By Zach Gewelb
Just like that, baseball season in New York is over.
We’ve spoken exclusively about the Mets in this column over the last two years. Now, we are bringing the Yankees into the fold, as the column will discuss New York baseball in general rather than focus on just one team.
With that being said, the 2018 New York baseball season can be defined in a few simple words. Both teams fell short of expectations, in very different ways.
The Mets entered the season with postseason aspirations and failed to reach the playoffs, finishing the campaign in fourth place in the National League East with a 77-85. The Yankees began the season dreaming of bringing a World Series to the Bronx for the first time since 2009. And while the Bombers won 100 games and defeated the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card game, the Yankees fell to Boston in four games in the American League Division Series, ending their season far sooner than they expected.
Two team, two different seasons, and the same result. Mets fans have called their season a failure. Yankees fans are saying the same thing. Both teams fell short of expectations.
Let’s discuss what went wrong, and what went right in 2018 for New York’s two baseball teams.
Injuries, lack of offense wreak havoc on Mets
Like so many years in the past, the Mets’ season was once again defined by injuries.
Yoenis Cespedes played in just 38 games this season, while Noah Syndergaard made only 25 starts for the Mets. The team dealt with a plethora of other short-term injuries, but the injuries to Cespedes and Syndergaard proved to be too much to overcome.
The Mets lacked the depth to produce in their stars’ absence, and that ultimately doomed their season.
Meanwhile, the club’s offense failed to carry the team in a trend that has become all too familiar in Queens.
The Mets ranked 23rd in baseball in runs scored, 21st in home runs and on-base percentage and 24th in on-base-plus-slugging percentage. It is nearly impossible to reach the playoffs, let alone succeed in the playoffs, with an offense that ranks in the bottom half of the league across the board. Had the Mets boasted even one area of strength offensively, their season may have gone in a different direction.
Stars’ fail to live up to
their hype in the Bronx
Over in the American League, it’s hard to find a weakness on the Yankees’ squad. We’ll get into their positives in a bit, but one reason for the Yankees, downfall could be the down seasons of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and — to an extent — Aaron Judge.
Sanchez, after batting .278 with 33 home runs and 90 RBI in 2017, saw his numbers fall dramatically in 2018.
The former All-Star catcher hit just .186 with 18 dingers and 53 RBI in 89 games this season. Sanchez missed time due to a nagging groin injury and saw his defense slip, too.
Sanchez allowed 16 passed balls in 104 games behind the plate in 2017, a number the Yankees could live with when he is producing at an elite level offensively. He was charged with 18 passed balls in 76 games this season. His poor defense, coupled with his decreased offensive production, made Sanchez a huge disappointment in 2018.
Then there was Greg Bird, who entered the season with high expectations when he reported to Spring Training healthy after a 2017 campaign derailed by injury. Bird started the season on the DL and could not produce when he returned. He played in a career-high 82 games, but hit just .199/.286/.386 with 11 home runs. Bird eventually lost his starting job to Luke Voit, an unheralded rookie acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in July.
Judge actually posted great numbers this season, but missed nearly two months after he was hit in the wrist by a pitch in late July.
He wasn’t as great as he was during his 2017 rookie campaign, but stll but up a /.278/.392/.528 batting line and a 145 OPS+. The towering outfielder socked 27 homers in 112 games, down from 52 dingers in 155 games in 2017.
While his numbers were still good, Judge missing two months didn’t do the Yankees any favors this season.
Mets see major contributions from young players
While the Mets’ season was unofficially over early in the summer, fans stuck around to watch Jacob deGrom put together one of the best season’s in franchise history.
The Mets’ ace was simply stellar in 2018, pitching to a 1.70 ERA across 32 starts. While he only recorded 10 wins against nine losses, deGrom is the clear front-runner to be the National League Cy Young Award winner. In 217 innings pitched, deGrom struck out 269 batters and recorded a 1.99 FIP.
There were rumors circulating in July that the Mets were open to dealing deGrom, but the club ultimately decided to hold on to their ace in hopes of competing in 2019.
The Mets also saw positive results from some of their younger players, namely Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil. Nimmo posted a .263/.404/.483 batting line and a 150 OPS+, while McNeil burst onto the scene by hitting .329 and posting a .381 OBP in 63 games this season.
Amed Rosario also showed a glimpse of his promise in the second half of the season and is primed to break out in 2019.
Rookies carve out regular roles in powerful
While the Mets saw some of their young stars emerge, the Yankees received impactful performances from two of the best rookies to emerge in the class of 2018.
Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar each shined in their first full seasons in pinstripes. Torres was named an All-Star, while Andujar hit .297 with 27 home runs and 92 RBI in his inaugural season. Both seem destined to thrive in pinstripes for years to come.
Torres and Andujar contributed to the Yankees record-setting offense. The Bronx Bombers lived up to their name, setting a major league record with 267 home runs, besting the previous record of 264 set by the Seattle Mariners in 1997.
Perhaps even more impressive is that the Yankees’ hit at least 20 home runs from each spot in the lineup, the first time the feat was ever accomplished in baseball history. Twelve Yankees hit more than 10 home runs this year, making the Yankees’ record-setting season even more impressive.
It’s too soon to know what the future holds for each team, but it’s clear the Yankees will continue to set their eyes on a World Series title. For the Mets, returning to the postseason should be their 2019 objective. With smart offseasons, both clubs should be able to accomplish those goals.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe