Coming off a six-game road trip that saw them win just one game, the Mets are set to return home, very briefly, with a 17-20 record when they face the Marlins on Friday night. That record currently has them in third place in the division, a game behind the Braves and four-and-a-half games behind the division-leading Phillies. They’re two-and-a-half games up on the struggling Nationals, and the irrelevant Marlins are another four games behind them.
To be fair, the National League East teams have played each other a lot over the first several weeks of the season. But the division is the only one in baseball that has just one team with a winning record, and it hardly looks like a lock that there will be one Wild Card team coming out of it—never mind two—by the time the season is over. That could be a bit of a problem for these Mets, a team that could win 71, 81, or 91 games and not really have any of those outcomes—or anything in between—be totally shocking.
Some things have obviously gone very well. Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso have been the team’s best hitters and rank among the better hitters in all of baseball right now, as both are in the top 20 in wRC+. Michael Conforto is a notch below those two at the moment, but he’s having a fine season with the bat, too. Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman have put up good numbers out of the bullpen, and Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard appear to be moving in the right direction, even if Syndergaard’s most recent start wasn’t a great one.
But plenty has gone poorly. Brandon Nimmo, Robinson Cano, and Wilson Ramos aren’t hitting nearly as well as they did last year. Todd Frazier has been a fraction of his usual self with the bat. Juan Lagares hasn’t hit as well as his career numbers, which aren’t all that good to begin with, and Keon Broxton has been just about as bad as Frazier at the plate. Just two starting pitchers—deGrom and the currently-injured Steven Matz—are below a 4.00 ERA right now. And of the sixteen pitchers who have appeared in relief so far this season, eight of them have a 4.82 ERA or higher.
Aside from the bullpen, which has seen Jeurys Familia hit the IL with a shoulder issue and Justin Wilson spend time on the IL with elbow soreness, the Mets have been relatively healthy. Jed Lowrie is set to be activated on Friday, but he and Frazier have been the only position players to miss significant time because of injuries. And while Matz and Jason Vargas are both injured right now and deGrom missed one start, just two of the team’s thirty-seven starts thus far have been made by pitchers who weren’t in the Opening Day rotation.
Things could improve. It’s still not even the middle of May, and most of the players who have under-performed should get back to levels of production that look more like their career numbers than the ones they’re putting up now. Lowrie should give them a boost at the plate, and he figures to get plenty of playing time if he hits anything like his 2017-18 self. deGrom and Syndergaard should continue to move toward ace-type numbers.
But the areas in which the Mets clearly didn’t have depth coming into the season are the biggest concerns. Yes, the lineup has been the team’s biggest problem lately, but any significant absences from the team’s best starting pitchers or relievers could end up being what sinks their season.
There’s an opportunity in front of the Mets right now to turn things around. Their next sixteen games come against teams that, at the moment, have losing records. In total, they’ll play the Marlins six times, the Nationals seven, and the Tigers three. They must capitalize on that opportunity.