By Joseph Staszewski
The Mets have picked up right where they left off after a trip to the World Series, but while there are few reasons to be extra optimistic about the Amazin’s chances this season, things still look pretty good.
The Mets pitching depth is already a factor: Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom have obviously felt the effects of the heavy workload through the playoffs—the largest of both of their careers—and have had disjointed early seasons thanks to injuries, illness and a baby for deGrom.
Still, their slow starts haven’t been much of a factor thanks to the emergence of Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, who both threw considerably less than the other two last season.
Matz is 5-1 with a 2.86 ERA and has been stellar since a shaky first start. Syndergaard is 2-2 with an 2.58 ERA and has 49 strikeouts in 38.1 innings. In addition, Bartolo Colon—well—he’s just been Bartolo, as consistent as they come. All of that has taken some pressure off Harvey and deGrom, who appear to be rounding into form. We may see the Mets rotation running on all cylinders soon.
Yoenis Cespedes is a better hitter now than he was at any point last season: The slugger’s wild swings found more air than ball during the World Series against the Royals. His .150 average and six strikeouts were one of the bigger reasons why the Mets order scuffled.
To Cespedes’ credit, he’s adjusted by working with hitting coach Kevin Long. He is being more selective—against his natural aggressiveness—and the results are easy to see. He has only struck out 21 times in his 16 games, and has blasted six home runs and collected 17 RBI over his last 13 contests. His play, as much as Michael Conforto’s, has really made the Mets’ lineup click.
The Mets’ middle-infield defense is the best in more than a decade: There is nothing flashy about second baseman Neil Walker and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and that is OK. The duo make the routine plays look exactly that, turn the double play well and have added range that will save Mets’ pitchers plenty of outs and extra pitches. Both are quality hitters as well.
But all is not rosy in Queens, despite the team being off to a 20-12 start after Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Dodgers. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud still appears to be brittle and injury-prone and teams—after seeing the Royals do it in the World Series—are trying to run all over him. The team’s starting pitcher’s inability to hold on runners doesn’t help.
You can even complain that the Mets hit too many home runs and haven’t scored enough runs, by stringing together hits or small ball. It’s style we saw the Mets conquer last postseason against the Cubs.
The good signs have far outweighed the bad early and you get the sense the Mets are still a bit away from playing at peak performance.
The Amazin’s have been exactly that so far and are a better team than the one that nearly won it all last October.