Fennelly: The Mets Are Circling the Drain After a Texas-Sized Pounding

The New York Mets came north this April with high hopes for the season, one in which they expected to challenge for a championship. 56 games into this miserable campaign (if you can call it that…campaigns usually go forward), they are playing .429 ball and their pitching staff is in shambles.

As per the website TeamRankings.com, the Mets are on a pace to win 74.6 games, which gives them only a 4.1% chance of qualifying for the postseason. Conservatively speaking, it may take 85 wins to get a wild card berth. Translation: the Mets will need to put a move on if they have any designs on getting close to that win total. They would need to go 61-45 (.575) the rest of the way to get there.

That is, if 85 is the number. Last year in the NL, the Mets and Giants tied for the wildcard with 87 wins but in 2015, both wild card teams had more wins than the Mets, who went 90-72. The Pirates won 98 and the Cubs won 97. With the division pretty much out of reach (Washington has an 12.5 game lead at the moment) the Mets can only hope for a wild card, and even the most diehard Met fan has to admit that the odds are against them.

This season has gone sideways and is now heading south (no, really….the Mets are in Texas and Atlanta this week) and although there are signs of clearing on the horizon, the damage done thus far may be irreversible.

In a game they needed to make a statement in on Tuesday night in Arlington, the Mets did exactly that. The wrong kind of statement, though. They sent their best pitching option, Jacob deGrom, to the mound in hopes of embarking on a winning stretch that would right their listing ship.

It didn’t go well, to say the least. deGrom, coming off his worst outing of the season last week against the Brewers, gave the Mets just what they didn’t need – another nasty beatdown. deGrom lasted just four innings, getting tagged for 10 hits and eight earned runs in the Mets’ 10-8 loss to the Rangers.

deGrom, who had began the season pitching like an ace, has run aground of late. Before Tuesday night’s annihilation, he started 11 games and had only gotten past the sixth inning four times. Make that 12 games now. His ERA has swelled from 2.84 in April to its current 4.75.

There is still a lot of baseball to be played here in 2017 and the Mets are not mathematically out of it by a long shot. But they are coming close to the tipping point. If they don’t start turning the tide on this season soon, all will be lost. We’ll be talking about 2018 way before many of us through we would.

So, how did things go so wrong so fast for these Mets? Injuries, for one.

The loss of Noah Syndergaard, Jeurys Familia and Yoenis Cespedes have gutted this team more than many expected. Those are three players they could afford the least to lose and they have lost them.

Cespedes has been the biggest loss. He is the Mets’ best everyday player and their success is directly tied to his health and presence. We all know the impact he had after arriving via a trade in 2015, but since then the evidence is even clearer that they need their slugger to compete.

In 2016, the Mets were 74-58 with Cespedes in the lineup and 13-17 without him. This year, they were 8-10 with him and 16-21 since he went out with a hamstring strain in late April. The good news is that Cespedes could be back next week. The bad news is, the Mets needed him two weeks ago. They were hoping he could DH this week in Texas. Nothing doing.

Syndergaard tore a lat muscle and will be out until after the All-Star break at the soonest. Thor was clearly the hammer of the Mets’ rotation and a steady arm that set up the rest father bunch. He started four games before exiting early in his fifth start with the injury. In his first four starts, Syndergaard went six, seven, six and seven innings with a 1.73 ERA and had struck out 30 batters without walking a single one.

Do they miss him? Take a guess. Without Syndergaard, the rotation has struggled. deGrom has taken a nosedive and the other starters, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman, have been consistently inconsistent. They are dead last in MLB with a 5.01 team ERA.

Harvey (4-3, 5.43 ERA) probably shouldn’t have come north with the team as he is coming off surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome. He began the season strong and his velocity is there at times, but he is only a shell of the pitcher they once dubbed “The Dark Knight”. He has been hit hard in many of his starts and has pitched past the sixth inning just two times in eleven outings this season. He has a WAR of minus 0.3 and a WHIP of 1.484. Ouch.

Wheeler (3-3, 3.72 ERA) has held his own after missing two years to Tommy John surgery. Gsellman (4-3, 5.53 ERA) was godawful in the beginning of the season before logging in two quality starts in his last two appearances. The Mets are actually 8-5 in games that he’s pitched. But the issue is, neither of these pitchers has been pitching deep into games, and that has has put a bigger strain on the bullpen.

Familia led the NL in saves in 2016 with 51 and had 94 saves over the past two seasons. He underwent surgery to address an aneurysm in his pitching shoulder and is likely out for the season. After his injury, the Mets moved 8th inning setup man Addison Reed into the closer role. Reed began the season in the role as Familia was suspended for the first 15 games. He has eight saves in ten opportunities.

But it is the bridge to Reed that has collapsed. The Mets’ bullpen has an ERA of 4.81, has given up  112 runs and have blown 11 saves. They cannot be solely blamed for two reasons: they are overused, and; they aren’t that good to begin with. The club did not add any new faces to the team in the offseason.

Now the starting pitching, once the backbone of this franchise, is now a major culprit to its current demise. Help is on the way in the form of Steven Matz and Seth Lugo, two starters who have been on the shelf this year with elbow issues. Both are expected to join the team as early as this weekend in Atlanta.

The addition can’t possibly hurt. If one or both of these pitcher can give the Mets some quality starts, it go a long way in resetting this staff. The Mets could possibly push Gsellman and/or Wheeler, who is on an innings limit anyway, out to the bullpen where they need as many able bodies as possible.

The team is also toying with the idea of promoting SS Amed Rosario now that it’s June and the Super 2 cutoff is here, or close, which means its safe to bring him up without accelerating his arbitration and free agency clock.

Not sure if the Mets are ready for this move, if not now, when? Astrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores are not long term solutions at either shortstop or third base, so the Mets might as well get this kid up here right away. It will be something new for the fans to chew on after these very bland, tasteless nine weeks they’ve had.

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