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20/20 Hindsight: Mets First Half Was A Disaster

The New York Mets came into this season with bravado declaring they were the best team in baseball, and they challenged baseball to “Come get us.” Well, the Mets are 10 games under .500 with the second worst record in the National League:

1. As previously noted, Sandy Alderson left behind a solid young core, a farm system loaded with talent, and payroll flexibility. It’s been less than one year into his tenure, and Brodie Van Wagenen has completely botched all of it.

2. The Mets also continued to completely botch handling injuries. The team never gave Brandon Nimmo the requisite time to heal, and now he’s seeing David Wright‘s doctor. Michael Conforto‘s recent struggles have been at the same time he has been dealing with a back issue. Of course, he’s not on the IL.

3. Pete Alonso has been better than anyone could have ever expected. His winning the Home Run Derby is probably the best moment from this season.

4. Jeff McNeil is proving his rookie year was no fluke, and he’s much more than just a second baseman. He’s been able to be a good defender across the infield, and he is showing an Ichiro Suzuki like ability to hit it where they ain’t. That makes him a rare and exceptionally skilled player.

5. One of the best surprises to the season has been Dominic Smith getting treatment for his sleep apnea and becoming the player he was expected to be. His 152 OPS+ is the second best on the team. More than that, his friendship with Alonso has been endearing.

6. The bad defense is killing this team. Notably, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler are in the top 20 in FIP, and Noah Syndergaard is 35th. They are pitching like top of the rotation starters with only deGrom having results near that.

7. Another issue on that front is Wilson Ramos, who with each passing day is frustrating Mets pitchers. We are already at the point were deGrom and Syndergaard want to pitch to Tomas Nido instead. This would make you think the team should push to trade Ramos and push reset on their decision not to go the extra mile on Yasmani Grandal.

8. The bullpen has been beyond terrible, and it is the result of poor pitching, bad framing, awful defense, and just having bad players. To put it in perspective, among Mets relievers with more than two appearances, Paul Sewald has the second best ERA among relievers on the team.

9. You know things are really bad defensively when Juan Lagares has a -6 DRS. In addition to his struggles, Amed Rosario has been the worst defender in the majors. With J.D. Davis having a -9 DRS, the Mets are the National League team with multiple players in the bottom 15 in DRS.

10. Once healthy, Todd Frazier has been everything the Mets could have hoped. He’s a plus defender at third base, and he is hitting well while serving as a good veteran presence in the clubhouse. You have to move him at the deadline, but that doesn’t mean he wont’ be missed from this team.

11. The Mets could and probably should replace Mickey Callaway with Joe Girardi if for no other reason than Girardi being an exceptional manager. That said, Callaway has done well here to keep things stable and his players playing hard despite an inept front office and a bullpen melting down nearly daily.

12. It’s bizarre to think about but so much has gone right for the Mets. Conforto picked up where he left off last year. Alonso, McNeil, and Smith have been great. Nido has been an exceptional defensive catcher. Frazier has been resurgent. The top of the rotation has good peripherals. All in all, this tells you just what a bad job Van Wagenen has done.

13. There are no good answers on what to do with Steven Matz. He struggled in the rotation, and he is not well suited to the bullpen. The hope is he figures it out because the Mets have no other choice with Wheeler as good as gone, and Jason Vargas‘ inability to consistently go five meaning they have to decline his option.

14. Other than Mets games, SNY has become completely unwatchable. Of course, many Mets games delve into the point of being unwatchable, so . . . .

15. In many ways, Alonso is too good to be true. He’s a hard worker, great teammate, an All-Star, and he’s playing at an MVP level in the first half of the season. If nothing else, Sandy Alderson left behind a very likeable group of players who are easy to root for even if the ownership and front office are horrible.

16. The Mets being willing to sell tickets for the rest of the year at 80% off shows you that a boycott will never work. Ticket revenues are just not a big line item for teams, and that’s why even if you stay away the Mets are going to earn a lot of money.

17. It’s difficult to imagine a time when Mets fans have been angrier than this. The Wilpons do need to be careful here because angry quickly becomes apathy, which means people staying away from the ballpark. If nothing else, that makes the Mets irrelevant, and it’s embarrassing to them.

18. When you look around baseball, there are players like Hansel Robles, Travis d’Arnaud, Justin Turner, and Daniel Murphy; players who this franchise needlessly gave up on. This screams to an internal scouting problem which has been around for far too long.

19. Andy Martino is just the worst. He champions Chase Utley. He doesn’t want Alonso, a player he wanted to begin the year in the minors, to get $1 million for winning the Home Run Derby, and because of optics, he wants it all to go to charity. The charities Alonso selected weren’t enough for him. He constantly trolls the fanbase while carrying water for the Wilpons. There is nothing redeemable about him as a reporter/analyst. In an ideal world, Martino would not longer be with SNY, and he will be left to once again stalk Richard Simmons.

20. Being Mets fans, there is always hope for a second half run like we saw in 1973. If it happened once, it can happen again. With the Mets second half schedule, it’s possible. Just don’t count on it.

5 thoughts on “20/20 Hindsight: Mets First Half Was A Disaster”

  1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

    “1. As previously noted, Sandy Alderson left behind a solid young core, a farm system loaded with talent, and payroll flexibility. It’s been less than one year into his tenure, and Brodie Van Wagenen has completely botched all of it.”

