Nineteen games into their 2017 season, the Mets are five games out of first place in the NL East.
That’s … not optimal. Especially when you consider 12 of those 19 games have been at home, and that they’ve yet to play any teams out of their division. In a schedule oddity, they actually won’t play their first non-NL East squad until May 8, when they host the Giants at Citi Field in their 33rd game of the year. Strange.
So what’s wrong?
It’s not the rotation stars. Noah Syndergaard has a 1.73 ERA and 30 strikeouts — with zero walks! — in four starts. Jacob deGrom has a 2.55 ERA and is averaging 11.7 strikeouts per nine. Heck, even Matt Harvey has been solid in his return from what was essentially a lost season, with a 2.84 ERA in his four rotation turns.
The bullpen was pushed hard with closer Jeruys Familia serving a suspension to start the season, but the core of that group — Addison Reed, Jerry Blevins, Hansel Robles and Fernando Salas — has been solid. Not dominant, but decent. No, the relievers aren’t the big problem, either.
It’s the offense.
Yep. The offense has been ugly. In those 19 games, they’ve yet to be shut out but they’ve scored only one or two runs seven times — and they’ve lost all seven. In fact, they’re 7-0 when scoring at least five runs, and only 1-11 when scoring four or fewer. They scored a total of seven runs in a three-game series at home against the Nationals. They lost all three.
“It’s easy to push the panic button, it’s easy to say, ‘Oh, s—,’ but we are too good for that,” Jay Bruce told the New York Post. “We are a legitimate World Series contender, I believe, and I wouldn’t just say that. This is a team that is stacked. We just have to be healthy and play well.”
Easier said than done through 19 games. Let’s take a stroll through the disaster.
— Jose Reyes is batting .104. It’s hard to overstate how bad Reyes has been in his 74 plate appearances in this, his Age 34 season. His strikeout rate is a career-worst 21.6 percent, and when he does make contact, he’s not making solid contact — his hard-hit percentage (13.7) and line-drive percentage (12.0) are both career lows. His WAR is the worst in the majors for players with at least 50 plate appearances, by both the Baseball-Reference formula (minus-0.8) and the FanGraphs equation (minus-0.6).
— Curtis Granderson is batting .149, with only four extra-base hits in 18 games. He’s struck out 18 times and walked only five times, a 3.6-to-1 ratio that’s well above his career number of 2.1-to-1. Yes, it’s still very early and Granderson has been a streaky hitter, and he’s earned the benefit of the doubt, especially coming off a 30-homer season in 2016. But he’s 36, and every player slows down at some point in his career. Is this the beginning of the end for Granderson, one of baseball’s most respected (and liked) players?
— The Mets have actually done a very good job once runners get in scoring position — they’re hitting .284 as a team with an .855 OPS with runners in scoring position — but getting on base has been an issue. Their team on-base percentage (.288) is 27th of the 30 MLB squads. As a team, the Mets are batting just .158 with a .228 on-base percentage leading off an inning, and it’s probably not too surprising that Reyes and Granderson are the primary culprits. Those two are a combined 2-for-49 leading off an inning.
— That on-base percentage isn’t a complete fluke, either. It’s more about lineup construction; Lucas Duda is the only regular with a career on-base percentage above .340.
— Can anybody stay healthy? Duda (elbow) and Wilmer Flores (knee) are on the disabled list. Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring), Asdrubal Cabrera (ankle) and Travid d’Arnaud (wrist) are technically active, but far from full strength. It’s hard to predict health, of course, but there is this factor: It’s not like the Mets have a young lineup. Of the projected starting position players entering the season, only d’Arnaud has yet to reach his Age 30 season. Cespedes, Duda, Cabrera and Neil Walker are all in their Age 31 seasons.
So what does all this mean? Not a ton, of course. It’s still April.
And, yeah, it’s been a disappointing April for Mets fans, but it hasn’t been a complete disaster. They’re 8-11, not 3-16.
Maybe they won’t be able to catch the Nationals in the NL East, but chances are they weren’t going to win the division anyway (the Nats are really, really good). The NL still has two wild-cards, though, and the Mets will still be very much in the mix for one of those spots, as long as the season doesn’t careen toward disaster status in May.