Well, this isn’t very fun, is it? The Mets came up completely empty on their six-game road trip that started a week ago in Milwaukee. Upon returning home to face the Los Angeles Angels, New York is 16-23 and eight-and-a-half games behind Washington in the National League East. Although reinforcements like Yoenis Cespedes and Steven Matz are slowly making their way back to full health, that hasn’t stopped some skeptics from declaring the 2017 campaign to be a lost cause.
Here we go again. We ought to know better by now than to bury a Terry Collins team before the last out in October, but some people never learn. The road back to .500 and beyond begins on Friday night at Citi Field. Don’t believe me? Collins said so himself!
"It's very easy to unravel right now and I will not let that happen," Collins said. "We are not going to do that. We're going to still stay together, play together, stay on the same end of the rope and pull together. I will not let this team get down. I will not do it. We got back to .500 and we'll do it again."
I know Collins isn’t everyone’s favorite manager around these parts, but if there’s one thing he knows how to do, it’s keeping his players from quitting when everyone is writing negative stories about them. Time to prove the doubters wrong again! Also, Los Angeles is throwing some really lousy pitching this weekend, so that should help too.
If you think being a Mets fan is harsh these days, just check out Los Angeles’s situation. This team has the best player in baseball at its disposal, but can only must 4.07 runs per game (12th in the American League) because he’s surrounded by mediocrity. If Mike Trout wasn’t playing some of the best baseball of his career, this would probably be the worst offense in the majors. It would be another story if the team’s second- and third-best hitters were performing up to par, but Albert Pujols is hitting .247/.293/.370 and Kole Calhoun has been even worse.
During the past week, the Angels have won five of six games and role players like Martin Maldonado, Cameron Maybin, and Danny Espinosa have started to perk up a bit, but those guys have been around the block long enough for us to know that they’re probably not going to sustain the success. That’s another problem with Los Angeles, though: The farm system doesn’t have the exciting pieces to get hard-core fans excited about the future. The Angels might seem cool now with their superstar outfielder and win-loss record that’s not terrible, but on the inside they’re just as sad as the Mets, if not more so.
It’s super exciting that Cespedes might be back in the lineup soon, but New York’s problem hasn’t been hitting the ball. This team is scoring five runs per game, and if I told you that at the start of the year, you’d be thinking first place all the way and hey, we’re probably undefeated. Why the heck not?
Not so much thanks to the disaster that is the pitching staff, but let’s focus on the good stuff for a minute. Michael Conforto is hitting opposite-field tacos against left-handed pitching, the Mets are getting production from up and down the lineup, and one of the catchers is hitting line drives all over the place. It’s not the catcher we all want it to be, but beggars can’t be choosers. I just hope that Collins doesn’t fall so much in love with Rene Rivera and his inexplicable thunder bat that he completely buries Travis d’Arnaud when the younger backstop is finally ready to hit again.
I kind of know that it’s coming, though. At least Conforto’s going to stick when Cespedes comes back, right? We might have to start rooting against Curtis Granderson just in case.
Friday, May 19: Ricky Nolasco
Important stats: 45.2 IP, 41 K, 11 BB, 13 HR, 4.34 ERA, 5.66 FIP, 1.29 WHIP
Favorite pitches: slider (81 mph), two-seam fastball (91 mph), four-seam fastball (91 mph), splitter (81 mph)
It’s pretty amazing how low Nolasco’s ERA is when you consider how many home runs he’s given up this season. The former Marlins right-hander has given up round-trippers on one out of every five fly balls hit against him, and that’s led to opponents hitting multiple long balls in six of his eight starts. Besides that, though, Nolasco has been pretty great. His strikeout rate is up four percent over last year’s and he’s been helped by a 91-percent strand rate as well. With lots of home runs given up and few hits with runners in scoring position, he’s basically the Mets’ 2016 offense in pitcher form.
Mets starter, Jacob deGrom: deGrom only walked one batter last Sunday, but his ERA went up again as he allowed four runs in six innings to the Brewers. The Stetson alum’s strikeout rate continues to be outstanding, but he’s getting hit harder than he did last year. According to FanGraphs, the hard contact against deGrom is up from 31 percent in 2016 to 37 percent this year.
Saturday, May 20: Alex Meyer
Important stats: 19.1 IP, 21 K, 14 BB, 2 HR, 5.59 ERA, 4.53 FIP, 1.60 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (96 mph), curveball (85 mph)
Along with Nolasco, Meyer came to the Angels when the team traded Hector Santiago to Minnesota at the 2016 trade deadline. Always a big strikeout guy in the minors, Meyer is starting to realize his potential in the big leagues with seven strikeouts in each of his last two starts. The most recent one was most impressive because he held Detroit to just one run in six-and-one-third innings. It was Meyer’s longest outing of the season and also his lowest walk total with only two. In his previous three starts, the Kentucky product totaled 12 free passes and only pitched past the fifth inning once.
Mets starter, Zack Wheeler: Wheeler is on a bit of a roll now with just four runs allowed in his last three starts. Monday in Arizona was a particularly strong game for him, as the former San Francisco prospect struck out six batters and walked just one. With injuries and uncertainty plaguing the rest of the pitching staff, the Mets need more performances like that one going forward. If Wheeler delivers, he’ll be considered the one pleasant surprise of the rotation.
Sunday, May 21: Jesse Chavez
Important stats: 49.0 IP, 40 K, 16 BB, 8 HR, 4.22 ERA, 4.56 FIP, 1.22 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (91 mph), changeup (85 mph), slider (84 mph), two-seam fastball (91 mph)
Chavez doesn’t seem to mind shuffling between the bullpen and the rotation, as he worked exclusively in relief for Toronto and the Dodgers last season. Now that he’s back in a starting role, he’s surprisingly posting a lower ERA and WHIP than 2016. That’s mostly due to a lower BABIP figure, but Chavez can become even more useful if he keeps the ball in the yard more often. He’s allowed exactly one home run in each of his last six starts.
Mets starter, Tommy Milone: We knew the long ball could be a problem for Milone as well, and he’s proven that to be true so far with two home runs given up in two starts for the Mets. As you would expect, his Citi Field outing went a lot better than the one at Chase Field in Phoenix, so hopefully Milone will come through once again for the home crowd.
Everyone thought that Bud Norris would just be a temporary fill-in at closer, but he’s looking more and more like a long-term option due to injuries incurred by Los Angeles’s higher-profile relievers. Cam Bedrosian still isn’t throwing off a mound, and Huston Street doesn’t get off the 60-day disabled list until June 1 at the earliest, so Norris has an opportunity to carve out a role for himself at the back end of of the bullpen. He’s certainly looking the part with a 32-percent strikeout rate to go with his 0.98 WHIP. Besides, the only other Angels relief pitcher with closing experience is current set-up man David Hernandez, and he’s flamed out of that job before.
New York’s bullpen wasn’t terrible in relief of Matt Harvey on Wednesday afternoon, but I couldn’t have been the only one who said “game over” as soon as Rafael Montero took the mound. It’s too bad that Paul Sewald had pitched the night before, or the game could have lasted a little longer. With everyone else in the pen tripping over themselves, It’s time for Collins to give Sewald a shot at high-leverage work. He’s now up to 12 big league innings with 14 strikeouts and two walks with a 3.00 ERA. The rookie from Las Vegas is just as good an option as anyone else.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.
How will the Mets fare this weekend against the Angels?
This poll is closed
A sweep made in heaven.
Win two of three.
Win one of three.
Okay, maybe the Mets are worse off in the long term.