    —The downside of payroll flexibility is that you haven’t committed significant money to genuinely good players. I’d prefer, for example, the Astros’ comparative lack of payroll flexibility to the Mets having more money to spend in pursuit of the kinds of players the Astros have already locked up. In addition, had the Mets extended their best young half dozen players during the 2017-18 (and even the 2016-17 offseason) they would have saved perhaps 100m over what that would have cost during the 2018-19 offseason.

    As for a farm system loaded with talent, it had only just begun–and then only by some outlet’s measures–to crack the top half of all farm systems, and the upper levels were completely bare. I did not love Alderson’s handling of the farm and his inability to even build an adequate, replacement level squad in Syracuse. As for a solid young core, if by that we mean players 25 and under with plenty of team control (pre-arb, I’m assuming), the Mets going into 2019 had Alonso, and spare parts.

    I would tend to include McNeil in the core despite this being his age 27 season due to his still being extremely cheap. I suppose Conforto is in there as well at age 26 despite it’s being widely understood he won’t be with the Mets after his age 28 season. I’d put Nimmo in there too, at 26. My general understanding of “young core” is that it means starting-caliber players (or at least the 50% possibility of that) in their pre-prime years who are still under team control. Fwiw that means someone like Bryce Harper as of the 2017-2018 offseason wouldn’t qualify, since he would be a FA in a year.

    What I would cheerfully concede is that Alderson SURELY left enough frontline talent to contend, however we define that.
    There was also rather obviously enough talent in the Mets farm system to deal for top MLB or MLB-ready talent.

    Overall Alderson was an adequate GM whose constant shilling on behalf of the Wilpons, and his obvious willingness to lie on their behalf quickly destroyed any interest I had in his work as an exec of my favorite team; even so he wasn’t bad at the job of finding talent.

    Van Wagenen, on the other hand…. In the past I’ve mentioned the 11 Mets players who chipped in 35 WAR over the 2018 season. That’s enough to get a team to 83-84 wins even if no other player adds anything at all. In addition to that the Mets had another 13 players who chipped in an additional 5 WAR. That gets them to 88-89 wins. Many of those 13 players were already on hand or could be re-signed, in most cases very cheaply. On top of that Van Wagenen was given hundreds of millions of dollars in salary commitments to spend during the 2018-2019 offseason along with the entire mass of minor league talent to deal away as he saw fit.

    How do you foul this up? He STARTED from 88-89 wins.

    Instead he chose to pick up Cano, a pointless gamble (and in doing so decrease McNeil’s value, for as good as McNeil has been, 2B is his best position. His career OPS+ is 144. That puts McNeil 5th *All-Time* at the position–and van Wagenen moved him). He chose to add a 24 yo reliever, Diaz, based on a single great season, in an era where the extreme volatility of relievers is fully understood. Etc., etc.

    Here’s one of the worst parts that hasn’t been discussed anywhere, afaict. The Mets’ negative producers (SSS caveats) through the first 81 games of 2019 have subtracted -7.5 bWAR from the team’s production. Over the entirety of 2018 those net negative players produced (unproduced?) a negative -8.8 bWAR. That means in 2019 the GM has already managed to let obviously bad players drain 7-8 wins from the team. By contrast the Cubs over the entirety of 2018 lost only -4.0 bWAR through their worst players. The 2019 Mets doubled that, in just half a season, meaning van Wagenen found a way to quadruple the cost of the team’s worst players to its won-lost record versus what the Cubs were able to do. The Mets current RS/RA is 420/466. It’s hard to exactly apportion the -7.5 bWAR or 75 runs their sub-replacement level players have cost them, but if you split it between offense and defense you get something like 457 runs scored and 428 runs allowed, nearly reversing their current RS/RA and, conservatively, turning them into a team with a 48-42 record through its first 90 games, leaving them 2nd in the division and 1st in the wildcard race.

    That’s what a novice GM like van Wagenen does to a team. He doesn’t understand the importance of depth, as the Syracuse roster attested. As soon as there were a few injuries the team had to go outside the organization. They didn’t even have talents as shaky as Wilmer Font (6.46 FIP w the Mets) or Aaron Altherr (-0.8 WAR in 42 PAs, 2019) to draw upon.

    Some day I expect negative WAR will be a thing, listed alongside other team totals. It’s a critical stat, telling us who the players are who are actively (however unintentionally) sabotaging a team’s chances to win and to contend, and by how much. In addition to blundering by failing to add premium players at positions of need, van Wagenen hopelessly botched the ongoing problem of the team’s lack of depth. As bad as the Mets depth was in 2018, Wags has made it by the numbers twice as bad–even though depth was an area he claimed to be actively improving.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Mets farm system would be top 5 if they didn’t make the deals with the Mariners, Astros, or Brewers. While we rightly focus on Kelenic and Dunn, losing players like Santana, Adolph, and Valerio really impacts a farm system.

    2. Gothamist says:

      Sandy got better with the draft but if this is top five I am really disappointed with the international, lack of high BB low K hitters, dearth of speed, much power and athletes… I think nothing special.

      Sandy is missed!
      But who ever it really does not matter with Jeff in charge and Sail counting the actual beans.

      1. metsdaddy says:

        On the IFA front, things changed when they signed Rosario. It was at that point they went big game hunting, and they started bringing in much better talent.

  2. Gothamist says:

    Sandy got better with the draft but if this is top five I am really disappointed with the international, lack of high BB low K hitters, dearth of speed, much power and athletes… I think nothing special.

    Sandy is missed!
    But whomever comes next it really does not matter with Jeff in charge and Saul Christo Katz counting the actual beans. He should ask his pries5 for divine help?

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