Folks, the Mets are not a good baseball team right now. Remember when they were in the midst of that mid-April West Coast road trip and had a 14-7 record? Yea, I hardly remember it, either.
New York has lost 11 of its last 14 games to drop below .500 for the first time since getting swept out of Milwaukee by the Brewers. This is different, though. That was only seven games into the young season. It’s still early — there are about 130 games left to play — but it’s hard to find ways to feel optimistic about the Amazins with how they’re playing right now.
For a team that enters its off day with a 17-18 record, there are plenty of unpleasant things to point out as reasons why they’re struggling. The following three areas are most frustrating to me (for various reasons).
Lack of length from starting rotation
Heading into this past offseason, the Mets had to completely rebuild their pitching staff. Since the lineup was mostly set (or so we assumed), this is where general manager Billy Eppler spent most of New York’s money.
It included deals for Justin Verlander, Jose Quintana, and Kodai Senga, as well as exercising Carlos Carrasco’s team option. Edwin Diaz and Adam Ottavino were re-signed, Brooks Raley was acquired via trade, and David Robertson was brought in via free agency.
Manager Buck Showalter’s bullpen has had decent results so far this year. But in May, the group’s ERA is up at 5.09. It’s partially because they’re being used more than anyone was expecting. I mean, just look at how many innings the rotation is averaging per start right now:
#Mets Starting Pitching in 2023: #LGM
IP/Start: 4.9 (27th)
ERA: 5.34 (24th)
WHIP: 1.51 (27th)
OPP AVG: .260 (19th)
K/9: 8.1 (20th)
HR Allowed: 36 (Tied for 28th)
— GENY Mets Report (@genymets) May 7, 2023
Not good at all, Bob. The obvious hope is that Verlander will build up his arm strength to reach the sixth and seventh inning consistently. Another hope is Scherzer can get past his early-season struggles and be the hurler he was for the majority of 2022.
Senga completed six innings for the second time this season in his last start. It was also his fourth straight start allowing at least four walks, though. Let’s hope his free passes get under control so he can continue to get deep into games.
Horrific first-inning troubles
One of the staples of the 2022 Mets was their ability to score early. It allowed them to start fast and took the pressure off both the offense and pitching staff as the game wore on. Their 0.60 runs per game in the first inning were among the best in baseball last season.
So far this year? It’s been absolutely pitiful. The Mets are dead-last in this category heading into Monday’s action, scoring just 0.26 runs per game.
If it also feels like they’re consistently staring at a deficit after one inning of play, it’s because you’re right. The Mets have allowed 0.80 runs per game in the first inning. That’s tied with the Yankees for the fifth-most in baseball. Constantly losing after one inning on most nights can derail any team’s spirit/mojo.
Scoring early runs would obviously be huge for New York. But since I don’t want to be too greedy, let’s at least see how it feels to not immediately surrender runs to the opposition every night.
Not consistently cashing in with the bases loaded
Let’s use Sunday’s 13-6 loss to the Rockies as an example. Sure, Joey Lucchesi allowed a first-inning solo home run to Randal Grichuk. But, the Mets actually responded with a three-run bottom of the frame.
Colorado scored twice in the third inning to tie things up. New York regained the lead with a run in the bottom of the fourth. But, it could’ve been a whole lot more.
Jeff McNeil singled with the bases loaded to bring that lone run in. It also re-loaded the bases with just one out. Instead of breaking the game open, Pete Alonso struck out and Brett Baty grounded out to end the threat. The Rockies then answered with seven runs in the top of the fifth, and that was all she wrote.
As a team, the Mets are hitting .222/.333/.389 with one home run and 28 RBI through 45 plate appearances with the bases loaded. Honestly, it’s felt much worse than that and probably would be if not for some success in this scenario against the Oakland Athletics.
Francisco Lindor has a 3.667 OPS with the bases loaded. McNeil is second at 1.100. But other than that, nobody has an OPS higher than .667 in that situation. Alonso is hitting .167/.167/.167 with three strikeouts in six chances.
When discussing New York’s recent struggles, Showalter had a simple answer: Play better.
"Play better. We control it, it's not like there's some outside element. Just play better"
– Buck Showalter on what the key may be to snapping out of this slump as a group pic.twitter.com/sQS37ZshgC
— SNY (@SNYtv) May 7, 2023
And, yea — the Mets need to play better. This is a terrible stretch, and while it is better to do it now than in September, nobody wants to see this at any time. There’s still a chance to go on a run when looking at their upcoming schedule, but they actually have to show up to get it done.
There are several things New York could do, which includes calling upon Mark Vientos and/or Ronny Mauricio from Triple-A to ignite a struggling offense. But with the way this roster is constructed, I’d be surprised if it happens right now. So, it’s looking like the solution really is to “play better”.
If the Mets can right the ship to some degree in each of the above three areas, it would be a huge help.
You can reach Matt Musico at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.