April 3 Up, 3 Down: The First Place Mets!

3 UP

1. Mets Are in First Place

The Mets were propelled by a sizzling 12-2 start to help propel them to a 17-9 record and a 1.5 game lead in the division. More than that, the Mets have a 4.5 game lead over the Washington Nationals. The last time the Mets had were in first place with a 4.5 game lead over the Nationals was 2015.

In fact, this is just the third time in the Mets 56 year history they have had a lead in the division over 1.0 games entering May (1986, 1976, 2006). Those three Mets teams averaged 97 wins. As we know the 1986 and 2006 Mets won the National League East, and the 1976 Mets would have made the postseason had the current postseason format had been in place.

If history is any judge, this Mets team is in good shape to make the postseason.

2. Cabrera in MVP Form

One of the amazing parts to the Mets start is just how much their key players are struggling. Really, aside from Todd Frazier, the Mets are actually getting less production than they reasonably anticipated. That is everyone but Asdrubal Cabrera.

In April, Cabrera hit .340/.393/.580 with nine doubles, five homers, and 17 RBI leading all Mets position players with a 1.1 WAR.

What is really impressive about the run is Cabrera is doing it from every spot in the lineup. Already this season, Cabrera has hit lead-off, second, third, clean-up, fifth, and sixth. When he’s hit first, second, or fifth, his OPS is 1.000 0r higher.

Simply put, no matter what the Mets have asked him to do this year, he’s gone out there, and he has produced. When looking at reasons why the Mets have started the season they way they have, Cabrera is front and center.

3. Deep Bullpen

Perhaps the biggest question mark entering the season was the bullpen. Really, with the exception of perhaps Jerry Blevins, each member of the bullpen was a question mark. One month into the season, the bullpen no longer is a question mark. In fact, it has emerged as a strength of this team.

Jeurys Familia has returned to his dominant form after a lost 2017 season.

Robert Gsellman is emerging into another Dave Eiland special. The converted starter now has a 1.80 ERA and an 11.4 K/9.

While people will note his two poor appearances, 13 of AJ Ramos’ 15 appearances were scoreless, and he has six holds, which is fourth best in the National League.

The most pleasant surprise is Paul Sewald who has a 1.98 ERA, 0.805 WHIP, and an 11.2 K/9.

Looking deeper; the Mets have also gotten positive contributions from Seth Lugo, Jacob Rhame and Hansel Robles.

Overall, the Mets have built a strong pen which has helped the team win close games. It’s also a pen that should improve whenever Anthony Swarzak is able to come off the disabled list.

3 DOWN

1. Need More Starting Pitching

Jacob deGrom has began the season. Pitching not just like an ace, but also like a Cy Young contender.

Noah Syndergaard isn’t walking anyone, is racking up the strikeouts, and he’s starting to pitch deeper into games.

The two Mets aces have combined to go 5-0 with a 2.43 ERA, 1.027 WHIP, and an 11.4 K/9.

The rest of the rotation is a combined 3-6 with a 6.72 ERA and a 1.449 WHIP.  In their 14 combined starts, they are only averaging 4.2 innings per start.  It is putting a strain on the bullpen and the team as a whole.

If you eliminate Zack Wheeler, who has pitched well in three of his four starts, the starts from the rest of the staff take a nosedive.  The combination of Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, and Jason Vargas have combined to go 1-5 with a 6.80 ERA and a 1.511 WHIP while averaging 4.2 innings per start.

This is not something that can last much longer.  The team needs Vargas to be better in his second start off the disabled list, they need to figure out what is happening with Matz and his back, and really they need to figure out everything Harvey.  If not, they need to revisit Corey Oswalt, who pitched well in his Major League debut, Lugo, who has struggled pitching beyond five innings, or Chris Flexen, who struggled in the majors last year.

2.  Frazier Only Free Agent Acquisition Producing

In the offseason, the New York Mets went out and signed more free agents than the Mets really had done in the entirety of the Sandy Alderson Era.  On the surface, it must be working out because the Mets are 17-9 and in first place.  Digging a little deeper, you see really only Frazier is producing.  Overall, here is how the Mets free agent signings have produced so far this year:

Adrian Gonzalez -0.3 WAR
Jay Bruce 0.0 WAR
Jose Reyes -0.2 WAR
Jason Vargas -0.3 WAR
Anthony Swarzak 0.0 WAR

Combined, these free agent signings have accumulated a -0.8 WAR.  With Vargas and Swarzak, they have spent time on the disabled list, and Bruce has been hampered by plantar fascitiis.  Overall, this is a group of injured and under-producing players.  Their combined lack of production is exacerbated because their presences has limited Brandon Nimmo‘s playing time.  The good news here is once they begin to heal and and produce the first place Mets should be even better.

3.  Catching Situation

Heading into the 2018 season, there was a distrust of what the combination of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki could provide.  Those concerns were alleviated by seeing both their early season production and the team take off when the season began.  With d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate, the Mets started the season off with a 10-1 record.

Since both went down with injury, the Mets have been a rather pedestrian 7-8.

There are many reasons you could point to to explain why the Mets have not been able to sustain their incredible start.  When discussing them, front and center is the production, or lack thereof, of Jose Lobaton (64 wRC+) and Tomas Nido (18 wRC+).  It’s more than their offensvie woes.  Especially with Lobaton behind the plate, there is a distinctive difference in pitch framing, which has in turn, led to more walks from this Mets staff.

With Plawecki being out longer than expected, potential cheap solution Wilson Ramos landing on the disabled list, and J.T. Realmuto‘s price being way too high for the Mets, it does not seem as if there is going to be a fix at any point in the foreseeable future.

About John Sheridan 645 Articles
John was raised to be a Mets fan by birth, and now he is raising a Mets fan of his own. He also uses Sabermetrics to either confirm the proverbial eye test or to see if we're seeing things with Mets colored glasses. He looks forward to bringing this perspective to MMO. His work, including the tales of raising his son a Mets fan, can also be seen at MetsDaddy.com.