Assessing Mets one third of way through season: What's gone well, what's gone wrong, and what's next

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Mets treated Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso, Jonathan Villar, Luis Rojas, Edwin Diaz
Mets treated Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso, Jonathan Villar, Luis Rojas, Edwin Diaz

As the Mets enter play Friday night, they'll be doing so with a record of 30-24 and exactly one third of the regular season behind them.

The Mets, in case you haven't noticed, are also in first place in the NL East, with a decent gap separating them from the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies

That the Mets have made it to this point in this position is a testament to the depth of the roster and the fortitude that has been shown by the players on it.

The Mets have dealt with an almost impossible to believe amount of injuries, an outrageous number of postponements (weather-related and otherwise), a schedule that had them on the road for 34 of their first 54 games, and have persevered to make it to the middle of June in tremendous position.

Let's assess...

What's Gone Well

The pitching has been (mostly) tremendous

In Jacob deGrom, the Mets have the best pitcher on the planet who is having the best season he's ever had. His 0.62 ERA through nine starts is the lowest ERA ever for any pitcher through nine starts.

In Taijuan Walker (2.07 ERA) and Marcus Stroman (2.41 ERA), the Mets have the pitchers with the sixth-best and 15th-best ERA in baseball, respectively.

Jun 3, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Taijuan Walker (99) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at Petco Park.
Jun 3, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Taijuan Walker (99) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at Petco Park.

The fourth and fifth spots in the rotation (much more on that below) have been a big problem, but the lockdown bullpen has helped blunt the impact of those struggles.

Anchored by Edwin Diaz, Miguel Castro, Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, and Aaron Loup, the Mets' bullpen has been among the best in baseball, and it just got a huge jolt with the return of Seth Lugo.

Overall, the Mets' pitching staff posted a 3.14 ERA over its first 54 games. That mark is good for second-best in baseball, behind only the San Diego Padres (2.96).

The defense has been elite

After years of shoddy defense that was highlighted by multiple players playing out of position on a regular basis, the Mets -- whose positioning on the infield has been terrific -- are fifth in the majors and third in the National League with 29 DRS (defensive runs saved).

May 19, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) throws a runner out at first against the Atlanta Braves in the fifth inning at Truist Park.
May 19, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) throws a runner out at first against the Atlanta Braves in the fifth inning at Truist Park.

While smart shifting/positioning has helped, having Francisco Lindor at shortstop and James McCann behind the plate has strengthened the Mets' up the middle defense in a big way.

The offense is coming around

Back before the Mets lost more than half of their starting lineup and a bunch of their bench players to injuries, there was concern over the anemic state of the offense early on.

The way the Mets started was less than ideal, but was due in part to their erratic schedule.

Now, still without half of their starting lineup and with bench players and minor leaguers making up a large chunk of their regulars, the key cogs currently in the order -- Lindor, Pete Alonso, McCann, and Dominic Smith among them -- are all heating up.

Meanwhile, the Bench Mob -- led by Jonathan Villar, Kevin Pillar, and Tomas Nido -- has helped keep the team afloat.

What's Gone Wrong

An absurd amount of injuries

In a season where injuries across baseball have been a huge issue, perhaps due in part to the ramp up and increased workload after the 60-game season in 2020, the Mets have been hit the hardest.

May 16, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Mets right fielder Michael Conforto (30) leaves the game against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning with an injury at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
May 16, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Mets right fielder Michael Conforto (30) leaves the game against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning with an injury at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

And the issue for the Mets has been that the injuries have hit not only a large swath of their position players, but most of their bench players as well.

The Mets are still without Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis, Luis Guillorme, Albert Almora Jr., Carlos Carrasco, and Noah Syndergaard -- and both Carrasco (who was supposed to return in May) and Syndergaard (who was supposed to return right around now) have suffered setbacks.

The good news is that the Mets have gotten Alonso, Pillar, Lugo, deGrom, and Walker back from their stints on the IL, and are on the verge of getting Guillorme and (hopefully) McNeil back. Conforto is making serious progress, too, and could return by the end of June.

David Peterson's regression

As the Mets have struggled to cobble together the No. 5 spot in the rotation, using Joey Lucchesi (who has pitched better lately) and a mix of openers, the regression of David Peterson has come at an inopportune time.

Jun 8, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; New York Mets pitcher David Peterson (23) is removed from the game in the third inning by manager Luis Rojas (19) against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Jun 8, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; New York Mets pitcher David Peterson (23) is removed from the game in the third inning by manager Luis Rojas (19) against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Peterson was very good for the Mets in 2020 during his rookie season, and his inability to provide length or prevent runs has been is alarming. His ERA for the season is up to 6.32 to go along with a 1.51 WHIP, and he pitched just 2.2 innings in his last start after tossing just one third of an inning in his start before that.

Unfortunately for the Mets, their options to replace Peterson aren't ideal. However, if Peterson is non-competitive again in his next start, the Mets will likely have no choice but to temporarily replace him.

What's Next

A daunting schedule

It can be argued that the toughest part of the Mets' schedule is over -- not because the opponents were the hardest, but because the Mets got through their first 54 games with half their team on the IL while being on the road most of the time.

But starting Friday at Citi Field, things will be challenging as the Mets (who have a slate of doubleheaders ahead of them due to all the postponements they've experienced) play 33 games in 31 days.

Jun 6, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (0) and catcher James McCann (33) celebrate after a double play to end the fourth inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 6, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (0) and catcher James McCann (33) celebrate after a double play to end the fourth inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The next month will include three games against the Padres, four games against the Chicago Cubs, three-game sets against the Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers, and lots of games against the NL East.

A search for starting pitching

With deGrom, Stroman, and Walker, the Mets have a top three that should be able to help carry them. But after that, it gets scary.

While Carrasco and Syndergaard might return and pitch well, the Mets cannot count on returns from either of them.

And while Peterson might rebound and the combination of Lucchesi and openers might be able to keep the Mets afloat every fifth day, Peterson at No. 4 and Lucchesi at No. 5 is not a recipe for success.

With the trade deadline drawing closer and the Mets in contention, they should be scouring the market for starting pitching help.

That doesn't mean the Mets have to trade for Max Scherzer, and it doesn't mean they should trade top prospects to nab an ace not named Scherzer or a No. 2. A reliable middle of the rotation or back end starter would do the trick.