Mets’ first week woes: too early to panic?
By Darren Martino
This has been ugly. Just a week into the 2016 season and already Mets fans are dealing with indigestion
Losing four out of the year’s first six games is not what we envisioned for this club. While it isn’t fair to get carried away with what has transpired over the first few games of the 2016 season, let’s do it anyway.
First of all, where is the offense? This isn’t first half of 2015 and the Mets aren’t running a Triple-A lineup on the field. So why is the Mets offense making rookies and journeymen look like Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan? The Mets offense looked strong Friday afternoon against the Phillies but Saturday and Sunday, Mets’ bats turned to papier-mâché against the lowly Phillies’ pitching. Monday wasn’t much better, managing only 3 runs while stranding eight on base.
The Mets’ pitching has been a mixed bag thus far. Maybe it’s due to the wonky first week schedule, but only Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon have looked fresh. Jacob deGrom was visibly affected by his sore lat during his home opener victory, which we can only hope resolves itself soon. Meanwhile, Matt Harvey has seemed very pedestrian over his first two starts. Steven Matz was terrible Monday, even if he was being squeezed by the home plate umpire. But again, he hadn’t pitched since Spring Training.
On the plus side, the bullpen had looked terrific leading into Monday night. Jerry Blevins looks as good as he did in 2015 and Jim Henderson looks to be a diamond in the rough.
Very evident over the first week is that David Wright is now a liability in the field. Gone are the days of Wright winning gold gloves, as he did in 2007 and 2008. The new version of Wright is slow getting to ground balls and is frequently making lollipop throws to first, leading to runners reaching base on infield hits. You saw it again in the first inning Monday night with an infield hit by Christian Yelich. You’ll be seeing more and more opposing batters bunting to the left side to try to capitalize on this weakness. It would be wise for Sandy Alderson to look for a late-inning defensive replacement at third base once the trading season heats up.
Around the diamond, the Mets’ double play combination of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, while not other worldly defensively, is a stark improvement over last year’s tandems. The Mets offseason infield upgrades may not have looked impressive on paper, but when you see them in the field there is a substantial difference in quality.
For the first time in years, the Mets have players at second base and shortstop who aren’t playing out of position. In just the first few games, both Walker and Cabrera have shown that they know their positions well and how to react to specific plays.
A perfect example of this is Neil Walker’s getting in front of a hard hit ball to the right side Saturday against the Phillies. Walker stopped the ball, gained his footing and was able to throw the batter out at first. Had Daniel Murphy done this in Game 5 against the Royals, it might have been a completely different series. The Mets are already turning double plays with more regularity than we’ve been accustomed to in the past.
To be clear, these are overreactions. Regardless, 2-4 doesn’t feel good. Splitting the Kansas City series was understandable. The first two games of the season had a playoff feel for the Mets, especially so because they faced their World Series adversaries in front of sellout crowds. It looked liked the Mets built up momentum with the win in the second game as they appeared strong in Friday’s home opener. Then came the disparaging news about deGrom’s tight lat and the Mets seemed to wilt as the weekend progressed.
Losing a series at home against the meek Phillies is unacceptable. Last year, the Mets achieved their first NL East title in nine years due to their dominance over teams like the Phillies. In order to have a successful year in 2016, they don’t have to dominate them like they did last year, but they can’t let them take series wins.
Next: Matz is the Mets' most important starter
Let’s hope that Monday’s blowout wakes this team out of their early season funk. In the meantime, keep your Pepto-Bismol bottle close — it’s Mets baseball season again!