Ya Gotta Believe In This Team
Let’s be honest. With nearly two months gone in the season, there is not a lot of reason to believe in the 2017 Mets. The team is five games under .500 and just 14-16 against their own division. Important players like Yoenis Cespedes, Jeurys Familia, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard and David Wright have had extended stints on the disabled list. Presumably, Familia, Syndergaard, and Wright are done for the season. The team features two everyday players who are fighting to get and stay atop the Mendoza Line, and the entire pitching staff has underperformed. And despite all of these problems, and many more which have not been mentioned, there are very real reasons to be optimistic about the Mets as we head into the summer months:
1. The Starting Pitching Is Improving
In case, you haven’t noticed the Mets are no longer have the worst ERA in all of baseball. A huge reason for that is the starting pitching is not only improving, but they are also pitching deeper into games. That has started with the re-emergence of Jacob deGrom. Before last night’s debacle, in his last two starts, deGrom pitched 15.1 innings allowing just one earned run. He threw down the gauntlet, and the other starting pitchers have responded.
The Mets are now starting to put together quality starts with some regularity. Matt Harvey and Robert Gsellman are coming off their best starts in over a month. Zack Wheeler continues to pregress well in his first season in over two years. Matz and Seth Lugo will soon join the rotation. As we have seen time and again, this team goes as its pitching goes, and the pitching is trending in the right direction.
2. The Bullpen Is Settling Down
With the starters failing to go deep into games and Familia essentially being a non-factor this season, the bullpen has struggled. The struggles stem from both overwork and trying to slot guys into different roles than had previously been anticipated. With the starters going deeper, the bullpen is starting to get some rest, and the bullpen is starting to look better.
Another factor is the emergence of Paul Sewald. A player the Mets were willing to risk losing in the Rule 5 Draft has now become the Mets most important reliever. He has been used for multiple innings and to nail down the eighth inning. He has shown his success in Vegas was no fluke pitching to a 2.21 ERA in 20.1 innings. His emergence has allowed Terry Collins to ease up on some of his other relievers.Salas has responded by lowering his ERA by almost two runs in the month of May, has not blown one lead, and he has not allowed an earned run in 11 of his last 14 appearances. A rejuvenated Salas is good for the Mets.
Another key factor is the composition of the bullpen. Rafael Montero is gone. Neil Ramirez is on his way out as well. He should be gone once Hansel Robles figures things out in Vegas and/or Gsellman is moved to the bullpen with the return of Matz and Lugo from the disabled list. Certainly, the composition of arms is going to be much better down there, and with the starters going deeper, they will be better rested.
3. Help Is On The Way
As noted, Matz and Lugo will soon rejoin the rotation. Behind them, we may also see Robles return to the majors prompting the Mets to send down one of the more ineffective arms in Ramirez and/or Josh Smoker. But it’s not just on the pitching side that the Mets will improve, it’s also on the offensive side.
According to various reports, Cespedes is about 7-1o days away. When he returns, the Mets will be adding an MVP caliber player to play alongside Michael Conforto in the outfield, who is having an MVP caliber season himself. Cespedes not only lengthens the lineup, but he also adds a right-handed power threat which the lineup is sorely lacking right now. While the offense isn’t the issue so far, a team that is fighting to not only get back to .500, but also to get back to the postseason needs to upgrade everywhere it can.
It’s more than Cespedes. At some point, the moving target that is the Super Two deadline is going to comfortably pass clearing yet another hurdle for the Mets to call-up Amed Rosario. If Rosario does get called-up, it would significantly improve the Mets infield defense, and it could also improve the lineup. Through his first 50 games, Rosario is hitting .354/.393/.519 with 13 doubles, three triples, five homers, and 37 RBI.
With all that, there is legitimate reason for hope the Mets will be a better team over the final four months of the season. That team could catch the Nationals in the standings especially when you consider the two teams have 13 games against one another remaining. That is enough games to make-up the 9.5 game gap between the teams in the standings. That goes double when you consider the Nationals have bullpen issues of their own, and they are just 15-12 since losing Adam Eaton for the season.
If the Mets play as well as they can play, this is going to be an exciting summer at Citi Field. If the Mets play the way they are capable, this will soon become a pennant race.