I’ll be completely honest with you—I haven’t watched a full New York Mets game in more than three weeks. The only game I turned on was when the team ended up winning a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I knew this portion of the schedule would be hard. It’s not MLB’s fault they ended up with this run in mid-August. The Dodgers are the defending World Series champions, but the Giants came out of nowhere. They could take it all. Even going .500 against both teams would be a victory. For the Mets, it was worse.
They ended the run at 2-11 and over 8 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. The series effectively ended the Mets’ playoff run and nailed the casket.
This Mets season can be defined by one thing: bad offense.
There’s really no other way to say it. Somehow, Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor have been blamed for the struggles when they are two of the team’s best hitters. Beyond WAR, the Mets seem to look like an actual baseball team when he’s on the field. The malaise of this team near the end of August, entering September, is embarrassing.
Pitching has done its job. Marcus Stroman has a 2.85 ERA, good for top 5 in the MLB, but is 9-12. If he hasn’t been dominating, he’s been everything but that. Stroman’s season is looking like Jacob deGrom’s seasons in 2018 and 2019 with a low ERA and a low winning percentage.
The bullpen has been fantastic. Aaron Loup has been a god on the mound, arguably having a season worth contending for a Cy Young—as a reliever. Trevor May and Miguel Castro have stepped up; Drew Smith has been surprisingly perfect, or close to that; Jeurys Familia is having an awesome year as well. The only bullpen arm that’s been unfortunately inconsistent is the team’s closer, Edwin Díaz (3.5 ERA, 1.1+ WHIP).
It’s hard to give reasons for turning on the television and watching this team, let alone go and attend games at Citi Field. The only reason worth watching is for the Mets’ SNY broadcast crew, which is top 3 in baseball, only behind the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.
So which Mets players are performing, and which aren’t?
The first thing I would do if I was Steve Cohen and the front office is find out how I can extend Marcus Stroman. He has gone above and beyond of what’s been expected of him, elevating himself from a mid-rotation spot to a 1 or a 2 (on a team without Jacob deGrom of course).
Despite fan rhetoric demanding that Pete Alonso “step it up,” here are some numbers: .260/.342/.506 batting line, 29 home runs (good for 2nd in the NL), 75 RBI. His approach at the plate has also improved immensely. 14 of his 29 HR have been against left-handed pitching and since the break, he’s batting .277 with an OPS of .918. He has been, without a doubt, a bright spot for the team in 2021.
Like Alonso, it’s easy to pin offensive struggles on the team’s star players, like Lindor and Báez as well. While it’s hard to see what Báez has done for the Mets, this year is nothing short of an All-Star season for him. He went into a mini-slump when traded to the Mets but was already a factor in at least two of the team’s wins.
Francisco Lindor struggled early and never really “picked it up.” For Lindor, it’s nothing indicative of the player he is. His total WAR this season is 1.9, which could be better, but he’s not in total regress mode.
Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil are usually the team’s best contact hitters. Unfortunately, Nimmo is the only one who has delivered. Nimmo is an elite player when it comes to on-base percentage. His OBP is .407 and .393 for his career. No one gets on base better than him. On the defensive side, he’s made himself into a true center fielder, playing the best defense of his career.
Sadly, McNeil hasn’t seen the same fortune. He’s batting .247 for the year, down from his career average of .303. I wouldn’t anticipate this to be the norm from him, but he’s still way too good to lack for a long time. Rumors that the Mets are trying to make him a power hitter are scary since he doesn’t have a slugging archetype, in build or career performance.
Michael Conforto, on the other hand, is another story. He’s far too good to be this bad for this long and season-long slumps are rare. Still, performing well in a contract year is the best way to help yourself in free agency and Conforto has not done that. There’s no reason for the Mets to re-sign him.
Injuries have hampered the Mets, but there’s no excuse for that any longer. Other than the aforementioned, it’s hard to argue for getting rid of Dom Smith. He will be helpful for the Mets when universal DH is implemented in both leagues.
As of August 28th, the New York Mets have a worse record than the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, and Colorado Rockies. If there are three priorities the Mets have before free agency this season, it’s these: re-sign Marcus Stroman, decide if you want to re-sign Javier Báez to a 3-4 year contract, and make a plan to re-tool the lineup.
Defensively, the Mets have made great strides in improving the lineup. Offensively, they suck. Some of that magic needs to be applied to the offense.
Regarding Báez, it’s a hot issue. The Mets don’t need to re-sign him, but doing that would not make his acquisition worse, like some have thought. He’s an All-Star level player who loves playing with Francisco Lindor. Sure, he strikes out a lot, but he’s also far more productive than Joey Gallo, who was also a big trade prospect at the deadline this season. Unlike Gallo, Báez has historically proven that he’s worth it.
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If the Mets want to throw away a top-5 prospect for nothing in Pete Crow-Armstrong, sure, but they need to decide what they intend on doing now so they can plan for that entering free agency. Otherwise, the Mets are just looking another disappointing season right in the face.