Starting with the obvious, none of that trio have exactly made the case to play everyday. At least, not this season.
Smith has an 84 wRC+ and a -2 DRS in left while he battles a wrist injury much akin to Michael Conforto in 2016.
Davis has been yet again completely incapable at third with a -6 DRS and -2 OAA. He’s been a horrible base runner, and as we especially see with the bases loaded, his strike out rate is climbing. Sooner or later, his BABIP luck will run out leaving him to slide to being what he was last year.
That leaves us with the enigma of McNeil.
Look, for whatever which reason, McNeil isn’t hitting. We see that with his career worst 94 wRC+. We also see it with his career worst K%, ISO, AVG, OBP, SLG, etc.
All told, this is the worst he’s ever looked at the plate. Maybe it’s injuries. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever the case, he hasn’t been good at the plate let alone near his career norms.
However, he’s been phenomenal in the field. He has a 5 DRS and a 4 OAA at second. This is the best he’s ever looked in the field, which is saying something given his level of success at different positions.
That success includes third where he’s been quite good in his career. With Báez back, that’s where the Mets need him.
Instead, the Mets are putting McNeil in LF. That’s a huge mistake for a few reasons.
First, it puts Davis at third where he has no business playing. Second, and perhaps more important, McNeil is dealing with leg injuries.
It’s part of the reason we’ve seen McNeil’s speed and sprint speed decline. That’s not a good mix for LF where McNeil was merely average. That’s nothing to say of the possibility he aggravates his leg injuries further when trying to track down a ball.
Overall, for his health and to prevent neutralizing the greatness of Báez and Lindor, McNeil should be at third. To build the best lineup and defensive alignment possible McNeil should be at third.
Really, no matter what way you look at it, McNeil should be the Mets everyday third baseman.
The New York Mets were reeling, and honestly, they were on the verge of not just falling out of the race, but completely falling apart. They turned desperate activating Javier Báez without so much as a rehab stint.
This was actually the perfect time for a Marcus Stroman start.
In his career, Stroman was established himself as a big game pitcher. We saw it as he rushed back from an ACL injury to help the Toronto Blue Jays in the postseason. He was the World Baseball Classic MVP. We now have his Mets performance to add to the list.
Entering his start yesterday, Stroman had a 3.07 ERA in the second half. That’s nearly a run and a half lower than the Mets team ERA in the second half. Of course, that team ERA is lower partially due to Stroman.
He took the mound against the Los Angeles Dodgers with the Mets a season worst three games under .500 and 7.0 games back in the division.
Báez proved to be a spark plug to the offense with an RBI double in the first. It actually led to three first inning runs and an offensive explosion of seven . . . SEVEN! . . . runs.
However, before it got to seven, it was 3-0, and it was up to Stroman to ensure the win. After that top of the first, he did what great pitchers do. He shut down the side, and he did it in order.
In fact, Stroman wouldn’t allow a hit until the third. That was a single by the opposing pitcher David Price. A position player wouldn’t get a hit until the fourth. The reason was Stroman was filthy.
Marcus Stroman, Sick 88mph Split Change. 🥴 pic.twitter.com/AEOWoEoDu3
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 22, 2021
He would get into trouble in the fourth, and it was partially because J.D. Davis couldn’t make a play a third baseman needs to make. The bases would be loaded, and Cody Bellinger hit a two RBI single pulling the Dodgers within 3-2.
That’s as close as the Dodgers would get. Patrick Mazeika came up big throwing out Bellinger trying to steal second for the third out of the inning.
Speaking of Mazeika, this was the second straight start he worked with Stroman, and they look like they’ve been working together for years. It’s something Stroman spoke about and for the second straight start, he gave credit to his catcher.
.@STR0 shouts out Patrick Mazeika for adapting to his pitching style so quickly:
"The camaraderie and the relationship is usually developed over time, so for him to just come in and pick up and be great, that just says a lot to his character and his commitment to his work." pic.twitter.com/o4Hc8JMIqy
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 23, 2021
The Dodgers wouldn’t get another hit off Stroman, and they wouldn’t score another run in the game. Stroman’s final line was 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K.
This isn’t just the line of a pitcher who wants to push his way into the Cy Young discussion, or one who has free agency pending. No, this is the line of a pitcher who wants to will his team into the postseason.
What was a tight game became a blowout. Again, it was Báez igniting things with a double. That seventh inning double didn’t just spark two runs, it was also the smoothest slide you’ll ever see. It was in front of Trea Turner to boot.
In the end, it wasn’t just a 7-2 win, it was a desperately needed win. Mostly, it was a big time pitching performance against a loaded lineup at a time the Mets needed one.
