The 2020 season for the New York Mets has not got off to a very good start. In fact, at 3-7 the Mets are tied for the worst record of any team with 10 games played. But in typical Mets fashion, the stink can’t just be on the field. It starts at the top with the potential sale of the team, to the performance of General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen, and finally ends with the absurd and fitting end of the Yoenis Cespedes era.
In this article let’s look at what has gone right and wrong in the first 10 games of the season and what the Mets can do to try to turn this around. The bad has dwarfed the good and in a 60-game season, getting off to a good start was critical in this very competitive National League East Division.
Once Noah Syndergaard had Tommy John surgery in March, we knew there was a good chance the Mets would have to dip into the minors for a starting pitcher. Once Summer camp began David Peterson made the 60-player taxi squad which meant he would be considered for a potential spot start in case of an injury to a Mets starting pitcher. Marcus Stroman went down with a calf injury and Peterson got the first chance in his absence.
Peterson, who never pitched at Triple-A, only had 24 career starts in Double-A. His numbers in those starts were not very good. But Peterson has been a very pleasant surprise of the 2020 Mets to this point. Peterson made his debut at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox and gave the Mets a solid five and two-thirds innings. He gave up seven hits and two walks but only two runs in an 8-3 Mets victory.
Peterson’s second start was even better although the Mets lost to the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park. Peterson pitched six innings allowing three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts and giving up three runs. After only two starts Peterson has earned a spot in the rotation at least for now. His poise and command on the mound are very noticeable. With only two other healthy starting pitchers under contract for the 2021 season, Peterson could be pitching his way into the rotation.
Of course, Jacob deGrom is a bright spot but would you expect anything different. The reigning two-time Cy Young winner has picked up where he left off last season. In his two starts, deGrom has pitched 11 innings and allowed two runs on four hits with two walks and 13 strikeouts. Unsurprisingly deGrom’s record is 0-0. On opening day deGrom took the no-decision when he left in a scoreless tie of a game the Mets would win 1-0.
In his second start, deGrom pitched six innings and allowed two runs leaving the game with a 3-2 lead. The normally reliable Seth Lugo blew the lead and the rest of the Mets bullpen blew the game on a 6-5 loss.
Jeff McNeil‘s Offense
The Mets hitting machine called Jeff McNeil continues to do what he has done since joining the team in 2018. McNeil’s intensity and approach at the plate just appeals so much to the Met fanbase perhaps like no other player to ever wear the orange and blue. After 10 games McNeil is batting .343 with 12 hits and four walks in 42 plate appearances.
Which defensive position McNeil will ultimately play has not yet been established, although he has played almost exclusively at third base this season. McNeil has committed four errors which are a lot for 10 games played. Even with the errors the fans just love McNeil. Pete Alonso provides the thunder but McNeil might be the most endearing player on this Mets team.
Andres Gimenez is only on this roster because of the 30-player rule. Manager Luis Rojas has played Gimenez in almost every game using him in a variety of ways. Whether he has been used as a pinch-runner or a defensive replacement, Gimenez is showing the Mets that he is a good baseball player. Gimenez is one of the Mets best prospects and in this very brief sample size he is proving his value by showing his versatility.
Gimenez, who in 383 minor league games has played shortstop in 368 of those games, has shown the ability to play all over the infield. In 31 innings this season, Gimenez has played 13 innings at third base and nine each at second base and shortstop and has not committed an error yet. Offensively he is batting .357 in 14 at-bats. Now that Cespedes has opted out Gimenez could see more playing time. Seemingly blocked by Amed Rosario if Gimenez can show the ability to play multiple positions he will have a big part on this team.
It’s very easy to bury relief pitchers off one bad outing. But in the case of Justin Wilson and Drew Smith you can very easily say they have been positives for the Mets. You can make the case that not much was expected out of either pitcher especially Smith who was coming off of an injury. But still, that one bad game is almost always remembered more than the good ones.
Wilson has pitched in four games. The first three were solid performances with two and one-third innings of scoreless baseball. But the last time Miller pitched he was rocked by the Braves taking the loss in a 6-5 game. But prior to that Wilson was effective. Smith has been the bigger surprise pitching in four games allowing one run in three and two-thirds innings. In fact, Smith allowed his only run in a game the Mets lost 4-0. Smith has looked good striking out four batters and issuing no walks thus far.
The issue with Robinson Cano is that he will never really be welcomed by the Met fan base because of the other players involved in the trade that brought him to Queens. Edwin Diaz has been a disaster and Jarred Kelenic keeps rising in the MLB prospect ranks so despite Cano’s .375 batting average in 10 games he can never do enough. The truth is he won’t ever do enough for the Met fans unless he is winning postseason games.
There are a few players to choose from but the Mets bullpen is the number one issue with this team thus far. The plan by Van Wagenen to expect better performances in 2020 by his key 2019 bullpen pitchers has simply backfired thus far. Out of the seven losses this year the bullpen has blown three of them. The number one reason the Mets failed to make the playoffs last year was because of the bullpen.
After saving the opening day win, Edwin Diaz then blew the save the next day before completely imploding in an embarrassing one-third of an inning against the Red Sox. Diaz just might not be cut out to pitch in the pressure-filled New York City. The Mets were forced to pitch Diaz in a game where the Mets were losing 3-0 just to try to get his confidence back.
