Noah Syndergaard is not happy with how he has pitched in 2019, during which he has been charged with giving up 19 runs in just five starts and 29 innings.
"To be quite honest, the entire beginning of this season, my performances have been unacceptable," he said later Sunday. "I have to be better. I will be better. There's no excuses for it."
In his start Sunday against the Cardinals, Syndergaard tossed five innings, allowed four earned runs, eight hits and two batters, both which were the first batter of the inning.
"The two innings they scored multiple runs were both leadoff walks," Callaway pointed out, as did Syndergaard during his subsequent talk with reporters.
Syndergaard was adamant about feeling physically strong. Instead, he noted, he is struggling to repeat his delivery in a way that has not been a problem for him since 2014 pitching in the minor leagues.
To be fair, when it comes to starting pitchers, Syndergaard is not alone...
Callaway's staff has statistically performed among the worst rotations in the league. What's worse, while the rotation's combined 5.64 ERA entering Monday's game is the NL's worst, the only one of his starting pitchers with an ERA under 4.96 is Jacob deGrom, who recently fought strep throat and is currently on the Injured List.
Walks are never good, as Callaway and Syndergaard will attest. However, the real culprit behind the staff's overall struggle is that they're giving up harder hit balls in the air, while continuing to induce a similar rate of soft grounders. This would be fine except that the fielding behind them has struggled to turn soft contact in to outs, which means the harder hit balls are resulting in the opposition running across home plate at an unsustainable rate.
The spotlight in the field to date has been most hot on Amed Rosario, who Sunday was unable to field a ball with the bases loaded and failed to correctly time catching a line drive by Paul Goldschmidt, all of which resulted in three runs thanks in part to Syndergaard's lead-off walk.
The two mistakes were Rosario's fourth and fifth slip-ups in the past five games. Nevertheless, Callaway said he was not concerned about his young shortstop, who has repeatedly champions as a potential star.
"He'll clean that up. He'll get going," Callaway added.
Of course, even if Callaway did want to give Rosario time to clear his mind, with Jed Lowrie still not active from the Injured List, Rosario is the team's only option.
"We don't have another shortstop, so he's not getting a day," Callaway stated. "He's fine."
Even when 'fine,' Rosario has struggled in the field, though...
The fact is, now with 221 games under his belt, Rosario currently has the fewest defensive runs saved (DRS) among the NL shortstops, which comes on the heels of having the fewest among NL shortstops last season.
He's still just 23 years old, Callaway and Rosario's supporters (of which I'm one) will say, but I also concede that he has so far struggled with more or less everything hit to him that isn't a routine play.
In addition to slip-ups by Syndergaard and Rosario, Wilson Ramos on Saturday allowed a passed ball that doomed Chris Flexen, who got rocked making an impromptu start in place of a Jacob deGrom.
In general, the team's overall -21 DRS through 21 games is the worst in the National League, despite being 11-10 and just one game out of first place behind the Phillies, with whom they begin a three-game series tonight.
It's also worth noting that in relief of Flexen on Saturday, Callaway was turned to Luis Avilan, Jacob Rhame and Paul Sewald to pitch in relief, exposing what has become a bullpen with little depth.
In the end, "We need to get better as a pitching staff," Callaway declared. "I understand that guys go through tough times as a staff, and that's what we're doing right now."
He's not wrong, but Callaway should be nervous, 1) because his team has been a bit lucky, and 2) he's dealing with an unspoken Catch-22.
In regards to luck, his team's run differential (-19) says it's playing like a 9-12 team, despite actually being 11-10. At the same time, they have a .329 team batting average on balls in play, suggesting eventually similar balls in play will be caught, turned to outs and lead to fewer runs being scored.
This is why Callaway is right to be concerned about his pitching and defense. However, to be better, the pitching staff needs better fielding behind them. And for his fielders to be better, they need to be healthy, which means days off and depth, seeing fewer balls in play and being able to exhale and focus before the next base-running circus comes to town.
The point is, while the Mets should feel thankful, like Callaway said, they also need to be better.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!