New York Mets Midseason Recap
Amazingly, the New York Mets are just over halfway through their regular season schedule and have less than a month left to finish the rest of it. Considering that the season was shortened to just 60 games due to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and a labor dispute involving the terms of a return to play, the circumstances surrounding the sport have made for a wild year for Major League Baseball and the Mets.
At the time of this writing, the Amazins are 15-21 overall and 3-7 in their last 10 games. Mathematically, the Mets are very much still in the National League playoff race, though the same could be said for virtually every team, with each league getting eight spots in this season’s expanded playoffs.
The recent numbers do not suggest a club that is about to get hot down the stretch. After winning two games against the crosstown rival Yankees in comeback fashion last weekend, then salvaging a gem from ace starter Jacob deGrom in a win over the Miami Marlins, the Mets proceeded to lose three straight games to the Yanks and a game each to the Marlins and Baltimore Orioles.
A lot of symptoms can be attributed to the ever-frustrating struggles of the franchise, but alarmingly, a team that has been built around strong starting pitching is bereft of it in 2020. After letting former starting pitcher Zack Wheeler leave for the Phillies for a $118 million payday, the Mets starting rotation was expected to consist of twice-defending NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, hard-throwing Noah Syndergaard, 2019 trade-acquisition Marcus Stroman, longtime rotation member Steven Matz, former AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, and veteran Michael Wacha. A pretty strong staff right? Well, not anymore.
News broke during the layoff between spring training and the season that Syndergaard needed Tommy John surgery and would miss the year, while Marcus Stroman dealt with a calf tear just days before the season finally started, only later to decide to opt out of playing entirely as he was nearing a return to the active roster. From the jump, Matz was asked to step into the No. 2 starter role, a great pressure that he crumbled under, resulting in his eventual move to the bullpen. Matz performed fairly well in a couple of bullpen outings but soon joined a long list of arms on the injured list. Wacha also struggled mightily to the tune of a 7.41 ERA, also spending time on the IL. Porcello has stayed healthy and has managed to keep games moving, but he has also had a penchant for bad innings that put games out of reach.
Despite these poor performances, minor leaguer David Peterson has stepped into the rotation nicely, giving the Mets five strong innings each time he was available and pitching a 3.51 ERA so far. The problem, of course, was that he too ended up hurt for a week or two when New York really needed to lean on him.
The Mets have not just struggled to shorten games and find effective starting pitching, as the offense has been a source of angst as well. The lineup that the team put together this year is certainly not short on talent with sluggers like Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto and J.D Davis, as well as other skillful ballplayers like Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith and Robinson Canó. The Mets even have the fourth-highest team batting average in baseball, proving how much potential the offense has. Sadly, all the lineup has to speak of is potential, not results. The Mets have been completely eluded by the timely hit, as they have the most runners left in scoring position in the big leagues with almost four per contest. Alonso, the 2019 home run leader, and Jeff McNeil, who seriously competed for the NL batting title last season, have been shells of their ‘19 selves when it comes to driving in runs.
In 2020, the Mets have struggled to bring in runs when they need them most, and they’ve need to hit in the clutch frequently because of the flimsy pitching behind deGrom. If the Mets are going to make the playoffs this season, they will need to get healthier and find ways to compete at the plate.
Jeremy Ganes is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.