The injury bug was not kind to the New York Mets in 2017. After making the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, which included a World Series appearance, the Mets found themselves with nearly the worst record in baseball. The pitching staff was decimated and none of the replacements stepped up. Because of various injuries and poor performance, the Mets wound up starting 12 different pitchers last season. Only two of them (Jacob deGrom and Robert Gsellman) wound up starting more than 18 games. The bullpen was not much better. Jeurys Familia missed three months and wasn’t very good otherwise. By that time, the Mets were out of the race and they traded Addison Reed to the Boston Red Sox. It all equated to the Mets finishing next to last in ERA in the National League at 5.01.
2018 New York Mets Season Preview
The Mets are looking to prove last year was an anomaly. They have most of the pieces still there from 2016. They have also made a few good moves during this quiet off season. The Washington Nationals remain their only competition for the division this season. While the Philadelphia Phillies could make some noise, they are still young. The Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins are a few years away from contending. Here’s a look at the Mets and their possible run at an NL East title.
Health and the Pitching Staff
Noah Syndergaard is New York’s best pitcher, yet he threw a total of 30.1 innings last year. Although, given the Mets depth at starting pitching, that should not have completely derailed their season. It also did not help that no one else stepped up except deGrom. With a healthy Syndergaard, the Mets have a top notch one-two punch. Health has also been a concern for Matt Harvey. He needs to get back to some semblance of a major league pitcher. He is in the final year of his contract so he has a lot to play for. At this point, the Mets would welcome a 180 inning season with a 4.00 ERA from Harvey and that would be fine.
Zack Wheeler is nearly three years removed from Tommy John surgery. He showed immense promise in 2014, striking out over a batter per inning while posting a 3.54 ERA. Wheeler still possesses the raw stuff to get back to that level. If he can, he is arguably the best number four starter in the majors. The fifth starter role will be up for grabs as Rafael Montero, Steven Matz, Gsellman, and Seth Lugo battle it out for a chance to prove themselves. Montero and Matz have the best stuff of the four. In the interest of keeping Matz healthy though they may opt to keep him in the bullpen. He has the potential to turn into a multiple inning dominant relief arm in the mold of Andrew Miller or Chris Devenski. Considering the Mets have only one other lefty in their bullpen in Jerry Blevins, this could serve them well.
The Lineup and Why It Is Better
The Mets added Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce and picked up the option on Asdrubal Cabrera. The Toddfather finally settles the Mets third base issue. He does not hit for a high average, but he belted 27 HRs last year and his .344 OBP was 24 points higher than the team OBP. Bruce returns after a short stint with the Cleveland Indians. His power is unquestioned. He finished seventh among major league outfielders in HRs last year with 36 and eighth in RBI with 101, all while having less plate appearances than all of the players in front of him on those lists. Cabrera has shown the Mets consistency. He has hit .280 each of the last two years. He also had a .351 OBP, which was third on the team behind Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto.
Conforto should be back by May, but shoulder injuries can be tricky and the Mets need him to return to form. Cespedes only played 81 games last year and needs to solve his leg issues. They are the Mets’ best hitters when healthy. When they are both in the lineup, the Mets score runs. Period. Amed Rosario struggled a bit last year but showed flashes of what he can be and reminds many of a young Jose Reyes. Juan Lagares has been working with swing guru Craig Wallenbrock to improve his launch angle. While Lagares has not shown power in the past (20 HRs in 1,643 ABs), he is 6-foot-1 and 215lbs. A renewed swing could improve those power numbers drastically.
Improved Defense and What’s Next
As advanced metrics are showing us, it is just as important to save runs as it is to score them. The Mets improved their defense this off season as well. At third base alone the Mets were a combined -17 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) last year. Meanwhile, Frazier was rated a +10. And while Lagares may not stay in center field unless he hits, he did save 15 runs compared to the rest of the Mets who combined for a -13. Just having Frazier and Lagares play every day at their positions, the Mets will be saving 55 runs. In other words, a run every 3 games. The signing of Frazier also moves Cabrera to second base where, although his range has slipped a bit, he did not commit an error in the 32 games he started there last year.
This Mets team is very good. They need health from their star players like Syndergaard, Cespedes, and Conforto. They need some improvement from last year, especially on the pitching side from guys like Harvey and Wheeler. Those things combined with a developing Rosario, improved defense, and a deeper bullpen should have the New York Mets contending for the division title.
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