Memorial Day is considered the day baseball fans are free to look at the MLB standings, but Mets fans might not like what they see.
At 27-27, the Mets currently sit in third place in the NL East behind the Miami Marlins (28-26) and the Atlanta Braves (32-21). The Mets are coming off a six-game road trip through Chicago and Denver. They went 2-4 and the series was a perfect microcosm of the 2023 season: A lot went wrong, but a little still went right.
The pitching didn’t match the hitting. The bullpen blew up twice. But the Mets showed resolve with some big comeback efforts at the plate, and rookies Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty and Mark Vientos drew high praise for stellar play.
The Mets are only 1/2 game back in the NL Wild Card standings, so it’s not like the season has been a complete disaster. Still, it’s not how anyone drew it up. As the Mets head into a crucial month, here’s a look at what’s wrong, what they can make right and what to look forward to.
Tylor Megill’s body language said it all. The big righty who played such an important role for the Mets last season hasn’t been able to establish any sort of consistency from start to start this season. He stood at his locker with his shoulders slouched. The frustration was obvious in the way he barely spoke above a whisper.
After two solid starts in the month of May, he seemed to regress. There has been very little consistency from start to start with Megill and the rest of the starting staff as well. The situation got so bad with left-hander David Peterson that the Mets sent him to Triple-A.
“He’s been competing a lot better and I thought he was in a pretty good place,” said manager Buck Showalter.
The Mets have allowed the second-most home runs in baseball (75). The 0.5 combined pitching fWAR is the second-worst in the league, right in front of the Oakland A’s, a team that is setting historic marks as one of the worst in the modern era. The 9.1% barrel rate is above the league average mark of 8.3%.
A big difference between this season and last is that Peterson and Megill were so effective in 2022, plus the Mets had Trevor Williams who was used as a spot-starter and a long man in relief. The closest thing the Mets have to Williams is right-hander Stephen Nogosek, who can go about three innings, but has given up 13 runs over his last 11 and 2/3 innings.
“I’m not going to overthink it too much,” Nogosek said. “I think I’ve made some mistakes and left some balls over the middle of the plate. But like like I said, I’m not going to overthink it too much.”
It’s tough to know who the Mets can count on. The back end of the bullpen has been solid, the Mets can’t often get to David Robertson and Adam Ottavino because the middle-innings relievers haven’t been reliable. Luckily, the Mets can address this issue at the trade deadline. They may not want to give up coveted prospects to get pitching, but they may find their season slipping away if they don’t.
BOTTOM OF THE ORDER
The Mets are giving up a ton of home runs and they aren’t hitting them. Pete Alonso leads the league with 20 and he’s on an insane pace, but no other hitter has more than nine (Francisco Lindor). But this isn’t a lineup designed to hit home runs. It’s designed to get on base and extend innings. General manager Billy Eppler has emphasized building an offense around the length of the lineup, but it hasn’t been very lengthy.
Starling Marte, who was a huge driver for the Mets’ offense last year, has gotten off to a slow start after undergoing double groin surgery over the winter.
DH Daniel Vogelbach still has the exit velocity, but he isn’t barreling the ball at the same rate as last season. According to Statcast, his barrel rate is down from 10.6% to 5.6 %. It shows in the numbers: He’s slugging only .320 with two home runs.
Mark Canha trained to hit for more power this season. The power has been there sometimes, but not enough. His underlying numbers haven’t changed much from last season, but they are down from earlier in his career. He’s been moved down in the lineup as he works to figure it out, but he thinks he has identified the biggest issue: Head movement in his swing.
“I have to get out of that habit and just focus on that,” Canha said. “I have to figure out the swing within there that keeps me in a really good position while I’m able to do damage. I think it’s in there and we’ve seen it this year at times.”
While those three players are key for the lineup, others have failed to produce as well. Eduardo Escobar lost his job to Baty. Tommy Pham had a great day Sunday, but he hasn’t always come through in a reserve role. He’s slashing .225/.311/.393 with a .704 OPS.
THE ‘YOUNG BABIES’
The biggest bright spot for the Mets this season has been the play of their rookies. Alvarez is hitting the cover off the ball and has himself in the early running for the NL Rookie of the Year race with five home runs over his last eight games. Baty has handled the hot corner well and Vientos has provided some pop off the bench.
“They’re just pros,” Alonso said. “They’re true pros.”
The Mets are happy with the initiative all three have shown to improve defensively. Vientos hasn’t had a ton of chances to show his improvements at third base having only played there once since he was called up, but infield coach Joey Cora is eager to see it.
“He has worked a lot since spring training,” Cora said. “The footwork and the direction of his feet need to go toward the target. That’s No. 1. He’s worked on the presentation of the glove and the pre-pitch footwork.”
The Mets could have another standout rookie bat on the way in shortstop Ronny Mauricio, though they would need to find a place for him to play. His 11 errors on the season in Triple-A are concerning, but his bat may warrant a call-up.
If you’re looking for reasons for optimism, look no further than the three players Bradon Nimmo called the team’s “young babies.”
Source: Berkshire mont