There were many players who stepped up on the day, but in the end, Stroman loomed largest. This is what he does, and it’s what he may well continue to do as he looks to push the Mets into the postseason.
As things started to slip, acting general manager Zack Scott had a press conference blaming the players for their injuries. He also called the team he assembled mediocre.
Now, that the season is falling apart with the Mets in third and 3.5 games back, owner Steve Cohen is now attacking the players:
It’s hard to understand how professional hitters can be this unproductive.The best teams have a more disciplined approach.The slugging and OPS numbers don’t lie.
— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) August 18, 2021
Cohen, Scott, and whoever is with the front office can put the blame on the players all they want. Fact is, they assembled the roster, and they opted not to fortify a roster 3.5 games up in the standings at the trade deadline.
Their lone Major League acquisition was Javier Báez, a player who was dealing with heel issues at the time of the trade. He would play 10 games before hitting the IL.
The team failed to really add another starter. You could say Trevor Williams, but considering the Mets keep stashing him in Syracuse, they didn’t add one.
The Mets didn’t add to a bullpen who has been HEAVILY used. There are signs of overwork and fatigue with everyone but Aaron Loup. The front office opted to instead ride with pitchers like Anthony Banda, Yennsy Diaz, Geoff Hartlieb, and others of the same ilk in big spots.
Another important matter here is Chili Davis. His track record shows how players under his tutelage fall down this path. Despite that, they opted to keep him to start the season.
As an example of the Davis effect look at Kris Bryant. He went from an MVP to the absolute worst offensive season of his career. With Davis gone, he’s again improved to being Bryant again.
There’s another important point on Bryant. The Mets have punted on third base all year. They hoped for J.D. Davis to magically learn the position (he didn’t) or for Jonathan Villar to be a regular player (he’s been somewhat).
The Mets had the option to address the rotation, bullpen, third base, and the depth that includes non-playable players like Kevin Pillar. As we saw with the Braves, that didn’t need to be blockbuster deals.
Remember, the Dodgers current run was jump started by trading for Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez. That option was on the table with the Twins looking to move Josh Donaldson and Kenta Maeda to the Mets.
Adding Donaldson and Maeda would’ve transformed the Mets and made them significantly better. However, the deal fell apart over money.
Therein lies another problem. Entering the season and at the trade deadline, the Mets treated the luxury tax threshold as a hard cap. They were unwilling to surpass it despite the very soft penalties for first time offenders. They were unwilling to surpass it despite a new CBA being negotiated this offseason which will likely change the threshold and penalties.
All told, the Mets front office just wasn’t willing to do what they needed to do to win the division. They failed to give a first place team what they needed to stay there.
In the end, they can point all the fingers they want, but at the end of the day, this team is a direct reflection of their actions, and when this team misses the postseason, they have no one to blame but themselves.
When trying to digest and assess how the New York Mets went from in control for the division to second place in a dogfight, there’s a lot of areas you can analyze. When this happens, there are some issues.
They don’t hit with RISP and sometimes not at all. Their depth across the board has been tested and exposed. If you pinpoint these, you’re not wrong, but there’s a bigger issue.
The 2021 New York Mets are a horrible road team.
So far, the Mets have a 23-35 (.403) road record. No other team with a record over .500 has been anywhere near this bad on the road. This is a road record more indicative of the Chicago Cubs, who traded Javier Báez and Trevor Williams to the Mets at the trade deadline.
This isn’t just because of injuries. It happened right out of the gate. They lost their opening series at the Phillies. After winning a series in Colorado, they were swept in Wrigley.
So far, the Mets have played 20 road series. They’ve lost 11, and out of those 11, they were swept twice. They lost three out of four three times. What’s incredulous is that came against the Washington Nationals, Pittsburg Pirates, and Miami Marlins.
The Mets have one just six road series with one of those coming against the Yankees. It shouldn’t be discounted as happening in New York because of their Subway Series history. That said, there may be something to just being home and that routine.
The biggest reason could be the pitching. While the Mets pitchers are dominant at Citi Field with a 3.03 team ERA (third best in the majors), they’re poor on the road. That road ERA rises to 4.39.
Combine that with the Mets actually hitting worse on the road (90 wRC+) than at home (100 wRC+), and you have what looks like a second division team on the road.
The question is what this means for the Mets chances of winning the division. On that keep in mind, they’re tied in the loss column meaning they’re effectively tied for the division lead.
They have 48 games remaining. Of that 48, half of them are on the road. If they keep the same road winning percentage, that drops their record from 59-55 to 69-69.
As such, if they want to win 90 games, they’ll have to finish the season 21-3 at home. The near impossibility of doing that is magnified by the Mets still needing to host the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and New York Yankees.
This means if the Mets want a road to the postseason, they’re going to have to be better on it. They won’t have an easy path facing the Giants and Dodgers on the road next week with a series against the Boston Red Sox on the horizon.
