It’s rarely a good idea to try and judge what a team is in the midst of a losing streak or winning streak. No team is ever as good for an entire season than it is when they win eight in a row. They are also not as bad as when they spend a week and a half looking like the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But these streaks can tend to correct teams to their true level over the course of a full season. What must be the real fear of the Queens Side of New York these days.
The Mets lost their sixth of seven games on Sunday and their eighth in their last 10. And one of those wins was in the extra-round carnival competition. What is perhaps more concerning is that three of those losses came to the Marlins and two more to the Reds, synonymous with mediocrity. They spent the weekend being timed by the Phillies, who used all three wins to jump the Mets to first place in the NL East. The Braves also passed the Mets, leaving them in third place and decidedly lacking in momentum.
It’s easy to point out that the Mets’ most important pitcher and hitter is on the shelf long term as the main reason the Citi Nine fell back in August, and we’ll get to that. But it’s a bit more. Frankly, the Mets can’t strike, and they certainly can’t strike for power. Among the National League, they are second to last in races, and third to last in slugging. They’re mediocre when it comes to getting into base or avoiding strikeouts, but they just can’t score in a group.
Outside of Pete Alonso, who is pretty much the only reason this roster didn’t completely come out of 1984, the Mets have been disappointed by everyone. Michael Conforto reached 0.136 in June and 0.171 in July. The Mets didn’t pay much attention to James McCann for an extreme BABIP chance in Chicago for part of a season and a half and paid generously for that deflation. Dominic Smith beats below 0.400. Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo have been ouchy for much of the season. There wasn’t a ton of depth here and it was over-examined with all the injuries. Even when Francisco Lindor was in good health, he didn’t exactly light up the night sky with a 97 wRC +, although he did start showing his true form in July before injuring himself. Javy Báez was brought in to pack more punch, but has continued to blow his breath away, with a 38% strikeout rate so far as a Met.
To make matters worse, it looks like he will be joining Lindor on the Training Table All-Stars as he left today’s game after appearing to injure his side / oblique. If it’s his oblique, we know it can be a very delicate and annoying injury. McNeil is back now and JD Davis being in the lineup every day might soften the blow of not having Báez or Lindor at all for next month, but it’s thin ice to try to get through.
The Mets could also suffer more than most from the pitchers’ return to the six-month routine following last year’s 10-week season. Taijuan Walker has been miserable in his last five starts after pitching just 67 innings in the past three seasons. Marcus Stroman has only seen the sixth inning in one of his last seven starts. Tylor Megill has been a sight for sore eyes in the rotation, but he’s not doing more than four innings to protect his development. If Rich Hill does more than five innings, it violates his AARP status. The Mets have the second-highest number of innings in the last month of their pen, which would be less of a concern if that pen’s ERA was not above 4.00 at that time.
Jacob deGrom doesn’t appear to be back to bring the salvation until September, and Lindor might not be back until the end of August. Carlos Carrasco is back but in a limited number after such a long absence due to injury. And by the time they’re all in fighting form, it may be too late. After falling behind in the 2.5 Phillies games and now the Braves looking them straight in the eye, the Mets will spend two weeks playing only against the Dodgers and Giants following this week’s series with the Nationals. If they can get by without their skulls looking like a Picasso, there should be a welcoming 14-game streak right after the Nationals and Marlins. The Phillies have their own date with the Dodgers this week and the Padres later, but the Braves will be spending that time playing the Reds, Marlins, Nationals and Orioles. If the Mets are seriously affected by the aristocracy of the NL West, they could be four or five games behind on two teams with just a month to play. And the Joker won’t be a parachute available unless the Padres all move to Ibiza together.
No team is just going to go through after losing a Cy Young lock and someone who was supposed to be an MVP contender (who doesn’t call themselves the Dodgers either). But this is rapidly moving away from the Mets, and it could become worse before it gets better.