The Mets Have Plenty of Blame To Go Around

The Mets were one of the more active clubs this offseason, pulling off a big trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz while signing Wilson Ramos, Jeurys Familia, and Jed Lowrie to free agent contracts. Through 46 games, the team is just 21-25, and multiple reports calling manager Mickey Callaway’s job “safe” have been issued, including a team meeting with GM Brodie Van Wagenen, which is never a good sign. The team had lost five straight games before their win last night, including a three-game sweep to the lowly Marlins despite both Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard pitching in the series. The final two games saw the team shut out offensively. There’s something wrong with the Mets, and a lot of people are at fault.

During the course of a 162-game season, there are going to be stretches where teams don’t play well. The Mets getting swept by the Marlins looks pretty bad because it just happened, but bad teams sweep good teams a fair amount during the season because three games represents less than two percent of the season. The Mets are at 21-25 — fewer wins than they would like — but keep in mind, what the Mets are doing now isn’t a massive departure from the team’s projections at the beginning of the season. This is what our playoff odds projections looked like before the season started.

The club was more likely to be below .500 than they were to win 90 games. The team was projected for 84 wins before Opening Day. While a 21-25 record is a 74-win pace, and clearly below what the Mets were hoping for, the median projection would only have the Mets at 24-22 right now, a difference of just three wins. Three wins hardly seems like a manager-firing worthy start, but there are other factors to consider besides wins and losses when looking at a manager’s effectiveness. But let’s leave aside the manager for the moment, and look at the places where we could lay blame for the Mets’ subpar start.

The Players

The group most directly responsible for wins and losses for the Mets this season is the ones doing the actual throwing and catching and hitting. To get a sense of how well the players are doing, a check of the team’s preseason projections against its actual performance seems in order. Here are the depth chart projections prorated to games through Sunday compared to how the players have performed thus far.

Mets Projections and Results: Position Players
Name Proj PA PA Proj wOBA wOBA Proj WAR WAR
Michael Conforto 181 180 .349 .391 1.0 1.9
Robinson Cano 165 174 .334 .289 0.8 0
Amed Rosario 177 173 .301 .299 0.6 -0.1
Brandon Nimmo 136 161 .334 .302 0.6 0.3
Peter Alonso 150 185 .334 .381 0.5 1.4
Jeff McNeil 149 179 .325 .390 0.5 1.3
Jed Lowrie 148 0 .313 .000 0.5 0
Wilson Ramos 107 144 .315 .270 0.5 -0.5
Todd Frazier 119 63 .314 .238 0.4 0
Yoenis Cespedes 28 0 .335 .000 0.1 0
Juan Lagares 45 88 .283 .264 0.1 0.2
Keon Broxton 53 53 .276 .174 0.1 -0.4
J.D. Davis 20 112 .305 .350 0.0 0.6
Carlos Gomez 37 4 .287 .000 0.0 -0.1
Luis Guillorme 14 19 .284 .174 0.0 -0.1
Adeiny Hechavarria 14 15 .275 .117 0.0 -0.1
Devin Mesoraco 9 0 .298 .000 0.0 0
Dominic Smith 4 46 .292 .370 0.0 0.4
Tomas Nido 4 27 .261 .217 0.0 -0.1
Travis D’Arnaud NA 25 NA .125 0.0 -0.3
TOTAL 1558 1648 .320 .314 5.9 4.4
Through 45 games

We have Michael Conforto, Peter Alonso, and Jeff McNeil playing much better than projected, with Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos playing worse than expected, Todd Frazier barely playing, Jed Lowrie not playing at all, and Amed Rosario playing defense poorly. The Mets three big position player additions were projected for 1.8 WAR so far, but have instead been half a win below replacement. In terms of playing time, most players are pretty close, with the bulk of Jed Lowrie’s missing playing time going to J.D. Davis, who has played well. In all, the offense has been a slight disappointment, with defense also holding the team back.

