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30 in 30

The Turf’s 30 in 30: The New York Mets

Meet the Mets. They’re different this year.

Citi Field by Nigel Morris is licensed under CC 2.0

The Turf’s 30 in 30: The New York Mets


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Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes

2018: Record: 77-85

2018 Finish: 4th in the NL East, 11th in the National League

Normally we begin 30 in 30s with surprises, but we’re gonna start by talking about a Mets pitcher who isn’t a surprise, but deserves to be highlighted.

Jacob deGrom

Jacob deGrom might not be the most vocal or social media savvy pitcher on the Mets staff these past few years, but he has spoken volumes with this play on the mound.

deGrom’s 2018 Cy Young season was incredible to watch as a Met fan. Normally when a pitcher posts numbers like deGrom’s 1.70 ERA in 32 Starts, racking up 269 Ks, and stifling hitters to the tune of a 0.912 WHIP, 6.3 H/9, 11.2 K/9, it’s glorious. A celebration of the amazing intricate qualities of the game.

Not the case in Queens. Time and time again, deGrom’s teammates failed to finish the job. Nevertheless, deGrom persisted, continuing to dominate throughout the 2018 season.

In his 32 starts, Jacob deGrom only gave up 3+ runs in 5 of those games.

Let that sink in.

Jacob deGrom only gave up 3 or more runs in 5 starts this year. That’s insane. Actually insane.

Congrats to Jacob deGrom on his 2018 Cy Young Award, and thanks for putting up with the trash that is the rest of the 2018 Mets.

Surprises in 2018

Okay, so maybe not everyone was trash. There were some bright spots in the long dark night that was the 2018 New York Mets season.

Brandon Nimmo

Brandon Nimmo decided to have a year in 2018. Finishing 2018 atop the Mets leaderboard‌ in almost every offensive category, Nimmo was starting to make people rethink the initial outfield configuration the Mets began their season with.

The Mets have also been struggling to find a player to fit into the massive New Balances left by Curtis Granderson. Without Curtis and his sharp eye leading off, the Mets have struggled to fill the top of their lineup with someone who can get on base and create opportunities.

Enter Brandon Nimmo.

Nimmo spent 65 of his 140 games leading off for the Mets. From the leadoff spot, Nimmo slashed a .266/.387/.504, with an OPS of .891, putting up 14 doubles, 6 triples, and 11 home runs. Almost half of Nimmo’s hits from the leadoff spot went for extras bases.

However, it’s not the production that should be touted for Nimmo’s 2018, it’s his consistency.

On a Mets team that shows varying levels of competency throughout the year, there are always differing levels of volatility happening in and around Citi Field. Huge slumps and shifts in a player’s performance seem to happen as often as a plane lands at nearby LaGuardia. Nimmo, on the other hand, is a “what you see is what you get” kind of player.

During the 2018 season, Nimmo went hitless in 4+ games only 4 times, and during those 16 games, he averaged almost a walk a game. If Nimmo wasn’t going to beat you with his bat, he’d find a way to get on base. Slump or no slump, Brandon Nimmo was going to get on base. End of story.

Jeff McNeil

What a lovely surprise Jeff McNeil was in a season that seemed to have no end. The last time the 12th round selection in the 2013 draft was listed as a Mets Top 30 prospect, was 2015, when he finished second for the Florida State League’s batting title. After stumbling for a few years in Binghamton and Las Vegas, McNeil turned on the jets in a big way.

No one saw Jeff McNeil’s 2018 coming, and if they tell you they did, they’re lying straight to your face. With the Mets farm system prizing power hitters from the PCL each year in guys like Dom Smith, Travis Taijeron and Peter Alonso, consistent hitters like T.J. Rivera and McNeil feel like found money. That’s because they are.

McNeil’s minor league season was monstrous, hitting a combined slash of .342/./411/.617, with an OPS of 1.028 in his 88 games between Binghamton and Las Vegas. McNeil’s 116 hits, 26 for doubles and 5 for triples, were looked as as PCL stats initially, with the west coast league known for being hitter friendly. But when McNeil finally arrived in late July, those numbers didn’t change much.

In 63 games for the Mets, McNeil was a revelation, notching 74 hits, 11 for two bases, 6 for three, and driving in 19 runs. His MLB slashline of .329/.381/.471, and his OPS of .852 look like they’re miles above the rest of the Amazins, and that’s because they are. The only player close to replicating McNeil’s is the aforementioned Brandon Nimmo.

Is McNeil likely to keep these numbers in 2019? Honestly, I don’t know. I also didn’t think he’d make the MLB team in 2018, so it’s really anyone’s guess.

