The last time most Detroit Tigers fans saw the New York Mets, they were coming up short in the World Series against our division rival, the Kansas City Royals. The Mets, led by a pitching staff loaded with high-octane arms, were considered among the preseason favorites to repeat as NL East champs and potentially return to the Fall Classic.
Unfortunately for Mets fans, things haven’t worked out as planned. The team is above .500 and in the middle of the playoff race, but they are a distant eight games behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East. Even the surprising Miami Marlins have surpassed the Mets in the division, sitting a game ahead as we enter play on Friday.
Matt Harvey is out for the rest of the season, and Yoenis Cespedes is currently on the disabled list, but the Mets still have plenty of firepower available. In order to help us preview the upcoming series against the reigning NL champions, we spoke with Aaron Yorke of Amazin’ Avenue. Be sure to check out the other half of our Q&A over at their site.
Any time someone mentions the Mets these days, it's in reference to their offense, which has struggled to score runs at times this year. How bad have things gotten, and has anyone been immune to the offensive doldrums thus far?
Things have gotten so bad that the Mets just made a trade for an outfielder that doesn’t fit in their lineup very well! But we’ll get to that later. While the batting order itself hasn’t looked as embarrassing as some of those put out by Terry Collins leading up to last summer’s trade deadline, the stats have been just as ugly. One stat in particular that has haunted the Mets all season is their batting average with runners in scoring position, which at .208 is the worst in baseball. That means that even though the Mets have some talented hitters on their roster like Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker, they have the same number of runs this year as the rebuilding Phillies, who have given a lot of at-bats to Ryan Howard.
Has anyone been immune? Well, before getting hurt, Cespedes was having his best offensive season ever with 22 home runs and a .364 on-base percentage. He was also hitting .282 with RISP, so I suppose things can get worse with the flashy outfielder on the disabled list. The offense would also be uglier if James Loney, who was plucked from San Diego’s Triple-A roster in late May, wasn’t doing such a great job replacing some of Lucas Duda’s production. Finally, Neil Walker was hot in April, cooled off for a bit, but is now hot again. He’s been a surprisingly key part of New York’s offense stands a good chance of besting his career high of 23 home runs this season.
The Mets' young core of starters have not been without their concerns either, with injury issues abound. Which pitcher are you most concerned about reaching their lofty potential, and who is the most reliable at this point? If the Mets were playing in the NL Wild Card Game tomorrow, who gets the ball?
I suppose I’m most worried about Matt Harvey since his potential is so high and he is currently so very injured. Mets fans worry about everyone, though. Both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are working with bone spurs in their elbows, and while both have been able to pitch through the injuries with some success, these are still young pitching elbows we’re talking about. The one guy who has been the steadiest is Jacob deGrom. He got off to a slow start this year and was dealing with a dip in velocity, but for the past two months he has very much resembled the pitcher that dominated the National League last year. He would be my pick to start a do-or-die game if it happened tomorrow.
Did you like the Mets' move to acquire Jay Bruce at the trade deadline? How does the Mets' outfield rotation play out once Yoenis Cespedes returns from injury?
I didn’t like the Jay Bruce trade, especially once I learned it would include second base prospect Dilson Herrera, who appears close to big league ready at age 22. Also, Bruce might hit for amazing power, but he rates poorly on defense and his OBP has been very bad for three years straight now. Oh well. His batting average with RISP has been good this year, so that’s something. Also, there is a bigger spot for him in the lineup with Cespedes out of it. Once that guy comes back, though, it looks like Terry Collins is going to put Bruce in right and Cespedes in left. Who plays center field? That’s a good question. Maybe Curtis Granderson. Maybe Michael Conforto. Alejandro De Aza is heating up and actually has some recent experience playing the position. Maybe that makes him the best choice. I don’t know, and I doubt the Mets know either. See why I was so thrilled with this Bruce trade?
Speaking of Cespedes, he looks a lot better than Tigers signee Justin Upton has in 2016 (though we're perfectly fine with how last year's trade worked out). Do you think the Mets will look to re-sign him again this offseason, assuming he opts out of his contract?
Hey imagine if Cespedes was playing like Upton. We would be looking at the worst offense in baseball. I think the Mets have to try to at least make an offer to the guy because he’s so popular with fans and has shown real development with his walk rate this year. However, with Cespedes likely to opt out and Bruce available for 2017 on an affordable option, it might make more sense to sign Bruce’s option and let Cespedes walk to avoid the long-term commitment. On the other hand, I just got done saying that the offense would be miserable without Cespedes, so I think the team will make him a big offer and then buy out Bruce if he accepts. However, if either Cespedes or Bruce returns, it leaves the Mets with Granderson and Conforto fighting over a corner outfield spot or being misplaced in center field while Juan Lagares, by far the best defensive center fielder on the team, sits on the bench. Personally, I wouldn’t mind the Mets letting both big bats walk and spending the money elsewhere, but I don’t think that’s a very popular opinion.
Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have received plenty of national hype over the past year, but we don't know anything about Saturday starter Logan Verrett. What can you tell us about him?
Picked by the Mets in the third round of the 2011 draft out of Baylor, Verrett left the organization in 2015 when he was chosen by Baltimore in the Rule 5 Draft. By May of that year, Verrett was back in New York’s organization thanks to the Rule 5 regulations, and he made his Mets debut a month later. Since then, he’s been shifting back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, depending on where the Mets need him. Thanks to the Harvey injury and Zack Wheeler’s delayed return from Tommy John surgery, Verrett has played the role of fifth starter lately. His poor performance leading up to the deadline made it seem like the Mets might want to explore an improvement there, but his past four starts have gone swimmingly enough to inspire confidence. Verrett doesn’t have great strikeout stuff, so he needs to limit walks in order to be successful.
BONUS: Any chance we see Bartolo Colon pinch hit this weekend?
Ban the DH and we'll talk.
While we can’t entirely forgive Mr. Yorke for his opinions on pitchers hitting, we are sincerely grateful that he and the rest of the Amazin’ Avenue staff took time out of their busy schedules to help preview the upcoming series. Be sure to check out Amazin’ Avenue (and their excellent podcast!) all season long for the very best Mets coverage and analysis.