The Mets are in a good place
The Mets just lost a series to the Washington Nationals, who are young and athletic but not yet good. In fact, they narrowly avoided what would have been a stunning sweep, and now have to play the most talented team in the division this weekend.
But you know what? The view from here is that the Mets are in a sneaky good place, even if the series against Atlanta does not go well. And I would have said this even if the Nationals had completed the sweep.
Here are a few brief reasons why:
Cy Young is coming back soon.
The plethora of health problems plaguing the starting rotation this month make it easy to forget that, in fact, Justin Verlander is a Met. Not only that, but he won the American League Cy Young Award last year. Not only that, but he’s on a rehab assignment now and close to returning from a teres major strain. Soon, one of the best pitchers in baseball will be in the Mets rotation.
Starling Marte’s swings looked better on Thursday.
Marte is one of the most important hitters -- one could make a case for him as the most important -- in the Mets’ lineup. Earlier this week, he looked worse than we've ever seen him as a Met.
Team officials saw timing that was out of whack, and suspected that Marte was more hurt than he was letting on. But the Mets noted better swings from Marte in Thursday’s game, and hoped that was an indication that he was feeling better.
Kodai Senga is just about where the Mets expected him to be at this point.
After Wednesday’s game, I wrote a column exploring the question of why Kodai Senga appeared to be fooling fewer hitters with his celebrated “ghost fork” as the month went on. While Mets officials agree that this is true, they also insist that Senga is exactly where they expected him to be a month into his MLB career -- meaning that they still believe he is the pitcher for whom they paid $75 million in December.
Senga must learn to throw the forkball a bit closer to the strike zone. If he doesn’t, he won’t fool many hitters. He also needs better fastball command. The Mets believe that he is working on those and will improve.
If the other starters were healthy, Senga would have the luxury of these five-inning outings. But with so many others down, the bullpen is already taxed. It would be nice if Senga could pitch deeper into games and cover those innings, but he simply isn’t efficient enough yet. The team has faith he will get there.
Jose Quintana should be back mid-season.
Jose Quintana is a good pitcher. You were probably happy when the Mets signed him. He’s still a Met.
The rest of the league thinks the Mets will be fine, and that Brett Baty will contribute.
I was talking to a few veteran scouts at Citi Field this week, and they expressed confidence that the Mets' losing streak was nothing more than the normal ebb and flow that Buck Showalter described it as.
The scouts pointed to the Mets’ strong defense, to their signing of David Robertson as insurance for Edwin Diaz, and the expectation that Brett Baty will provide needed power in the lineup once he settles in (they weren’t as sure Francisco Alvarez would be ready to do so as quickly).
One of the scouts also noted that Philadelphia is having issues with its rotation, and that one-time ace Aaron Nola doesn’t look the same anymore (neither does Max Scherzer, but at least the Phils and Mets are even on this one). That scout opined that the Mets were better than the Phillies.
“Of course,” he added, “everyone is going to be looking up at the Braves.”
There is that. But: the Mets are fine.