The 2019 Mets broke a lot of records. The team broke their home run record from 2017 with 242 this year, and on the pitching side, they broke their single-season strikeout record from 2018 with 1520. On the individual side, for the first time in team history, they had five 20+ home run hitters (Pete Alonso – 53, Michael Conforto – 33, Jeff McNeil – 23, JD Davis – 22, and Todd Frazier – 21). Oh, and a guy named Pete Alonso also made his major league debut this year. All he did was: break the Mets’ rookie home run record (26), Mets’ single-season home run record (41), MLB rookie home run record (52) and pace the major league in home runs in 2019 (53). Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil were also in the top 10 in wRC+ in the league. Yet all the Mets could muster was an 86-76 record, good for 3rd place in the NL East, and missed the second wild card by 3 games. So what went wrong?
Runs per game: 4.88 Runs (7th in NL)
Run differential: +54 (7th in NL)
Hits: 8.92 (5th in NL)
HR/Game: 5 (5th in NL)
Ks/Game: 8.54 (5th in NL)
LOB/Game: 14.5 (2nd WORST in NL)
Walks/Game: 3.2 (9th in NL)
SBs/Game: 0.35 (4th WORST in NL)
RISP left OB / Game: 3.4 (7th in NL)
BABIP: .299 (6th in NL)
GIDP/Game: 0.8 (2nd worst in NL)
At first glance, these stats represent the season pretty well. The Mets were an above-average team in the NL, but just out of the wild card range. The team has a young offensive core that is living up to their potential and avoiding the IL. That is, everyone except Brandon Nimmo (Felipe did a phenomenal profile on him here). With the table-setter out for most of the season, the Mets improvised, and the extremely resourceful Jeff McNeil slotted in nicely in the leadoff position with a team-leading .384 OBP, good for 13th in the majors.
However, the problems arose after the Mets got men on base. They weren’t able to progress the runners as they grounded into an average of 0.80 double plays per game (2nd worst in the league), and they left 14.5 runners on base per game (collectively). The team relied more on power than speed as they were in the top 5 in HRs but had the 4th worst rate of stealing bases in the NL. These factors combined led to a lot of wasted opportunities on the bases that could have been converted into runs, possibly helping their record in 1-run games as they were just above .500 (24-23). Even converting 3 of those losses into wins would have gotten the Mets into the playoffs this year.
ERA: 4.24 (7th in NL)
WHIP: 1.3 (7th in NL)
K/9: 9.4 (4th in NL)
K/BB: 3.04 (3rd in NL)
BABIP: 0.307 (3rd WORST in NL)
SB%: 86% (7% more than the 2nd worst in the league)
Runs in 9th inning: 0.59 (WORST in NL)
Runs in first 6 innings: 2.84 (4th in NL – other 3 are Playoff teams)
Runs in last 3 innings: 1.59 (4th WORST in NL)
Runs in last 2 innings: 1.16 (2nd worst in NL – worst is WAS)
The Mets starting pitchers were once again the driving force of the pitching staff. The team’s ERA and WHIP were greatly boosted by the front three of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler, all of whom posted 195+ strikeouts this season, leading to each of them having a 3.60 or lower FIP. Not only do the Mets strike out a lot of hitters, but they also don’t walk as many, as their K/BB rate was in the top 3 in the NL. This deadly combination led to opponents only scoring 2.84 runs per game in the first 6 innings (4th in the NL – the other 3 are playoff teams).
With such a good starting rotation, all the team needed was an average bullpen to convert those strong starts into wins. The offseason acquisitions of Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia pitched themselves out of high leverage situations (5.59 and 5.70 ERAs respectively) and lost their jobs to Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson (2.70 and 2.54 ERAs respectively), when healthy. The Mets bullpen had 27 blown saves this year (4th worst in NL), and none hurt more than this one against the Nationals in September. Blowing a 6 run lead in the 9th inning seems unfathomable, but given the state of the Mets’ bullpen in 2019, it was only a matter of time until this happened:
Errors/Game: 0.6 (9th in NL)
BABIP: 0.307 (3rd WORST in NL)
SB%: 86% (7% more than 2nd worst in the league)
The fielding was below average this year as a lot of players played utility roles across the infield and sometimes, outfield (McNeil and Davis), and while the average errors per game don’t look too bad, the opponents BABIP is pretty indicative of the lack of support the pitchers get from their defense. Opponents had an 86% success rate in stolen bases against the Mets, and the blame can’t be solely on the catchers, primarily Wilson Ramos. Noah Syndergaard has one of the slowest wind-ups and time to plate numbers in the league, and this played a part in his unusually high ERA this year. It’s a tall task for most catchers in the league even when they know men on base are looking to run against the Mets starting pitchers.
While the Mets have a +54 run differential this year, they are getting out-BABIP’d by their opponents. Opponents BABIP is the 3rd highest in the NL against the Mets and it’s not because the Mets are committing a lot of errors, they’re just not making plays regularly to support their pitching. These are growing pains with a young team, but this is an important category to improve if they want to make it to the playoffs with this young core.
Mets fans have a lot to look forward to in 2020. Can Pete Alonso hit 60 home runs? Can deGrom win (potentially) back to back to back Cy Young awards? Can the bullpen blow 30 saves? While each of these is a possibility, there is a real possibility that this team can sneak into the playoffs next year. A lot of these numbers reflect a very good team, just a little bit of luck and situational hitting are keeping them out of being a dangerous team in the playoffs.