Can Mets Stay In Playoff Race Until Syndergaard Returns?

That the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants are playing against each other for the first time since the 2016 NL wild-card game is rather fitting because both clubs were expected to be playoff contenders again but have underperformed and each team lost their ace pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner, respectively, to serious injury.

Odds are that a rematch this October is very unlikely. The Mets already have the odds stacked against them for  winning the NL East with how strong the Washington Nationals have looked. Check out SBR’s Bovada review and get full access to their website and MLB odds. The site has New York at +900 to win the division and the Nationals at -1200. The Nats are easily the biggest division favorites in baseball.

Not too long ago, the Mets’ stable of young pitchers led by Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler, was the envy of baseball. The problem, though, with building a team around young arms is the propensity for pitchers to get injured. Especially the hard-throwing variety the Mets are relying on.

Now all five of our Mets hurlers have endured various injury problems in the wake of Syndergaard going down on April 30 in Washington with a torn lat muscle. That came just a few days after Syndergaard was scratched from a start and refused to take an MRI the team requested.

Syndergaard (1-2, 3.29) has said he had no regrets about making the start when he tore his lat after having issues with his biceps: “I don’t regret it at all, I threw a bullpen two days prior and felt great. Something weird happened.”

Could the two be related? GM Sandy Alderson has said doctors have told the team they are unrelated. Syndergaard worked out like a fiend this past offseason and boasted that he added 17 pounds of muscle, which also could be a factor.

Syndergaard will not pitch in the majors until at least the end of July as he’s not even allowed to touch a baseball for six weeks. Then he would need at least a few weeks to build up arm strength. Sadly, that means Syndergaard won’t pitch on the night of the greatest MLB giveaway of the season: on July 22, the team will give out spectacular Thor bobblehead dolls to the first 15,000 fans arriving at Citi Field.

So can the Mets survive and stick around the wild-card race until Syndergaard returns? Syndergaard had a Wins Above Replacement of 5.3 last season so if he misses three months in 2017, that equals out to around three wins. Keep in mind the Mets earned their wild-card spot by just one game last year.

ESPN gives the Mets a 46.8 percent chance of making the playoffs if Syndergaard were to pitch at least 150 innings the rest of the way. That’s not happening. At 60 innings, the Mets are given a 27.7 percent shot. At zero innings, it’s 20.4 percent.

On the bright side, the Giants are a much bigger mess without Bumgarner and entered the Mets series with the worst record in baseball. So that’s one fewer potential wild-card contender to worry about for the Mets.

Looking at the rest of the rotation, Matz remains on the disabled list and hasn’t pitched in the majors yet this season with a strained flexor tendon. He might debut by the end of this month, but that’s probably a little too optimistic. Matz hasn’t proven he can stay healthy yet, regardless his talent is unquestioned and he could be a game-changer.

Harvey has been a disappointment and was just suspended by the team for another bone-headed off-field incident. But if he can avoid the diversions and just focus on his game, Harvey could become a force to be reckoned with again. The team is tiring of Harvey’s act and could decide to trade him by the July 31 deadline if the Mets aren’t in the playoff race. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

DeGrom has been very solid, although he’s walking guys are a career-high rate. He racked up 11 strikeouts last night, his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the season. He now leads the National League with 60 strikeouts and is now the team’s undisputed ace.

Wheeler has been so-so after missing the past two seasons, posting a 4.78 ERA and already 20 percent of the way to his innings limit.

The Mets’ farm system has improved if they wanted to trade for a starting pitcher, but the team won’t give up its two best prospects shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith so that ends any chances at someone like the White Sox’s Jose Quintana.

It’s been such a strange season for the Mets so far. Who would’ve bet that on May 9, the team’s ERA would rank 27th in MLB while their offense would rank 6th in runs scored?

A review of Bovada’s MLB odds currently has the Mets at +1000 to win the pennant and +2500 to win their first World Series since 1986. Those are terrible odds and much worse than a year ago at this time.

So to answer the question, can the Mets stay in the playoff hunt until Syndergaard returns? Yes, they can, but it won’t be easy. The one thing that can get this team back into the postseason is their character. They are a very resilient bunch who have a lot of fight in them and can remarkably succeed despite all the injuries or controversies.

The big thing however is the need for one of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz upon his return, to step up in a big way. The Mets need to have someone else to produce like deGrom at least until Syndergaard returns. If they can do that they can go ahead and punch their playoff tickets. And then who knows!

About Joe D 7912 Articles
I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73, '00 and '15, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.