The New York Mets couldn’t have had a more bizarre start to the 2021 season. Resulting from numerous delays and postponements, the Mets only played 20 games in April, the least of any team. Even still, despite the road blocks, they still had one of the easiest April schedules of any team in the league. However, what should have been an opportunity to pull ahead of a highly competitive NL East turned into a disaster as the Mets sputtered to 9-11 at month’s end. While it wasn’t all bad, the result is clearly not what the supposed World Series contenders had in mind.
The story of the April is undoubtedly the anemic performance from the Mets offense. With just 3.00 runs per game, they are the worst scoring team in the NL and second to only the Tigers (2.82 R/G) as the lowest scoring team in all of baseball.
A Rough Start
By now, the team’s struggles on offense have been well documented. Primarily derived from their inability to hit with runners in scoring position (.195/.303/.258), it’s been a slog watching them strikeout and ground out time and time again in key situations. Including their game on May 1, the Mets have already stranded 154 runners on base through 21 games.
A major part of this is the complete lack of power from the team right now. This is especially concerning considering just how many quality power hitters and 30 home run threats the team has. Not only are their 16 home runs last in the league, but so is their 0.76 HR/G. This is a far cry from the team’s 1.43 HR/G in 2020, and that was with an inferior lineup.
Highlighting this lack of production are prolonged slumps from just about everyone on the team. Out of 13 starters and bench players, eight currently have an OPS+ below 100. Undoubtedly the biggest disappointment of them all is Francisco Lindor.
While it’s true that April is historically his worst month before heating up in May, his numbers this year dip far below his norm. The $341 million man currently has the worst slash line (.182/.297/.234) of any starter on the team. With only one home run and one double so far, he’s failing to get any substantial lift on the ball. The result is an alarming 50% groundball rate. The only positive for Lindor is that his plate discipline has improved, hence career bests in walk rate (12%) and strikeout rate (12%).
Turning a Corner
Luckily, there are some positive trends emerging on offense. For starters, Michael Conforto is finally getting hot after an abysmal first three weeks. That said, it took until May 1 for him to hit a home run, meaning he’s not out of the woods yet.
Likewise, after missing some time on the injured list, J.D. Davis has returned and is hitting much more like his 2019 self. Despite only appearing in 14 games, he’s tied for third on the team at 16 hits, and leads everyone with a 206 OPS+.
The most deserving of praise, however, is Brandon Nimmo. While he has cooled down a bit after his torrid start, he still leads the team with 21 hits. Ever the on-base machine, his .430 mark still ranks among the league’s best.
Even with all the doom and gloom, there’s hope yet that with a more regular schedule, the Mets may finally find their groove and start hitting like they’re supposed to.
On a more positive note, the Mets pitching staff has been absolutely lights out in April. As of May 1, the Mets lead the league in FIP (2.53), WHIP (1.060), HR/9 (0.6), and ERA+ (134). Similarly, the staff is second in ERA (2.96), K/9 (10.9) and H/9 (6.7).
Unsurprisingly, leading the way is Jacob deGrom. The Cy Young favorite was already the best pitcher in baseball entering the season, but no one could have predicted just how hard he would dominate. Among other things, he leads the league in ERA (.51), ERA+ (753), K/9 (15.17), and average fastball velocity (99 mph).
Beyond him, Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker have also proven to be highly effective. In light of Noah Syndergaard’s and Carlos Carrasco’s absence, these two have stepped up and far exceeded expectations. Stroman (1.86 ERA) is giving hitters absolutely nothing to work with, leading to one of the best ground ball rates in baseball (59.3%). Walker (3.00 ERA) is also pitching better than anticipated, though, being the enigma that he is, is greatly outperforming his 5.02 xERA.
The only blemish so far is David Peterson (5.59 ERA), but even then it’s not all bad. Alternating between good and bad starts, his last outing was a six-inning gem against the Red Sox in which he allowed only two runs. His strikeout rate (26.3%) and GB rate (55.8%) are both marked improvements over last year as well.
Perhaps the greatest surprise this season is the effectiveness of the bullpen. Pegged to be the Mets’ weak link (especially after losing Seth Lugo to injury), the relievers have done a mostly solid job in April.
Edwin Diaz (1.80 ERA) is looking elite again, while new arrivals Trevor May (2.16 ERA) and Aaron Loup (0.00 ERA) have been astounding since their rough initial outings. Even Robert Gsellman (3.38 ERA) and Jeurys Familia (1.35 ERA) are pitching well, though, the latter’s 5.4 BB/9 is still a troubling sign.
Also, shoutout to Miguel Castro (2.00 ERA) who has stepped up to be the anchor of this group. Flashing some elite velocity, in nine April appearances he struck out 15 while only walking three. If he keeps pitching like this, he may find himself representing New York in the All-Star game.
Unfortunately, the back end of the bullpen has, for the most part, pitched rather poorly. Jacob Barnes (9.00 ERA), Stephen Tarpley (inf ERA), Trevor Hildenberger (15.43 ERA), and Dellin Betances (9.00 ERA) were all shelled in limited action. Hopefully Drew Smith and Arodys Vizcaino can emerge from Triple-A and make an impact soon.
Overall, if the pitchers can continue shutting down the opposition, that alone should buy the offense to finally emerge from their slump. Only then will the Mets reestablish themselves as one of MLB’s best.
Featured Image Courtesy of Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
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