Bullpen and offensive struggles highlight lackluster Mets season

D. Benjamin Miller | Wikimedia Commons

D. Benjamin Miller | Wikimedia Commons

As of June 2019, things do not seem to be in order for the New York Mets. Injuries combined with lack of production have soured a season that was once weighed with positive expectations. 

The Mets entered the regular season with their primary source of talent coming from an infield with an average age of 30 years old, and the majority of offensive production coming from players under the age of 29. 

General manager Brodie Van Wagenen has many franchise-altering decisions to make as the Mets approach the July 31 trade deadline. 

With lopsided majority of talent leaning towards younger players, the Mets could host a fire sale of their talent to begin the fan-dreaded extensive rebuild process. In fact, there are many reasons why the Mets should lean towards implementing the rebuilding model.

Heading into the 2019 regular season, many experts expected the Mets to have one of the best starting pitching rotations in Major League Baseball. 

With the sixth-best earned run average in the 2018 regular season, the Mets have been extremely underwhelming in 2019. 

Zack Wheeler has not pitched well and has been extremely disappointing thus far. 

Despite an over 95 mph fastball, Wheeler has been unable to effectively get batters out while using his secondary pitches. 

A big part of this is due to the regression of his slider. 

Wheeler uses his slider on approximately 17 percent of his pitches, not far off the average usage percentage for his career, which is at 15 percent. This season, his slider has cost the Mets on average 2.3 runs per 100 innings pitched. Wheeler’s fastball is the only pitch with a positive run value. 

Wheeler is still young, and he’s been holding back the second half of the 2018 season, yet to reach his potential. 

With an electric fastball and a good break on his pitches, trading Wheeler can bring the Mets young prospects with good potential. 

Starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard also has yet to deliver on his potential, as he has been unable to find his rhythm on the mound throughout the season, leading to an increased home runs per nine innings rate in his starts. 

Syndergaard’s walks per nine innings pitched is also higher than his career average. Syndergaard’s 2019 regular season earned run average of 4.55 through 95.0 innings pitched is in a different class as compared to the 3.18 earned run average he has over 613.1 career innings pitched. 

As a result, it is not sensible for the Mets to receive a sizable return for his departure. Thus, it makes sense for the Mets to hold onto Syndergaard. 

The bullpen has been abysmal. Pitcher Edwin Diaz, for whom the Mets traded Jarred Kelenic, the league’s 25th best prospect and Justin Dunn, who is ranked 68th by MLB.com, has been a shell of his former 2018 self. 

At this point in the regular season, he has allowed just as many home runs as through the entirety of last season. This is definitely a major reason that his ERA has more than doubled from 1.77 last season, to 3.77 this season.  

At times Jeurys Familia has looked lost. Sporting an ERA higher than 7, having blown all four of four save opportunities and halving his strikeout-walk ratio from his standout run from 2014-2016, Familia should not be in a Mets uniform any longer. He has given up 24 Earned Runs in 27 innings pitched. 

It has also been clear that the offense has struggled. While Jeff McNeil, Peter Alonso and Michael Conforto have been anchors of production, the team has lacked from the leadoff spot ever since Brandon Nimmo lost his eye at the plate and because the “stopgap” Amed Rosario walks well below the league average. Nimmo and Rosario are suffering from an increased strikeout rate, and a decreased on-base percentage. 

Rosario has shown a consistent lack of discipline at the plate, swinging at pitches out of the strike zone at a much higher rate than other leadoff hitters.

The top half of the Mets lineup has struggled to generate runs as a result. Robinson Canó, the other major piece acquired in the Diaz trade, has spent time off the field due to injuries and has faced criticism from fans concerning his hustle on the field. 

Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has been shut down for the season and veteran Jed Lowrie has yet to make his debut in a Mets uniform. Without three major contributors in their lineup, the Mets cannot expect to find or sustain success. 

The standout achievers of the Mets’ batters have undoubtedly been first basemen Dominic Smith and Alonso. 

As recently as April, there was uncertainty as to whether or not Smith would make the big-league roster, and he has excelled in his first base and pinch-hitting hybrid role. In 90 plate appearances, he carries a 43 percent chance to get on base. His OPS is sitting near 1.000, which puts him in the typical All-Star number range. 

Alonso has maintained a rate of production similar to that of an MVP level. With 27 homeruns through 320 plate appearances, Alonso is on pace to break Cody Bellinger’s National League home run rookie record of 39. 

If the Mets adopt a rebuilding model, they could stack a young talented core led by Alonso, Smith, McNeil and whatever other players are making positive contributions.