If there was such a thing as the injury bug, it ran rampant through the New York Mets’ clubhouse this season. The Mets lost one of the two anchors in their pitching rotation in Noah Syndergaard after just seven starts, pitcher Matt Harvey missed significant time with injury and third baseman David Wright saw action in just 37 games before he was shut down for the year. Anytime a team misses out on three All-Stars, it’s going to make a significant dent in production, even if they’re past their prime.
The 70-92 Mets peaked early with their longest winning streak of the season of five games coming in early to mid-April. It was all downhill from there. Before the month was out, New York had eclipsed the streak with a six-game slide and a permanent drop below .500.
Believe it or not, the Mets weren’t a bad offensive team. The power was there all season as they tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for the lead in the National League in home runs. (I had to double check this one.) Nobody on this team who saw more than 20 games of action hit over .300, but first-year All-Star outfielder Michael Conforto was a major contributor for the Mets as he hit .279 and slugged .555 with 20 doubles and 27 homers. He did lead the team in strikeouts (113) but that’s something the team leader in slugging percentage can overlook.
Defense and pitching combined to be a major Achilles heel for the Mets. They finished above only the Cincinnati Reds in team ERA at 5.01 and allowed 5.33 runs per game. Pitcher Jacob deGrom led the staff with stellar consistency en route to a 15-10 record and 3.53 ERA. The Mets defense was essentially Swiss cheese as they converted just two-thirds of balls hit into play to outs. Fortunately, Mets pitchers managed to find a way to keep batters from hitting balls and averaged 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings, good enough for fifth in the NL.
There are no two ways about it, the Mets are a mess. They traded away two of their top contributors last season in outfielder Jay Bruce and first baseman Lucas Duda. Harvey struggled mightily in 18 starts and finished with a 6.70 ERA. Who knows if Wright will play baseball again with a spinal stenosis diagnosis. (He doesn’t look like himself at all right now.)
However, the long-term future doesn’t look too bad for the Mets. Conforto is an excellent player who can help to lead a young core into a new age. Third baseman Wilmer Flores has shown potential to be a solid replacement for Wright at the hot corner with a strong bat and decent glove. At 25 years old, he still has some time to grow into the position.
Some teams are bad, some have rotten luck. The Mets’ problems stemmed primarily from injuries, but they also mortgaged their present by trading major contributors. They should be a better team going forward with a solid pitching staff and young players, but they need to stay healthy.
Photo by Brad Curnow