The New York Mets had a sterling offseason, but some problems still plague the team. As Spring Training continues, one of the more pressing concerns for the team is the defensive miscues.
Thus far, the Mets have committed 10 errors in their first seven exhibition games. Most concerning is the number of errors committed in the infield. J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil, both expected to start at third and second, respectively, have accumulated four of those errors.
Poor defense is something that Mets fans are accustomed to seeing. The Mets struggling defensively has been an ongoing problem for the club for several years now. Since 2017, the Mets have been consistently ranked in the bottom third in the league for defense, at least in regards to defensive runs saved (DRS). Here is where the Mets ranked defensively from 2017 to 2019:
2017: -78 DRS (Last in MLB)
2018: -69 DRS (27th in MLB)
2019: -86 DRS (28th in MLB)
In 2020, the Mets had the fifth-worst DRS (-22) in the league, which is actually an improvement from previous seasons but still below-average. However, the fact is that the team has inadequately addressed this problem over the years. They let Juan Lagares go, inserted offensively gifted but defensively challenged catcher Wilson Ramos as their starting catcher, and mostly relied on former Mets shortstop Amed Rosario to hold down the shortstop position even with his poor defense.
Considering the team’s track record for overall team defense, 2020 represented an improvement despite it being uninspiring. While the team’s defense was not the main reason why the team underperformed last season, it did cost them runs last season, and so far in Spring Training, it has resulted in several unearned runs thus far, including three in one game.
The New York Mets have never been a good defensive team, but the number of errors the team has accumulated so far should concern them.
Now, the Mets are not going to commit several errors per game like they have done early on in Spring Training, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that the team’s defense has let them down during their first few games and has emerged as a valid concern heading into the 2021 season.
There is a certain level of optimism that they can turn their poor defense around. The Mets have the pieces that can help elevate the team’s defense to at least average. During the offseason, they acquired several pieces that posted better defensive metrics than many of the team’s starters in 2020. Francisco Lindor is a Gold Glove shortstop.
Albert Almora Jr. and Kevin Pillar are superior defensively to Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith and should slot in as prime candidates to back them up as defensive substitutions. James McCann has also made major strides defensively over the past couple of seasons with the Chicago White Sox and serves as a significant defensive upgrade over previous Mets catcher Wilson Ramos.
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The Mets have a great offensive team and they have the depth and talent to field a terrific pitching staff. They should not need to be a stellar defensive team in order to win games. However, if they want to potentially make a deep postseason run, shoring up their defense must be a priority so it does not cost them runs when the games begin to count.