It’s difficult, but so is winning a World Series. If the Mets want to do that, they’re going to have to earn their way there. The talent is here. Lindor and Noah Syndergaard aren’t too far away.
This Mets team is good. They’ve already proven they can beat anyone. They now need to prove they can beat anyone anywhere. We have 24 games to see if they can.
For the first time in the second half, and the first time in nearly two months, the New York Mets swept an opponent. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
He had shut down the Nationals for four innings before getting in trouble in the fifth. In that inning, the Nationals had runners at the corners with one out. With the Mets only having a 2-0 lead, Luis Rojas tabbed Seth Lugo.
Lugo, who hasn’t been great inheriting runners this year allowed a sacrifice fly pulling the Nationals to 2-1. The Mets would get than run back and then some on a Jonathan Villar two run homer in the sixth.
JONATHAN VILLAR WITH THE INSURANCE RUNS! THE METS LEAD 4-1 pic.twitter.com/ssJeFmTx5Y
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 12, 2021
While May has been great in the second half of the season, he didn’t have it in this save opportunity. He loaded the bases with one out leading Rojas to tab closer of yore Jeurys Familia.
This was one of those frustrating Familia blown saves of yore. First, he had a wild pitch scoring run. Truth be told James McCann should’ve had a better effort blocking that ball.
Familia navigated his way through the inning to keep it tied into the bottom of the seventh. After McNeil grounded out, Pete Alonso ended the game.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 12, 2021
Back when the Mets suffered a brutal loss, Alonso told fans they shouldn’t believe. They should know. Seeing this fame, Alonso gave the Mets reason to know they’re making the playoffs.
The Mets swept the Nationals like they should. Now, they’re in second place with things getting more interesting in the NL East. Now, it’s time to step up and win.
Game Notes: Williams was called up as the 27th man.
Well, on the bright side Taijuan Walker pitched reasonably well for the New York Mets. The pitcher who has really struggled in the second half had his first quality start since June 25.
That was more than enough for the Philadelphia Phillies as Zack Wheeler completely and utterly dominated the Mets in a two hit complete game shut out.
If not for Brandon Nimmo, who was 2-for-4 with a double, the Mets get no-hit. Frankly, the Mets probably deserved to be no-hit. Besides Nimmo, there was just one walk, and the Mets combined to strike out 11 times.
To add insult to injury, trade deadline acquisition Javier Báez left the game with an injury. The Mets are saying he’s day-to-day, but at this point, they’re saying it is relatively meaningless.
With the Atlanta Braves also winning today, the Mets dropped to third. For a team 1-9 over their last 10 games, there’s no telling just how much worse it’ll get.
There are actually worse things for baseball teams than losing. One of them is becoming unwatchable. Sure, that sometimes goes hand-in-hand, but being unwatchable is another level.
Take their last game as an example. They strike out nine times including the platinum sombrero from Javier Baez. This somewhat correlated with the 15 runners left on base. The same can be said for the two double the plays.
The Mets started the game with the bases loaded and no outs. They didn’t score. For the other 29 teams, that’s a surprise. For the Mets, it’s becoming par for the course. Moreover, fans excitement is moving the way from excitement to seeing just how the Mets will screw it up.
The starting pitching kept this afloat, but it’s taken a step back a bit due to a mixture of injuries and fatigue. Even when they do well and get a Rich Hill, he’s only a five inning pitcher, which exposes the soft underbelly of the bullpen.
When a player like Albert Almora goes off with a three hit game, he’s carrying the offense instead of taking it to another level. That’s because players like Michael Conforto are a shell of what they’ve been.
This Mets team completely failed to take advantage of their opportunities to create some distance between themselves and the rest of the NL East earlier in the year. Now, those teams addressed their needs at the trade deadline, unlike the Mets, and they’re chasing them down.
Now, the Mets lead is only 0.5 games, and they’re about to face the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies have the chance to not only catch the Mets here, but also leave them in the dust.
Right now, there’s no expectation for anything other than that to happen. That said, there’s still a lot of talent on this roster, and they were very good in May. Hopefully, they figure it out and move from unwatchable to unbeatable again.
The New York Mets obtained Javier Baez to be a difference maker as the team tries to hold on and win the division. In the 5-3 win against the Miami Marlins he was just that.
Gonna watch this Javy slide on repeat the rest of the night ✨ pic.twitter.com/fZeq8eFB6w
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 4, 2021
The Mets would eventually blow that 3-0 lead, but they’d get the lead back in the eighth when Baez hit the go-ahead homer in what would become a Mets 5-3 win:
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 5, 2021
In that game, Baez was much more Cespedes than Bruce. If that continues, the Mets will win this division. After that, if everyone gets heathy, who knows?
