 when he appeared in 73 games for the New York Yankees, Adam Ottavino has been a workhorse, primarily as a set-up man for the team’s closer.
With 15 appearances already under his belt in 2023, it’s working the same with the Mets. Last night indicated his success when he pitched a perfect eighth inning to help nail down a Mets victory over the Reds.
Prone to surrendering walks early in his career, Ottavino has closed that gate, giving up 16 last year and only four this year.
David Robertson has been a godsend to the New York Mets in 2023. He’s had seven chances for a save and converted all of them, including a critical one for his team in last night’s 2-0 win over the Reds.
A journeyman by now, Robertson is working in his fifteenth season as a reliever. The Mets are his seventh team.
David Roberton is a pitcher’s pitcher. His fastball tops out at 93-94, but how he works it up and down in the strike zone keeps hitters off-balance and prone to strikeouts on deceptive rising pitches.
Written off by most teams after a so-so season with the Phillies, The Mets took a chance, and it’s paying off handsomely for them.
True to form, the Mets owner is living up to his pledge to supply the franchise with whatever it needs to bring a title to New York – sooner rather than later. The Mets’ $370 million payroll supports that.
Cohen appears to have a good relationship with the team’s General Manager, Billy Eppier. To make the grade this year, Eppier and Cohen are being watched closely as the July trade deadline nears and the need to fill a few holes on the roster increases. All in all, so far, so good.
A big league manager is only as good as the players in his dugout at any given time.
Nevertheless, Buck Showalter came to the Mets with high expectations, and he is expected to deliver – or else.
Few men in baseball command more respect than Buck Showalter, but that doesn’t mean beans in the standings.
Let’s say that Showalter has more work to do…
With fourteen home dates, the Mets rank 11th in attendance, averaging 31,000 fans per date.
For the most part, fans have remained supportive of the team, and nearly all the trash talk on the radio and in print during the Wilpon/VanWagenen years has disappeared.
But the relationship with the team is fragile, and with the payroll and Cohen’s bravado, the 2023 honeymoon will not last before the tide turns absent a substantive win streak that moves the Mets nearer to the Atlanta Braves.
Postscript – Friday, May 12
Of the many comments received on this post, nearly all pointed to the generous offering of grades, asking, for example, “Do you grade on a curve?”
Fair enough, but I will counter with this. While I like nearly all of the Mets players – I don’t like the team.
They don’t pick each other up, and they either can’t or won’t play the kind of scratchy baseball that manufactures runs out of nothing.
Individually, they are fine. But they’re not going anywhere until they manage to play as a team.