Mets half-season grades
Through the Mets’ first 21 series of the year (69 games), they looked like a champion. Every time someone got hurt, someone else stepped up. Every time a big hit was needed, a different hero came through. The team never lost more than 2 games in a row, and won 16 of those 21 series, losing only 3 and tying the other 2.
The Mets went 45-24 (a 106-win pace) with an offense that was arguably the best in MLB:
.262 batting average, .289 with runners in scoring position. .739 OPS, 5.1 runs per game.
Unfortunately the last 12 games have not been so kind. The offense has suddenly disappeared, especially in the clutch. As skids go, 5-7 really isn’t bad, but since the Braves have gone 25-7 over the last 5 weeks, the Mets’ division lead is nearly gone. Plus, this really doesn’t look good for the Mets:
.217 batting average, .146 with runners in scoring position. .628 OPS, 3.0 runs per game.
Let’s take a look at who’s done what to get us to this point.
Pete Alonso – A
Pete’s strike zone judgment and pitch selection is the best it’s ever been, and he’s become more versatile as a hitter, taking the opposite-field single when the opponent is giving it to him. He’s not lining HRs on pitches away like in 2019, but he’s demolishing mistakes with enough regularity to challenge for the HR crown. His defensive effort remains top notch, though some poor decisions and awkward moments have cost the Mets some outs.
Starling Marte – A-
At age 33, Marte still looks like himself. Not many walks, but more than enough line drives to make up for it, and his glove plays very well in RF (as does his arm).
Jeff McNeil – A-
McNeil is largely back tot he player he was in 2018, hitting over .300, generally being a tough out with few Ks, and delivering plenty of singles in the clutch. The main strikes against McNeil are a few slumps, a hamstring injury, and a decrease in speed which has reduced his value in the field and on the bases, where he’s now more average than above-average.
Brandon Nimmo – B
Nimmo has parlayed a more aggressive approach into some big hits, but his walk rate is barely 2/3 of his career norm. Overall his bat has still been a plus, and his CF defense is the most consistent it’s ever been.
Francisco Lindor – B-
Forgetting Lindor’s contract, he’s been a significant asset, as an above-average hitter who plays shortstop. He’s also been an excellent clutch hitter for most of the year (except when mired in a slump). The main downsides have been an increased K rate (higher than last year’s previous career high) and a lot of mistakes in the field (where he currently rates as well below average at the shortstop position).
Luis Guillorme – B-
Luis would have warranted an A a month ago, but his bat has cooled in July. Before that, the patient, high-contact approach that got him through the minors was finally working in MLB, with an OBP near .450 in June. Now that that’s down to .360, his complete lack of power is more glaring, but he continues to wow at 2B (and occasionally 3B or SS) with his glove.
Mark Canha – B-
Long ABs and an excellent OBP (until a recent slump) has made Canha an important part of the lineup. Unfortunately he’s shown minimal pop and is limited in the OF by his subpar speed and arm.
Eduardo Escobar – C-
A hot last week has validated him keeping his job, at least for now. He’s been roughly replacement level, with an OBP below .300 and plenty of errors in the field. Bonus points for having a great attitude and being beloved by his teammates.
Tomas Nido – C-
A few clutch hits prevent this from being worse. Even for a defense-first catcher, a sub-.500 OPS is a problem.
James McCann – D
Mostly injured, but has been an automatic out when he plays (.181 avg). At least he continues to call a good game.
J.D. Davis – D
A DH who strikes out in a third of his ABs and hits only 2 HRs is problem, no matter how elite his exit velocities (at one point #1 in baseball).
Dominic Smith – F
Same as Davis but with 0 HRs and without the special exit velo. Good defense at 1B isn’t enough. I suspect his shoulder is still an issue and he won’t be a major league hitter until it heals. A sub-.600 OPS just isn’t him.
Max Scherzer – A
I guess we could ding Max for throwing too many pitches with a tight side instead of coming out before pulling an oblique? Not sure we hold anyone else to that standard, so I’ll just grade him on his pitching, which was at the Hall of Fame level we expect. He’s not throwing his fastball by people as often as in the past, but his pitch sequences are better than ever, and his secondary stuff has lost none of its sharpness.
Taijuan Walker – B
Just like last year, Walker has had a minuscule HR rate to start the season. It’s not clear why he’s getting so many grounders or why so few of his flies are leaving the yard; unfortunately I suspect it’s not sustainable, and his tiny K rate will prove to be a problem. So far so good, though (2.86 ERA)! His spiffy new splitter appears to be a solid out pitch.
David Peterson – B
Peterson’s fastball has been unreliable, but he’s shown improved consistency with a slider that he uses the way Kershaw does, sweeping it across the knees to finish down and in on righties, who can’t lay off it. He’s also thrown a few key change-ups on the outside corner. He’s outperformed his BB and HR rates, so far avoiding the game-breaking HRs that plagued him last year. As an injury fill-in he’s been a godsend, but he looks miscast as more than a #5.
Chris Bassitt – C
A good number of Ks and BBs; a 6-5 record and league average ERA; tons of HRs. It’s been a weird mixed bag for Bassitt, whose stuff has often looked fantastic, but his location has generally been poor, and his command has left him at key times. When he falls behind in counts, he doesn’t seem to have a great Plan B, often coming in with hittable fastballs. His explanation for a series of poor starts was failing to get on the same page with his catchers, but he needs to improve some other things too.
Carlos Carrasco – C
On his good days, Carrasco has parlayed pinpoint command of a sharp slider and splitter into lots of quick outs. On his bad days, those pitches aren’t quite on the corners, leading to some walks and too much use of his fastball, which has been one of the most hittable in MLB. His ugly ERA reflects some blow-up starts where he torpedoed the team early; in his other starts, he’s been quite good. Unfortunately, the trend is going in the wrong direction. As he looks more and more like his pre-elbow cleanup self from last year, the team may need to rest him for a bit or come up with another plan.
Tylor Megill – C
Megill was utterly dominant, then hurt his arm, then was working his way back, then hurt his arm in a different way. Most of the damage done against him was as the injuries were forming. Hopefully he can get better at noticing when something’s wrong and speaking up before it’s too late. When he’s on, he looks like a potential ace. The size, the stuff, and the fragility are making me (optimistically) think of Josh Johnson.
Edwin Diaz – B
Diaz continues to strike out an absolutely ridiculous number of batters, but he also continues to make enough big mistake pitches to be far from a sure thing. 18-3 in save chances may not be stellar, but it’s good enough, and watching him completely blow hitters away on his good days is a lot of fun.
Seth Lugo – C
Lugo has given up a lot of big hits due largely to poor fastball command. If he can begin hitting the glove and become more reliable, it’d be a huge lift for the Mets bullpen; but at this point we’ve been waiting a few seasons for that, so it may be time to accept him as a merely average reliever.
Drew Smith – C
Smith has looked like a revelation on some days, but he’s allowed a ton of walks and homers, as well as a few game-changing rallies. It’s nice to see him throwing hard and posting a solid number of Ks, but he’s far from a sure thing just yet.
Buck Showalter – A
I love how he occasionally uses his closer against the other team’s best guys even if that isn’t in the 9th inning. I love how the Mets have started rallies by doing little things he’s brought up (sliding between bases to slow down tag plays, advancing on appeal play, etc.). The team has hustled. I’m not thinking of any awful decisions that arguably cost the Mets games, which is pretty astonishing.