We’ve entered the final month of MLB’s regular season. The Mets are in first place and have the easiest part of their schedule in front of them. They can cruise to their first division title since 2015, right?
Not quite. At least, not after losing two of three to the Nationals over the weekend. The Braves have won five games in a row, meaning the Mets’ NL East lead is now down to one measly game as they travel to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates.
The Mets fell flat over the weekend
Could this series loss to the Nats be a letdown after taking two of three from the Dodgers in a playoff-like environment at Citi Field? Possibly, but that’s also an excuse that won’t hold much weight in the midst of a pennant race. One of the most glaring issues for New York in the second half has been an inconsistent offense.
After winning the series opener Friday night, the Mets dropped consecutive games by identical 7-1 scores. The first game included Patrick Corbin allowing just one run over seven innings. That was followed by Erick Fedde limiting New York in the same fashion over six frames. They both own a season-long ERA north of 5.00.
Is baseball gonna baseball at certain points? You bet. Is there reason to panic about the bottom falling out and the Mets collapsing because we’ve seen it in the past? No, we’re not there yet.
A potential solution is in Triple-A
The offense could use a spark. Do you know who has the potential to do this? That’d be Mark Vientos. All the dude has done at Triple-A Syracuse is hit after a slow start. Through 408 plate appearances, he’s slashing .277/.355/.518 with 23 home runs and 71 RBI. After posting a .569 OPS in April, Vientos hasn’t produced one below .890 in a full month’s worth of games.
When looking at his stats and splits, two things jump out. One is he seems comfortable hitting against pitchers older than him. All but six of his plate appearances this season have come in that situation. Another split that should be interesting to everyone associated with the Mets is how he’s performing against left-handed pitchers.
Through 127 plate appearances against southpaws, Vientos is hitting .336/.409/.746 with 13 homers and 37 RBI.
It’s been a Ruf start to Darin’s Mets career
Instead of making a bigger splash — and paying a steeper price — at the trade deadline, general manager Billy Eppler opted for supplemental pieces on offense. At first, Daniel Vogelbach, Darin Ruf, and Tyler Naquin were looking like decent additions as a unit, but there’s still a clear weakness from the right side.
Ruf’s tenure with New York hasn’t been excellent, to put it nicely. Through 47 plate appearances, his line is currently sitting at .167/.213/.238 with no home runs, seven RBI, and five runs scored. His 29 wRC+ is the worst among New York hitters with at least 20 plate appearances since the trade deadline.
Trying to recapture 2015 magic or 2018 frustration?
I see two parallels between the Mets and their current situation.
When they promoted Brett Baty, Mets Twitter was buzzing about how this felt like New York promoting Michael Conforto in 2015 prior to the Amazins’ World Series run. Although Baty posted just a 70 wRC+ in 42 plate appearances before hitting the injured list, it seemed like the offense got a little jolt from having a top prospect join them.
Now that he’s on the shelf and the offense is still sputtering with inconsistency, Vientos would be a great way to give everyone another kick in the pants. However, potentially not calling him up reminds me of 2018 when the Mets decided against doing just that with Pete Alonso after a 30-homer, 100-RBI performance in the minors.
How could making this move be a bad thing? It’s not like Buck Showalter is getting anything of substance from Ruf as the right-handed hitting portion of his DH platoon. There’s pressure with a division on the line, but the Mets have MLB’s weakest schedule in September, so it could hypothetically be a great time to give Vientos some reps in the big leagues.
Eppler and Co. decided against trading him at the deadline for immediate help. The Mets’ offense could still use a boost, though, and it seems like Vientos is the best chance they have at getting it right now. The front office has made a number of solid baseball decisions throughout 2022 outside of fumbling the trade deadline. Let’s hope Vientos gets a call so we don’t have to wonder if he could’ve helped down the stretch.
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