By Zach Gewelb
The All-Star break couldn’t come soon enough for the Mets, who experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows through the first half of the 2018 campaign.
Things couldn’t have gone better for the Mets out of the gate under new manager Mickey Callaway. The club jumped out to a red-hot 11-1 start and seemed to be a legitimate playoff contender. Turns out the Mets were just pretenders. New York started losing and really never stopped, as the team limped into the All-Star break tied with the Miami Marlins in last place in the National League East with a 39-55 record. While they are tied based on games back in the division, the Mets technically are the sole dwellers of the cellar based on their .415 winning percentage — Miami’s is .418 — which also gives them the worst record in all of the National League.
Let’s try and determine why the Mets have fallen so far and whether they can improve as the season progresses.
The Mets’ supposed transformation during the offseason included a brand new training staff that would replace the much-maligned regime that was blamed for nearly every injury or rehab snafu under former Terry Collins. Well, nothing has changed. Stars are still getting hurt and the club hasn’t been able to offer legitimate timetables on their return.
Noah Syndergaard landed on the DL in late May with a finger injury that was originally thought to be a short-term problem. He was out more than month, returning July 13. Yoenis Cespedes hit the DL May 6 with a hip injury —also thought to be a short-term injury — and still hasn’t come back, though the club says he could come back shortly after the All-Star break.
Jay Bruce and Steven Matz have spent time on the DL this year, while Juan Lagares was lost for the season with a toe injury that required surgery. The Mets don’t have the depth to stay afloat with so many key players injured, which is one of the biggest reasons for their downfall.
The Mets have only scored 363 runs this season, which ranks dead last in the National League and is third-worst in the Majors. The club is also last in hits (715), total bases (1187) and batting average (.228). Losing Cespedes for two months would hamper any lineup and the Mets simply haven’t been able to recover.
Brandon Nimmo has emerged as arguably the Mets’ best player in Cespedes’ absence. But while Nimmo has burst onto the scene, Michael Conforto has struggled mightily after an All-Star season in 2017. Bruce’s injury situation has further weakened the lineup.
Look to the future
While the Mets’ starting pitching has been solid, their bullpen has struggled. Injuries, a lack of offense and a weak corps of relievers have proved too much for the Mets to overcome. Perhaps Cespedes’ return can provide a spark for the team as the second half of the season commences, but the damage is done.
The Mets will miss the playoffs again this year, and would be smart to trade off some of their veteran assets to kick off a rebuild and look toward the future.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe