ESPN baseball writer Mark Simon suggests “the problem with the Mets is certainty … The Mets certainly have the potential to be very good in 2017. But it’s foolish to think that everything … is going to break the right way for them.”
There is a degree of truth in Simon’s statement, but “certainty” is not isolated to the New York Mets. Injuries are an intangible. So is performance, for that matter. But one thing is for “certain,” both have a direct impact on a team’s success on the field. That is true not only for the Mets, but all 32 teams — including the Washington Nationals.
The same questions being raised about the Mets can be asked about the Nationals. Does anyone really think Daniel Murphy will hit .347 next season? With Danny Espinosa gone, can Trea Turner bat .342 over a 162-game season? Is it likely Bryce Harper will hit .243 again? Can Steven Strasburg stay healthy? Who will fill the closer role with Mark Melancon gone?
FanGraphs pushed all this data through a computer software program and will provided an answer, well, a projection: The Nationals are at least seven games better than the Mets. But even FanGraphs is smart enough to add the disclaimer, “Have fun. But don’t have too much fun. This is how the teams all project. And all of the teams will change.”
The fact that the 2016 New York Mets recorded 87 wins and secured a Wild Card bid last season is amazing in itself.
Consider this: There were large chunks of the 2016 season when the New York Mets entire starting infield — Lucas Duda (back), Neil Walker (back), Asdrubal Cabrera (knee strain), David Wright (back/neck) and Travis d’Arnaud (shoulder) — did not play. Even the replacements battled injury. Wilmer Flores‘ wrist injury limited him to 103 games, Jose Reyes was in and out of the lineup with a variety of injuries and outfielder Justin Ruggiano played in only eight games. The rash of injuries left the Mets with Ty Kelly, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Kelly Johnson, Eric Campbell, James Loney and Alejandro deAza.
The Mets Opening Day starting infield had played in 50.2% of all regular season games. The Mets were the fifth most-injured team (1,569 days) in all of Major League Baseball last season; the Nationals ranked 27th (647 days).
In recent years the Mets strength has been pitching but, like the offense, the starting rotation struggled with various injuries including:
- Zack Wheeler (Tommy John surgery)
- Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome)
- Jacob deGrom (elbow)
- Steven Matz (shoulder)
Beyond injuries, the Mets flat out underperformed. Leading the category was Michael Conforto. After an impressive first month (.365, 4 HR, 18 RBI) his production and his confidence went South. The Mets finally sent Conforto back to Triple-A Las Vegas in June, and again in August.
When he did play, d’Arnaud struggled at the plate and on defense. After being acquired in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, Jay Bruce hit nearly 50 points below his first-half season average.
The Mets have questions, but it’s not foolish to believe that the injuries were an anomoly. If the Mets can return to some sense of reasonable health all bets are off.