A new chapter is waiting for the Mets after several franchise-changing offseason moves. But will they be enough to shake off the same old Mets and turn things around?
By: Brendan Brown
2020 was an odd year for baseball, with teams playing a full Spring Training only to sit for 4 months, only playing 60 games instead of 162, and having a 16-team playoff format instead of the normal 10 teams. The only normal thing to happen in New York baseball was the Mets disappointing to another sub .500 record after having their GM boast about how good they are on paper. So really how different was the season after all? But things are looking better for the Mets, with a new owner, some fresh faces, and an energetic Spring Training so far, maybe we have good times ahead in Queens. But let’s first look back on last year before we look ahead to this one.
The Mets finished with an underwhelming 26-34 record, tying with 4 other teams for the 7th worst record in baseball. They finished tied for 4th/last in their division with the Washington Nationals. The Mets were looking good on paper, many of their players had strong Spring training performances, and were actually looking good going into the season. But with injuries to Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman, who eventually opted out of the season, the rotation leaned heavily on way too many pitchers looking for bounce backs. As the team record suggests, those pitchers did not bounce back. The rotation leaned heavily on the success of Jacob deGrom, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, who finished with a 2.38 ERA, a National League-leading 104 strikeouts, and a 2nd place finish in the NL Cy Young race. They then gave 36 starts to a group of 5 pitchers, with the “best” ERA of the bunch being Rick Porcello’s 5.64, an ERA that was 25% worse than the major league average. The only other bright spot in the rotation being rookie David Peterson sporting a 3.44 ERA in 49.2 innings pitched, and one of the best sliders in all of baseball last year.
The lineup on paper last year does look really good if you look at individual performances. Pete Alonso had a sophomore slump season that still would’ve translate to 40 home runs and almost 100 RBI’s in a full season; Robinson Cano looked like his old peak self (which is now put into a different perspective with a PED suspension); Jeff McNeil slumped in August but brought the heat in September to finish with numbers that looked closer to his 2019 breakout; Brandon Nimmo hit for a good average while continuing to get on base at an over 40% rate; Michael Conforto broke out in a big way, looking the best we’ve seen him both at the plate, with .322/.412/.515 triple-slash line, and in the field as he has solidified right field as his defensive home over the past few seasons; and Dominic Smith finally getting some playing time and absolutely crushing the ball to a team-leading 42 RBIs and .993 OPS. Bench players like Luis Guillorme continued to improve his overall game, Tomas Nido took big strides offensively, and Jake Marisnick, when not injured, gave the Mets a good overall product. But all of that meant nothing when the Mets as a team were in the bottom third of the league when it came to batting with runners in scoring position.
The Mets bullpen was not as bad as it was in 2019, with Edwin Diaz looking much more like his 2018 self when he was with the Mariners, Jeurys Familia was much more reliable than the year before, left-handers Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson pitching effectively in high leverage situations, and Erasmo Ramirez, who had signed a minor-league deal to join the squad, gave the Mets incredible length and quality as well out of the pen. Pitchers like Brad brach, Dellin Betances, and Franklin Kilome among the many who inspired much much less confidence when they took the mound.
There are few teams that had a better offseason than the Mets however, changing ownership from the Wilpons to Steve Cohen, revamping the front office, and acquiring through trade and free agency plenty of impact players all around the diamond. The offseason headlined by the trade for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, bolstering and improving two areas of the team that greatly needed it. The team added catcher James McCann, reliever Trevor May, outfielder Albert Almora Jr, outfielder Kevin Pillar, infielder Jonathan Villar, and starting pitcher Taijuan Walker all to major league contracts, giving them the most depth they’ve had in years at most of those positions (and probably the highest quality of depth as well). Add in the returns of Marcus Stroman to the rotation, and Noah Syndergaard sometime in June, and the Mets truly look like the best team that they’ve put out since the 2015 World Series team, maybe even one of the best overall squads since the 1986-1988 Mets teams. And with PECOTA projections having the Mets win the division with a 96-66 record, tied for second-best in the National League, there is also a lot to be excited about over in Queens this year.