The Mets have been hurt by injuries up and down the lineup, and by consistent ineptitude in the field, but the more significant culprit is clearly their pitching.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Even with an injury-plagued rotation, the 2016 Mets surpassed expectations and ranked as one of the top staffs in the league. With nearly all of last year's successful hurlers returning (Bartolo Colon, who is struggling mightily in Atlanta this year, being the lone exception), reasonable projections anticipated similar results, even if not quite up to 2016's exceptional standards.
Instead, Mets fans have watched nothing short of an unmitigated disaster unfold in the rotation, one start at a time...
The fact is, there's no single reason why things have fallen apart. No overarching organizational philosophy to point fingers at, no team-wide specific injuries to investigate. Of course the depth could have been better, and should be a point of focus in the future. But with injuries and ineffectiveness striking nearly every starter, a couple of fifth starter types as backups would have been just band aids on bullet wounds. It would have been nearly impossible to build depth for this level of failure.
While there are few commonalities between them, injuries -- both old and new -- are a major piece of the puzzle. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are both returning from major surgery and, in Wheeler's case, a full two seasons of inactivity. It's possible that injuries have had a permanent impact on their ability to pitch well. Or, it could be something else. In either case, though, it's clear that Harvey and Wheeler have yet to build up the strength and endurance of their uninjured peers.
The rest of this season may actually become an extended rehab stint, where each pitcher works towards recapturing what skills they can and learning to work without the skills they've lost. For instance, if Harvey can't sit at 95 mph anymore, he needs to stop pitching as though he can.
In addition to Harvey, the the Mets have lost most of their best pitchers for large chunks of the season. The effect of missing Noah Syndergaard's presence at the front of the rotation has been enormous, and the recent return of Steven Matz and Seth Lugo is a painful reminder of how much their reliability had been missed to start the year.
Similarly, while their replacements, depth guys and minor league call-ups all got the job done last year, this year we've seen the opposite outcome. Rafael Montero, Robert Gsellman, Adam Wilk, and Tommy Milone have combined for a 7.39 ERA during 19 starts. Few, if any teams, can survive that kind of performance from the back half of the rotation.
Looking ahead, the Mets have little they can do for the next three months to rebound from what has been a very disappointing season. Of course, getting everyone as healthy as possible would be a good start. Improving minor league depth through midseason trades could also help long-term, though likely not in 2018. The big test will come in the offseason, though.
While they will have several lineup holes to plug, they would greatly benefit from taking advantage of a market flush with pitching talent. That's a long way off, though, and until then, it's not going to be pretty. At least there's always Jacob deGrom...
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring