Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the Mets are set to get their most important position player back in the lineup. As the team has slowly worked its way through a series of disappointing games and series, Yoenis Cespedes has been on the shelf with a hamstring injury, his absence felt more and more each day.
The Mets have been here before, though the last time they traversed the path of losing in incredibly frustrating fashion to the lowly San Diego Padres, the Cuban outfielder wasn’t yet a member of the team. But after the series of events that led to the trade that brought him to Queens just before the trade deadline in 2015, the Mets were undoubtedly a different team.
There were other players who contributed to the Mets’ dominance, no doubt, as they wound up taking the National League East easily that year, but Cespedes was the emotional center of those two glorious months of Mets baseball. And even last year, as the team battled injuries and held on for a Wild Car spot, Cespedes’s presence and performance was essential to the team’s relative success. This sort of thing is never the most exact way to analyze a baseball team, but since Cespedes became a Met, the team has a 114-83 record when he’s in the starting lineup, a .579 winning percentage that equates to a 93-and-a-half win pace.
Statistically speaking, Cespedes hasn’t been the Mets’ best hitter so far this year, but that’s merely because Michael Conforto has been so good. Cespedes himself has a .270/.373/.619 line with six home runs and a 158 wRC+ in 75 plate appearances. Regardless of how the Mets slice up playing time between Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson—assuming Conforto plays every day in center field—Cespedes will be a significant upgrade.
Until Cespdes is back, though, the Mets are going to need to win some games, preferably several of them in a row, to remain relevant. At 19-26, they’re 7.5 games back of the Dodgers for the second Wild Card with five teams in between them and 8.5 games back in the division. That’s not a death sentence for the season in late May, but they really can’t afford to drop too much farther below .500.
There are still other issues the team will have to overcome when Cespedes comes back. But if the Mets are even just a few games closer to getting back to an even record on the year, he’s the guy who could help turn that losing record into a winning one.