Seth Lugo was the Mets best bullpen arm in 2019 and he started off this season with three and one-third innings of scoreless baseball with one win and a one save. But in his next two outings, Lugo blew a save against the Red Sox and took the loss vs the Braves. Because of the shortened season where every game counts Lugo was expected to become the closer amid Diaz’s struggles. But Lugo is struggling himself and there are still questions surrounding his durability. Can Lugo be the closer and pitch in back to back games consistently? It is still way too early to write off Lugo but the clock is ticking on this season.
The Mets big free agent coo was luring Dellin Betances away from the cross-town rivals New York Yankees and also keeping him away from their division rivals the Philadelphia Phillies. Betances missed the majority of last season dealing with an arm injury then blew out his ACL in his first game back. So you can forgive Betances for not being sharp yet. But despite three short and scoreless outings, Betances imploded just like the rest of the Mets bullpen in an 11-10 loss to the Braves. Like Lugo, it is too early to write off Betances.
The reigning home run king, Pete Alonso is just flat out struggling. Maybe he is pressing to repeat his 2019 performance, or maybe it is the sophomore jinx. But the Polar Bear looks lost at the plate. His batting average is .175 and Alonso has hit only one homer and has 15 strikeouts in 40 at-bats. Mets announcer Keith Hernandez commented on how his arm is jerking upward this year as opposed to last season where it had no movement. Whatever the reason for this early season slump is, the Mets need Alonso to get back on track.
It’s not really fair to come down on the Mets starting rotation when two of their big pitchers are injured. But still, the show must go on. Van Wagenen did sign two starting pitchers to fill out the back end of the rotation. But now due to the injuries, they are thrust into more important roles.
Rick Porcello has been a disaster early on in the season. In two starts, Porcella is 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA giving up 11 runs(nine earned) in six innings pitched. Michael Wacha is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA and has given up six runs in nine innings pitched. Steven Matz has pitched well with a 0-1 record and a 3.18 ERA giving up four runs in 11 and one-third innings. With the struggles in the bullpen, all the Mets starting pitchers must pitch deeper into games.
The best thing that could be said about Yoenis Cespedes is that he decided to opt-out officially ending his New York Mets career. Despite winning one game with a home run, Cespedes has struck out 15 times in 31 at-bats. Whether he is to be believed that he opted-out due to COVID-19 is up to you. Cespedes has had a strange and checkered career as a Met and if he does not want to play at least he stepped aside so younger players can get at-bats.
The Mets need clutch hitting which was clearly visible in their last two games. The Mets left 24 men on base and were 2-25 with RISP in two losses where they scored one run. Cespedes, who hasn’t played one inning in the outfield does look one or two steps slower running the bases. Maybe he is not really healthy enough to play baseball. That doesn’t matter now. The Mets need to start winning games.
We Need More Dom Smith
With the designated hitter spot open it now might be go-time for Dominic Smith. This could be his chance to get more consistent at-bats as he tries to play his way into the lineup. Smith has appeared in left field in three games this year. But he is not an outfielder. Neither is J.D. Davis by the way. So we could see Davis and Smith alternating games between leftfield and designated hitter.
More Time for Gimenez
Hopefully, this means more playing time for Gimenez too. Cano could start at designated hitter a couple of times a week with Gimenez playing second. We have seen the versatility that Gimenez brings and he could spell Rosario at short one game a week and even McNeil at third. In McNeil’s case, he could also play right field on days Michael Conforto needs a rest with Gimenez playing third base.
With Cespedes gone and Jake Marisnick on the injured list, the Mets suddenly have a lack of depth in the outfield. Billy Hamilton was just acquired from the San Francisco Giants but he is more of a defensive specialist and a pinch-runner. Ryan Cordell is also on the roster but he has yet to see any significant playing time. But Met fans don’t want to see either player getting significant playing time.
The Closer is…….
This is the most glaring question for the Mets at the moment. Diaz has faltered and might need to earn the closer role back. Lugo had it and it is still not known if he is the first man to get the call when the Mets need a closer. Additionally, Betances and Familia also have experience closing in this town. Rojas could simply go with the hot hand or maybe put the books away and go with his gut. How this bullpen pitches in the next two weeks will have a big part in determining the success of this season.
Set the Lineup
Despite the 3-7 record, Luis Rojas has done a fairly good job. He has made the correct defensive replacements late in the game. It is a Mets calling card to place their players out of position. Rojas has done a good job getting the right defense in place in the later innings. His use of Gimenez has been really good. He has made Gimenez a big part of this team and not just the last guy on the bench. He has eased him into basically getting in every game and it might be time to get the rookie more playing time.
Even the use of the bullpen has been fine despite the results. Rojas can only use the pitchers he has available. He seemingly pulled Diaz from the closer role after one blown save. He has had a quick hook when past Met managers would let the game blow up. Maybe it’s the short season that is fueling this. But either way, Rojas is telling his team I am not going to sit back and let the same relief pitcher lose games for us.
The one thing Rojas needs to do is set his primary lineup. Rojas could just be feeling his way around on this one. But setting an everyday lineup should be something he is focused on. Who is going to bat leadoff? Who is going to bat fourth? Where will Alonso bat and who will be his protection and so on? Getting his everyday players set in the lineup could relax everyone. Particularly Alonso who really needs to get his head straight.
This is a short season and the clock is ticking. The next 14 days will be very important to the 2020 New York Mets season.
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