However, if there’s one thing that I love about Nimmo and McNeil it’s their outward expression of joy and love for this game. In a season that saw David Wright take his final exit in a Mets uniform and an offseason that forced us to part with Wilmer Flores, it’s good to have a player who can outwardly express their love of the game.

Sure, there are lots of players who do that on a daily basis, but Nimmo and McNeil serve as a reminder of the times when baseball was just a game. Something we played as kids. Yes, we all have gripes about how this team is run and about the amount of money the Wilpons spend. But these guys play from the heart.

And I cannot wait to see where 2019 takes them.

Disappointments in 2018

Now that we’ve gotten the warm and fuzzies out of the way, let’s talk about how bad the Mets were in 2018.

As awful as things seemed, the Mets won seven more games in 2018 than the previous year, and cut their runs against by almost 150. They also scored around 60 less, but an improvement is still an improvement, right?

Jason Vargas

Jason Vargas is a classic miscalculation of risk and reward. The risk of signing him to a two-year, $16 million deal seems fine if he rewards you with decent years. After winning 18 games and putting up decent numbers in 2017 with the downward trending Royals, the Mets went after Vargas.

The idea was that if he could do that for a bad team, he should excel at that level of performance with a better team. Right? It’s like when C.C. Sabathia came to New York after pitching lights out for the Brewers in 2008. The guy can only get better when surrounded by talent, right?

Wrong.

Jason Vargas barely showed up and posted the worst numbers he’s seen since his 2007 season with… the New York Mets. And it wasn’t even that he had tough matchups. Vargas’ debut as a Met came against the San Diego Padres who clobbered him for 9 earned runs on nine hits and 3 walks over 3.2 innings of work. THAT’S AGAINST THE PADRES.

Vargas is still contracted for another year in Flushing and that’s both awful and fine. I mean, the Mets have the option to keep him for another year at $8 million in 2020, but could buy him out for $2 million. Which honestly, seems like a bargain.

But if there’s one thing I like, it’s a guy who has something to prove and is trying to go out with a bang. I’m not holding my breath that Vargas turns things around, but I’m willing to see he if can.

Todd Frazier

Todd Frazier has been paid $28.5 million to hit below .225 over the last three seasons. He’ll get paid $9 million to do it this year. Frazier was bad. You already knew that. Just wanted to remind you what the Wilpons are paying for.

Dom Smith

Dominic Smith once posted a picture of him and Amed Rosario when they were down in Las Vegas. The caption read “The New Illuminati.” Needless to say, I was HYPED.

Dom Smith fell on his face before Spring Training even began. With Lucas Duda out of Citi Field, first base was his to take. All Smith had to do was show up.

… and he failed. Literally. Dom Smith was scratched from the first Spring Training game because he was late.

From there things didn’t get much better. Well, hold on. Credit where credit is due, Smith did raise his 2018 average by 25 points from the year before. But then again, he hit .198 in 2017.

Dom Smith’s fall from grace was then magnified by the hot bat of Peter Alonso, who is the front runner for the Opening Day spot at first.

It’s going to take a huge effort for Dom Smith to regain his standing on this team. Let’s hope he shows up literally and figuratively.

Travis d’Arnaud

Looking Ahead to 2019

The #UnbridledOptimism that hangs thick in the air of Queens, New York is a tricky thing. You can’t run from it, but accepting it’s sweet smell of possibility and whispers of success will eventually burn you. The moments that keep your cold heart from icing over in these winter months also come with a tinge of doubt and a spoonful of sorrow. Being a Mets fan is tough, because they keep telling you this year is different.

But this year… it is.

If there’s one thing to hang your hat on as a Met fan, it’s that this year might not feel different, but it definitely looks different. Of the Mets defensive starters from Opening Day, only 2 are likely to be there in 2019. Depending on where Todd Frazier lies after Spring Training, that number could be 3. It’s a very different ball club and Brodie von Wagenen has made changes to the way this club looks.

No longer are the Mets dependent upon players surpassing expectations. Travis d’Arnaud is made of glass and can’t throw to second? Fine, let’s get Wilson Ramos. Second base is a problem area since Daniel Murphy left town? Alright, let’s get Robinson Cano. Outfield carousel spinning out of control? Let’s solidify it with youth.

I love Sandy Alderson and I keep him in my nightly prayers, but BVW has been making moves this offseason and I am here for it. I mean, when you want to be a Big Market Ballclub, you gotta act like a Big Market Ballclub. All BVW is doing is amplifying what Sandy already built. And if you can’t get behind that, what are you really rooting for 2019? Failure?

This team just got very good very quickly. All they need to do is perform.

See that? That right there is #UnbridledOptimism.

Boy is it gonna suck when this team plummets to the Earth.

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