4 players to blame for the Mets falling behind the Braves in the NL East

New York Mets v Chicago Cubs
New York Mets v Chicago Cubs / Quinn Harris/GettyImages
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The New York Mets are officially one third of the way through their 2023 docket and let's just say expectations associated with a payroll north of $350 million have not been met. The Mets are 27-27 on the season and they are now 5.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.

But there are four key individuals who are underperforming that have contributed to the Mets' slower than expected start.

1. Starling Marte has not played the role of dynamic playmaker that made him an All Star for the New York Mets in 2022.

Consider that Starling Marte was one of the best all-around players for the Mets last year, and also consider what the Mets were like once he went down last September to a fractured finger. The feel with the Mets offense was vastly different and shorter, and his injury was one of the leading causes behind the team's collapse last year.

This year, he has not come close to what he was last year, although his results have moderated a bit over the past two weeks. Marte has had a poor season offensively. He is batting .243 with just 7 extra base hits in 173 at-bats in 2023, and his .069 ISO ranks 5th lowest in the majors among 164 qualified hitters.

Entering play on Sunday, Marte had a wRC+ of 72, which was tied for the 8th lowest among 162 qualified hitters, whereas last year his wRC+ was a career high 136.

Nonetheless, the Mets offense has been too inconsistent through 54 games to be trusted right now. And once he hit a cold streak in late April, so did the Mets offense. He is one guy that is hard to game plan around because he strikes a different tone in terms of plate discipline and speed, and other teams know that neutralizing Marte increases their team's chances to shut down the Mets lineup.

So Marte's uneven first act of the season respresents the Mets' up-and-down performance in the first 54 games of the season.