Here’s the rotation:

Mets Projections and Results: Rotation
Name Proj IP IP Proj WAR WAR
Jacob deGrom 59 52 1.6 1.3
Noah Syndergaard 49 64 1.1 1.3
Zack Wheeler 46 56 0.7 1.6
Steven Matz 44 39 0.4 0.1
Jason Vargas 31 24 0.1 0
Total 228 235 4.1 4.3
Through 45 games

The rotation has performed basically as expected. The starters’ ERA at 4.64 is 0.76 higher than the FIP, the highest number in the league, though some of that difference is likely defense while some of it is probably just bad luck. BaseRuns says that the team is actually one win better at 22-24 when sequencing is stripped away. Wilmer Font could be included above, though with such few innings, it felt better to include him below with the bullpen.

Mets Projections and Results: Bullpen/Spot Starters
Name Proj IP IP Proj WAR WAR
Edwin Diaz 18 17 0.6 0.2
Jeurys Familia 18 16 0.3 -0.2
Justin Wilson 11 9 0.1 -0.2
Luis Avilan 11 11 0.1 -0.1
Seth Lugo 22 26 0.1 0.5
Robert Gsellman 17 27 0.1 0.5
Wilmer Font 16 6 0.1 -0.1
Walker Lockett 13 0 0.1 0
Daniel Zamora 11 4 0.0 0.1
Drew Gagnon 8 11 0.0 0.3
Eric Hanhold 3 0 0.0 0
Jacob Rhame 6 3 0.0 -0.1
Tim Peterson 11 6 0.0 -0.1
Paul Sewald 6 7 0.0 0
Tyler Bashlor 3 8 0.0 0
Chris Flexen 5 6 0.0 -0.2
Franklyn Kilome 3 0 0.0 0
Corey Oswalt 5 7 0.0 -0.1
Hector Santiago 16 0 0.0 0
P.J. Conlon 3 0 0.0 0
Ryan O’Rourke 0 1 0.0 -0.1
TOTAL 205 165 1.4 0.4
Through 45 games

Seth Lugo, now injured, and Robert Gsellman have been very good, but Edwin Diaz has been just okay instead of great while Familia has just been bad. Mickey Callaway and the Mets have received some deserved criticism for weird rules associated with Diaz’s usage, but it’s not like there’s much to be done with the poor play of Familia and Wilson. Lugo, Gsellman, Familia, and Wilson even out in terms of their projections, leaving Diaz and the lower-level relievers to drag the club down.

In sum, the team should have a little over 11 WAR on the season, and instead have a little over nine wins. That two win difference, plus the one win for sequencing luck, is the difference between New York’s 21 wins and the 24 they were projected to have at this stage. Some blame for the clubs start has to go to Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, and the bullpen underperforming. We could add in Jed Lowrie’s injury as well, though Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis are probably the two biggest beneficiaries of Lowrie’s absence and they have both played well. The lack of wins is small enough that we could pretty easily call it random, though if we need to find blame somewhere…

Brodie Van Wagenen

The Mets’ new general manager made a bunch of moves over the winter, but almost none of them have been borne positive results thus far. J.D. Davis has played well and to the extent that the Peter Alonso call-up was a decision the GM pushed for, Van Wagenen deserves some credit. As for the rest, Cano, Ramos, Familia, and Justin Wilson have all played poorly, Lowrie hasn’t played, and Diaz hasn’t pitched as well as he did a year ago. We can chalk up some of the difficulties up to reliever volatility, but it was Van Wagenen who decided to make the bullpen a priority while leaving Jason Vargas as the fifth starter. There’s also the weird Devin Mesoraco demotion/forced retirement situation, as the backup catchers have been well below-replacement thus far. Van Wagenen’s big moves have yet to yield positive results on the field.

