The New York Mets entered 2019 with high expectations. They had a big offseason that saw them reel in big names in Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano. After a disappointing 40-50 record in the first half, the Mets rattled off a 20-5 stretch to catapult themselves back into the playoff race. Even though they eventually fell short of making the big dance, the Mets gave their fans plenty of reasons to get excited.
Positives –– Young Stars Show Up
The Mets’ offense as a unit improved dramatically from the 2018 season. They averaged 4.88 runs per game, up from 4.25 a year ago. They also hit a franchise record 242 home runs. This offensive improvement was due in large part to the performance of their younger players. Most notably, Pete Alonso had a record-setting rookie year at the plate. He had a .260/.358/.583 (148 OPS+) line with a Major League rookie record 53 homers. Alonso made the All-Star Game and won the Home Run Derby, becoming the first rookie to do so. He also became the first rookie to ever the lead the Majors outright in homers.
J.D. Davis was initially viewed a minor acquisition when he was brought in via trade from Houston. He struggled in his brief time in the Majors with the Astros, so expectations were low. However, Davis broke out, proving many of his critics wrong. In 453 plate appearances, Davis hit .307/.369/.527 (138 OPS+) with 22 homers and 57 RBI. Additionally, he upped his line drive rate from 22% in 2018 to 29% this season. While he struggled a little bit defensively, the Mets had Davis switch positions from third base to left field so they could keep his bat in the line-up.
Returners Perform As Advertised
Jeff McNeil followed his very impressive rookie campaign with another strong year this season. In 567 plate appearances, he hit .318/.384/.531 (144 OPS+) with 23 homers and 75 RBI. His performance earned himself his first All-Star Game selection. While he spent most of the season in the outfield, McNeil also contributed solid defense at second base and third base.
Additonally, Amed Rosario continued to make strides this year. After a middling first half, Rosario came on strong and batted .319/.351/.453 in the second half. Overall, he hit .287/.323/.432 (102 OPS+) with 15 homers, 72 RBI and 19 steals. His 177 hits ranked fifth in the NL. In addition Rosario cut his strikeout rate down to 18.9% and his chase rate fell to a career-low 38.1%. His hard-hit rate rose to a career-high 39.4%, suggesting that the best has yet to come for Rosario.
Jacob deGrom backed up his Cy Young winning 2018 season with another dominant year on the hill. After struggling to a 4.85 ERA in April, deGrom didn’t have a single month where his ERA rose above 3. He finished the year with a 2.43 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and an NL-best 255 strikeouts in 204 innings. deGrom earned his second consecutive All-Star Game nod and looks to be in prime position to win a second straight Cy Young Award.
Before the trade deadline, the Mets shocked the baseball world by acquiring Marcus Stroman from the Blue Jays. It was surprising, as the team did not seem poised to contend, and Stroman was thought to be headed to a contender. Stroman pitched well for the Mets, putting up a 3.77 ERA across 59.2 innings. He really found his strikeout groove as he had a 9.1 K/9 rate with the New York Mets, which was exactly 2 K/9 better than in Toronto. He struggled with walks and that was the cause for his performance being slightly worse than with the Blue Jays. Stroman is a free agent after 2020, so he will be here to help the Mets pursue the playoffs next year.
Wilson and Lugo Save The Bullpen
The bullpen overall was a huge problem for the Mets, but Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson both performed very well. Lugo assumed the closer’s role in the second half. After a rough month of June, he rebounded very nicely to win NL Reliever of the Month for July. Overall, Lugo picked up six saves and had a 2.70 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and 104 strikeouts in 80 innings pitched (11.7 K/9). Opposing hitters only managed a .192 average against Lugo and struck out in 33.1% of their plate appearances against him.
Wilson came over in free agency during the offseason and was brilliant after a stint on the injured list. He had a 2.54 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 39 innings pitched (10.2 K/9). Wilson provided a much needed left-handed arm and was able to get both lefties and righties out.
The Bullpen Issues for the Mets
As previously mentioned, the bullpen was a disaster for the Mets this season. Their collective ERA of 4.99 ranked fifth worst in the Majors and was the second worst number in franchise history (only to the 1962 team). The bullpen was charged with 32 losses and 27 blown saves, some of which would end up costing the team a playoff spot.
A big culprit of this awful bullpen performance was big-name acquisition Edwin Diaz. Diaz was acquired along with Robinson Cano this past offseason after being the best reliever in baseball in 2018. While his strikeout rate went up, Diaz saw his ERA shoot up from 1.96 in 2018 (with a 1.61 FIP) to 5.59 this season. This was due in large part to his struggles with the home run ball. Diaz allowed 15 homers in 58 innings pitched (2.3 HR/9) after allowing just five in 73.1 innings a year ago. Diaz’s struggles led to him losing his closer’s role by the end of July.
In addition to Diaz, the Mets brought back former closer Jeurys Familia on a three year, $32-million deal over the offseason. Familia battled injuries this year and struggled badly when healthy, pitching to a 5.70 ERA and 1.73 WHIP in 60 innings pitched. He also issued an unsightly 42 walks (6.3 BB/9) and allowed a career-worst seven homers (1.1 HR/9). Familia went from a former lock-down closer to a pitcher who couldn’t be trusted in high-leverage situations.
Syndergaard and Cano Disappoint
Noah Syndergaard had the worst season of his career in 2019. His 4.28 ERA (95 ERA+) and 1.23 WHIP were both career-worsts. In addition, he allowed a career-high 24 home runs. While Syndergaard pitched a career high 197.2 innings and showed flashes of greatness throughout the season, there’s been speculation that he could be on the trade block after his disappointing year.
Robinson Cano made the trade for him and Diaz look even worse with his subpar performance. Cano battled injuries and hit an anemic .256/.307/.428 (96 OPS+) with 13 homers and 30 RBI. Those numbers were easily the worst in his illustrious career. While Cano did hit a solid .284/.339/.541 in the second half, it appears that age has started to catch up with him. He played below-average defense at second base with -5 DRS. His 0.3 bWAR was also the lowest in his career. To make matters worse, the New York Mets are still on the hook for the remaining four years and $96-million of his contract.
The New York Mets ranked 10th in the NL with a mediocre .983 fielding percentage. They had a collective -44 DRS and committed 98 errors, good for the 11th most in the Majors.
Controlling the running game had been a problem over the past few seasons, and 2019 was no different. Met catchers threw out just 14% of opposing base stealers, well below the league average of 26%. The team allowed a league-high 139 steals, which led to many extra runs scoring.
2020 Mets Outlook
The New York Mets have plenty to be excited about heading into 2020. They went 46-26 after the All-Star Break, and look like they have found their core for years to come. With a line-up that will include McNeil, Alonso, Davis, Michael Conforto, Wilson Ramos, Brandon Nimmo, and Rosario, the Mets will have a formidable offense again. Their rotation will likely stay the same as well, though that will depend on if Zack Wheeler chooses to re-sign with the team or not. Should Wheeler leave, the Mets will likely be in the market for a starter, as Walker Lockett would be the fifth starter without Wheeler.
The Mets may want to look for a Center Fielder, as they did not have an outfielder that rated well defensively in center. With Juan Lagares likely to leave the team in free agency, the outfield defense is looking rather shaky heading into 2020.
Lastly, while the New York Mets badly need some new relievers, they also need a new manager. Mickey Callaway cost the team many games by overusing relievers and continually putting pitchers in situations where they were set up to fail. If the Mets can find some solid relievers and a manager who can use them properly, they will look like a team that is poised to contend.
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