What happened in 2019?
2019, well, it is fair to say it was another interesting season to cap off the decade for the Mets. They finished 86-76, missing out on the second wild-card spot by a heart-shattering three games. This was especially hard to take given their amazing second half.
The Mets began the season full of hope and optimism (as usual) however the same issue seemed to bug them again, that dreaded bullpen. During the offseason, the Mets traded highly-touted prospect Jarred Kelenic and top pitching prospect Justin Dunn along with others to the Seattle Mariners for Edwin Diaz (coming off a career year) and Robinson Cano. After an excellent start to the season, Diaz posted a 5.59 ERA, blew seven saves and saw his BB/9 spike to 3.41. With former closer, Jeurys Familia, returning to the organisation (5.70 ERA 1.73 WHIP), these two wounded any serious chances of the Mets making the postseason.
After an extremely disappointing first half of the season, many fans were expecting the Mets to sell veterans such as Todd Frazier and Zack Wheeler at the deadline; however, they surprised us all by acquiring Blue Jays All-Star Marcus Stroman in a deal that would send top pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson to Canada. Many Mets fans labelled Stroman as Wheeler’s replacement in the rotation, knowing ownership would not attempt to sign him off the free-agent market (and they were right). Not only did this day bring joy to Mets fans because they were acquiring an All-Star pitcher, but it also marked the end of a bittersweet tenure with Jason Vargas. I guess you could say being traded to the Phillies for Jeff Wilpon’s son’s college roommate was karma for threatening a beat reporter in the dugout.
The contrast between the Mets first and second halves is amazing. At the All-Star break, the Mets were 40-50 but seemed to return after the break with confidence and commitment. The Mets would go 46-26 until the end of the season and were right up in wild-card contention until a six-game losing skid against the Braves and the Cubs at home, proved to be the final door slamming on their playoff chances. I guess, as Mets fans, there was only one thing we could say: “there is always next year.”
Moves & shakes
IN: Dellin Betances, Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha, Brad Brach, Jake Marisnick, Stephen Gonsalves
OUT: Todd Frazier, Zack Wheeler, Juan Lagares, Luis Avilan, Mickey Callaway
One to watch
We are indebted to Tracey Wilks (part of the awesome UK Mets/Mets across the pond team) for the suggestion of Pete Alonso. It will be interesting to see if he has a year to match his rookie season. Make sure you’re following them on Twitter @UKMetsOnline.
In late March of 2019, the Mets had a vital decision to make; do they put Pete Alonso on the Opening Day roster or keep him in the minor leagues for the first two weeks of the season to gain an extra year of control? Luckily, the Mets chose to hand him his MLB debut and the move paid off. Alonso had an incredible rookie season, mashing 53 homers, driving in 120 and posting a .941 OPS. The first baseman won three NL Rookie of the Month Awards (April, June and September) and was the runaway winner of NL Rookie of the Year (29 of 30 first-place votes).
Five reasons for optimism in 2020
(1) Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball
The Mets have always been known for their pitching, and once again their elite pitching staff will be led by the amazing Jacob deGrom. Coming off his second straight dominant season, deGrom posted a 2.43 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 204 innings. The right-hander led all NL pitchers in WAR and was the runaway winner of the NL Cy Young Award. He received 29 of 30 first-place votes, and it is tough to bet against deGrom becoming only the third pitcher in history to win three consecutive Cy Young Awards.
(2) Young offensive core that will lead the Mets for years to come
- Pete Alonso – 53 home runs as a rookie, that is all.
- Jeff McNeil – hit .318 with 23 home runs in his first full season of MLB
- Michael Conforto – career-high 33 home runs and, barring his sophomore season in 2016, has been one of the most consistent hitters for the Mets
- J.D. Davis – increased playing time led to success for JD in 2019. In 140 games, he hit .307 with 22 home runs and posted an impressive .895 OPS
- Amed Rosario – hit .319 in the second half after a slow start to the season, with the encouraging sign that the former top prospect’s power is starting to develop.
- Brandon Nimmo – Had the second-highest wRC+ in 2018, but his 2019 campaign was riddled with injuries. However, when he returned in late September, he hit five homers and walked 20 times in 94 plate appearances.
(3) Fresh start with a new manager
Luis Rojas was named manager after the Mets and Carlos Beltran parted ways following his involvement in the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Rojas was always viewed as a rising star and is well-respected by current Mets players.
Loved having Luis in ‘17 and ‘18 as my AA manager! It’s awesome playing under him and having him on staff last year as well!!! Super pumped to have him as the Jeffe. Also he throws some damn good bp #LFGM https://t.co/SI8JgLzRId
— Pete Alonso (@Pete_Alonso20) January 22, 2020
Rojas was also voted the best managerial prospect in the Florida State League 2015, 2016 and the South Atlantic League in 2014. After spending almost a decade managing many of the Mets affiliates, Rojas became the Mets quality control coach in 2019 and will now be at the helm as the Mets look to make the postseason for the first time since 2016.
(4) Surely the bullpen can’t be as bad as 2019
The Mets bullpen in 2019 was something else. However, it is clear to everyone that there is talent in the pen. Even before the addition of free agent Dellin Betances, the Mets bullpen was projected to be just outside the top five in WAR. Betances posted 11.2 WAR between 2014-2018, striking out 607 batters in 327⅓ innings; that is incredible and will likely push the Mets into the top five. With Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, the versatile Robert Gsellman, and potential bouncebacks from Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz, the Mets bullpen looks pretty strong for 2020.
(5) Pete Alonso’s incredible rookie season
2019 saw the arrival of phenom Pete Alonso in orange and blue and justified the decision to put him on the Opening Day roster. In his first 11 games Alonso had 11 extra-base hits and little did he know that in just six months, he would break Aaron Judge’s rookie home run record on his way to becoming only the fifth NL Rookie of the Year in franchise history.
Alex Worth is part of the team covering the New York Mets for Bat Flips and Nerds in 2020. Follow him on Twitter @AlexWorth17