One of the key talking points for assistant GM John Ricco since taking over the weekly news conferences has been the New York Mets need to get more athletic and better on defense.
On Wednesday against the Washington Nationals, the Mets made two errors (one by Jose Reyes, one by Wilmer Flores) in their 5-3 loss. The Nationals ended up scoring two unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to extend their lead to 5-2 going to the ninth.
The poor defense goes far beyond the miscues on Wednesday, and their struggles defensively goes far beyond just simply making errors.
For the last couple of seasons, the Mets have been fine playing players at spots – Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop, Michael Conforto in center field, Dominic Smith in left field – that they don’t have the range to play adequately.
The Mets have -77 defensive runs saved this season, the only team worse in baseball is the Baltimore Orioles with -79 DRS. Their -22.8 UZR ranks 28th among major league teams.
This feels like a good time to remind everyone that Mets GM Sandy Alderson and Ricco both said early in last offseason that the Mets were going to focus on improving the defense heading into 2018.
Amed Rosario and Cabrera have combined to be the worst defensive middle infield in the league with -15 DRS and -18 DRS this season respectively. Cabrera’s issues are no surprise given his extremely limited range, but no one expected Rosario to struggle this much as short. Cabrera is now with the Phillies with Jeff McNeil manning second base, though McNeil’s range (in very small sample size) has not been good.
The Mets, at least for awhile, were fine with putting Conforto in center field despite being a poor defender there given his lack of range. It just 494 innings playing center, Michael had -7 DRS. He has been much better in the corners however with 3 DRS in left field and 1 DRS in right field.
Other than Conforto, right field has been a disaster in 2018 on defense. Brandon Nimmo is currently at -6 DRS and Jay Bruce at -5 DRS at the position. The Smith outfield experiment didn’t go well either with him posting -4 DRS in only 59 innings.
Reyes has been bad yet again defensively with -3 DRS at third and -4 DRS at shortstop in limited time. The other Mets utility infielder Wilmer Flores has graded out as a poor defender at every position he’s played this year (-2 DRS at 1B, -2 DRS at 2B, -1 DRS at 3B).
To give you even more of an idea just how bad the Mets defense has been, they only have eight players with DRS more than zero this season and five of them are pitchers. Lagares, Frazier and Kevin Plawecki (2 DRS) are the only position players to do so this season.
The Mets keep talking about improving the defense and hopefully this upcoming offseason is finally when they begin targeting players that will help.