The Wilpons

It’s always easy to blame owners for not spending enough on the team, but in the Mets’ case, those critiques are usually actually true. While adding Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz was a big move, it actually saved them several million dollars in 2019 salaries, with Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak sent to Seattle, and cost them a very good prospect in Jarred Kelenic. The team did add about $27 million payable in 2019 to Ramos, Lowrie, Familia, and Wilson, but they also saved about $10 million now when they signed Jacob deGrom to an extension.

When factoring in expired contracts from last season, Mets payroll only moved up about $8 million from a year ago, when the team was in the middle of the payroll pack despite residing in a massive media market with a great television deal. The club’s $159 million payroll figure includes $15 million to David Wright and $29 million to Yeonis Cespedes. As the club is likely to receive at least some insurance money for both players, and maybe a healthy amount given that Cespedes recently broke his ankle while not on a horse, it’s not unreasonable to argue that the Mets will have a below-average payroll, which should be unfathomable in New York. A bigger budget might have enabled a better use of money at catcher, where Yasmani Grandal is having a very good season, or in the rotation, where Dallas Keuchel is still available. Signing Craig Kimbrel might have made the Edwin Diaz trade unnecessary, allowing the club to hold onto good prospects, or simply made the Familia signing a non-entity.

Mickey Callaway

The manager is the likely fall guy for a season that is really only mildly short of reasonable expectations at this point. Perhaps he could have managed the bullpen better, but playing time for position players has gone about as expected. Perhaps it is Callaway’s fault that Cano and Ramos haven’t played well or that Rosario has played poorly defensively. The Mets are 7-8 in one-run games, which about what we’d expect. The team is actually 5-3 against the Marlins this season, which is also about what we would expect to see. Perhaps he’s lost the clubhouse, though Noah Syndergaard clearly doesn’t think so.

The biggest problem for the Mets isn’t their manager, and it isn’t that they’ve lost three more games than would be reasonably expected for them at this stage of the season. The biggest problem for the Mets is that they somehow expected to do much better than their talent on hand indicates they are capable of, and are in a tough division and a tough league where almost all of the teams are as good or better than they are. The Phillies, Braves, and Nationals are all good teams. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers are good teams, with the Pirates and Reds not too far behind. The Dodgers are really good with the Padres, Rockies, and Diamondbacks all having talented clubs not too dissimilar from the Mets. Only one of the four contenders in the NL East is going to win the division, and after the division winners, there are 10 teams vying for two wild card berths. If the Mets don’t think 21-25 was a reasonable outcome after 46 games, they need to reassess their expectations. The Mets aren’t doing as well as can be expected, but they aren’t too far off from that, either.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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3 years ago

The problem is, unequivocally, the Wilpons. Manny Machado was the PERFECT fit for this team, and their cheapness is the reason he’s not a Met.

3 years ago
Reply to  hebrew

If Machado were willing to do a 4-6 year deal, I would agree with you.

Guaranteeing a SS who hits .263/.343/.451 away from Camden Yards $30M a season into his age 36 season? Nope.

You’d think the MLB would have learned from the Jose Reyes deal.

3 years ago
Reply to  metsies

Macahdo is 3 years younger and can easily shift to third with a bat that plays there. If he holds his average WAR he could be in surplus value in year 7 of this deal. The only bad thing about this deal is playing in PetCo park.

3 years ago
Reply to  brood550

Reyes could just move on to 3B, too. Until he couldn’t.

Machado’s bat does not play well at 3B unless he is at Camden Yards.

A lot can happen in 10 years, but I get that the majority of the people here just look at his fwar and drool. But his current OPS in the high 700s is the hitter he is and always will be, and you don’t pay a guy like that $300M.

Also see: Jason Heyward.

3 years ago
Reply to  brood550

Reyes was older but signed up for fewer years.

3 years ago
Reply to  hebrew

I think a lot of blame is on the fans. I didn’t even see them mentioned in the article.

3 years ago
Reply to  hebrew

Glad Mets didn’t sign him. Over-hyped, well overpaid. And admittingly doesn’t run things out. J.D. Davis has a better OPS and batting average than Machado thus far.