While it may not be fair to have expected the New York Mets to start spending like drunken sailors, it was fair to expect significant progress. Frankly, we’re not seeing that entirely.
Things are definitively improved, but it’s really not where it should be. Certainly, someone can say it’s not my money, and that’s true. However, what this ultimately about is winning.
It’s hard to see how the Mets recent decisions are driven by the intent to win. It seems like more penny-wise, pound foolish decisions.
In the Javier Baez trade, the Chicago Cubs paid most of Baez’s salary. With the Cubs kicking in so much money, they got a better prospect in Pete Crow-Armstrong. While the trade may be fair value even without the money, it’s fair to question why the Mets parted with the better prospect instead of adding payroll.
The Mets had the opportunity to add Josh Donaldson and Kenta Maeda. It not only was a move which would’ve significantly improved the Mets World Series chances, but it was all the more necessary with Jacob deGrom injured. They walked away because the Twins weren’t eating enough salary.
Then, they draft Kumar Rocker. The Mets had a handshake agreement if Kumar fell the Mets would draft him and give him a $6 million bonus. That amount plus some injury concerns helped Kumar fall.
Make no mistake here. When the Mets drafted Kumar and when they talked about $6 million, they knew something very likely could pop up on the medicals.
Knowing that, The Mets still went all-in on Rocker. They drafted underslot after Rocker. They had a lot of money remaining in the till, except they didn’t draft a Plan B to sign in the even Rocker didn’t sign. Again, Rocker was the only plan which is a horrendous plan if you’re drafting a guy of questionable health.
Now, Rocker is left figuring out the next step while the Mets pocket the $6 million it promised Kumar and all the savings on the underslot deals. If this was the Wilpons, we’d be screaming about their cheapness and Madoff.
That’s not exactly what’s happening here. Here, the Mets have an owner with the wherewithal to make these deals. He’s just opting not to for various reasons.
In the end, Cohen’s Mets made the same cheap decisions the Wilpons made. The only thing which has changed is the explanation. It’s a matter of “I can’t” to “I could, but I don’t want to do it.” Whatever it is, the result is the same.
So yes, things are better, much better. That said, this Mets team parted with a better prospect to save money, they opted not to eat salary to address an area of need, and they effectively punted the 2021 draft.
Between all of that, and not showing up to score runs against the Cincinnati Reds, this was a bad week, and frankly, it was a bad month. Let’s hope, it doesn’t all equate to a bad rest of the year.
There’s no other way to put it. The New York Mets flat out stole this game.
At that point, the Mets looked dead in the water as Wade Miley dominated them over the first five innings, but the Mets got something started in the sixth.
Jonathan Villar drew a lead-off walk, and Pete Alonso singled. That brought the newest Met, Javier Baez, up as the tying run. Well, that was at least until Villar was picked off at second. That loomed large as Baez hit his first homer as a member of the Mets:
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 1, 2021
That got the Mets to within 4-3, but notably, it did not tie the game. They’d need to bullpen to shut down the Reds offense to give them that chance.
For a moment, it didn’t look like the Mets were going to get that chance. Joey Votto got a hold of a Seth Lugo pitch, and for a moment, it seemed like he tied the Major League record by homering in eight straight games.
Loup returned the favor for Villar by catching Votto too far off the bag. Votto broke for second, but Pete Alonso didn’t panic, and he started a run down of Farley for the final out of the inning.
Aaron Loup starts the pickoff play and the Mets are through the 8th! 🍺 pic.twitter.com/EXKICsixrF
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 1, 2021
This meant the Mets had a chance entering the ninth. Jeff McNeil would draw a lead-off walk off Heath Hembree, and Luis Guillorme entered as a pinch runner. Hembree then uncorked a wild pitch moving Guillorme to second.
After Hembree struck out Baez and James McCann, the Reds went to Sean Doolittle to get out Dominic Smith even though Smith hits lefties well. Doolittle did get ahead of Smith, but Smith delivered the game tying single.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 1, 2021
This meant Rob Manfred Gimmick Baseball Time. The Reds started the inning with Jonathan India on second. He moved to third on a wild pitch. Jesse Winker didn’t beat them like he normally does because he walked.
Diaz responded in a way he did in the first half and not the second half. He rebounded by striking out the next two, including Votto, before getting Tyler Naquin to line out hard to center.
In the 10th, Luis Cessa found himself pitching against the Mets on the six year anniversary of when he was traded by the Mets as part of the Yoenis Cespedes deal. On his fourth pitch, Brandon Drury continued his hot hitting July with a walk-off single.
In the end, the Mets won a game they really had no business winning. Make no mistake, this is the hallmark of a good team amidst a special season.