1. Closer to the Cy Young
As the season and the Cy Young race comes to a close, Jacob deGrom inched that much closer to capturing the award.
In his start in the four game set, deGrom was his typical brilliant self limiting the Nationals to one earned on three hits with a walk an eight strikeouts in seven innings. He set the MLB record with 23 consecutive quality starts (Bob Gibson and Chris Carpenter won the Cy Young when they had 22 consecutive quality starts). He also has 28 straight starts allowing three runs or fewer.
As for his main remaining competition, Max Scherzer, his teammates did just enough to help deGrom’s case. While Scherzer would strike out a whopping 13 batters, the Mets would not just raise his ERA, but they would also not allow Scherzer to get the win. This all but robbed Scherzer of the chance to end the season with 20 wins, which would have been a psychological number which could have swayed some voters.
Overall, this series further cemented deGrom as the Cy Young candidate, and it probably means he will not need to make an extra start on three days rest to help him get the award.
2. Veterans Re-Establishing Themselves
As noted in Tim Ryder’s recent MMO article, Jay Bruce has looked much more like the player the Mets believed they were getting when they signed him to a three year $39 million contract. With the Mets likely stuck with him due to that contract you are at least encouraged he could handle first base.
Shockingly, Jason Vargas out-pitched Scherzer in their matchup. While that was a shock, his having a good performance shouldn’t be. Since August 14, Vargas has made seven starts going 4-1 with a 3.11 ERA, 1.062 WHIP, and an 8.4 K/9.
With both pitchers, better health seems to be the key. If they are healthy entering 2019, it’s possible they can be quality contributors no matter what role they play.
3. Second Half Well Spent
With Drew Smith struggling down the stretch, including him allowed three earned in each of his last two appearances, you have learned the Mets should not rely upon him being a key part of the bullpen entering next season. That’s a good thing because it means the Mets are learning about not just Smith but also how they need to address this roster in the offseason.
While Smith is struggling, Jeff McNeil isn’t as he posted yet another three hit performance. There is also Daniel Zamora, who has presumably already locked down one of the left-handed reliever spots in next year’s bullpen.
One other pleasant surprise is Drew Gagnon. His lone start may have been a disaster, but he has been quite good in the bullpen not allowing an earned run in 5.2 innings. If nothing else, he is showing the Mets he could be quality Triple-A depth that could be summoned to the majors to serve as an extra arm in the pen.
These things matter, and this is part of the equation on how you properly assess and build a team.
1. Another Matz Meltdown
One thing Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland have talked about with Steven Matz is improving his mental approach to help navigate through those tough innings. While we see some improvements here and there, we still see Matz prone to the occasional hiccup. Sunday was one of those hiccups.
That third inning began with Matz allowing a leadoff homer to Victor Robles, and the last run on the three run inning would be scored on a bases loaded walk issued to Spencer Kieboom. If Erick Fedde lays down a better bunt, perhaps the inning would have gone much worse for Matz than it did go.
As the season comes to an end, the Mets still need to figure out what they have in Matz, and what they need to do to unlock him mentally so he can finally be the top of the rotation pitcher they believe him to be.
2. Huge Missed Opportunity
For the first time since 2015 and just the third time since Citi Field opened, the Mets took the season series from the Nationals. This only highlights just how winnable this division was.
We saw in April how this team, when healthy, could contend for the division title. In the second half, we have seen there are young players in this organization who can be key parts of a postseason caliber team. The fact the Mets relied on retread and failing players who helped sink their season.
Hopefully, the Mets have learned their lessons from this year, and they will act accordingly. Past history suggests we should we not be so optimistic.
3. Flores Arthritis
Before that series, it was announced Wilmer Flores was going to be shut down for the rest of the year due to him having early onset arthritis in his knees. This could spell the end of his Mets career.
Flores has been a fan favorite, and he has been clutch with him having the Mets record for walk-off RBI.
More than that, this is a heavy left-handed offensive ball club with a number of injury prone players. This team needs a strong versatile right-handed bat on the bench. Realistically speaking, Flores is the only player who could fill that role.
No one knows what T.J. Rivera can contribute after missing all of 2018. Gavin Cecchini played one rehab game before getting shut down again, and he doesn’t play first base. Really, Flores is the totality of that depth, at least internally, and you can’t trust the Mets to invest the money due to Flores.
So, if this is it, Flores leaves not just a hole in our hearts, but also one on the roster.