The Mets are more than capable of contending again in 2018, their new manager Mickey Callaway told reporters Monday at Citi Field.
In 2015 and 2016, Terry Collins and the Mets won 177 games and made the postseason each year, including a trip to the World Series. However, due in large part to rampant injuries, they lost 90 games in 2017, finished in fourth place and fired their manager.
"In our situation, short-term, pitching is everything," Sandy Alderson declared Monday, reiterating a theme he has put forth the last few seasons.
He's right. Because, despite trading several position players last summer, Alderson will enter next season with the same closer and core group of starting pitchers he's won with since 2015.
"The pitching is something that can be some of the greatest guys on the planet," Callaway added, discussing why he believes in the 2018 team's potential. "We just need to make sure we do our due diligence and keep guys healthy."
In 2015, when the Mets won the NL East and got to the World Series, they got 83 starts from Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey as the entire starting rotation finished with the fourth-best ERA in baseball (3.43).
In 2016, during which Syndergaard, Harvey and deGrom combined for just 71 starts, the Mets won fewer games than the year before, settled for the Wild Card, but still finished with the league's third-best ERA (3.61).
This past season, during which their main trio made only 54 starts (as the rest of rotation also fell apart due to injury), the Mets sank to 28th in team ERA (5.01) as opponents hit .274 against them.
It doesn't take a baseball genius to understand that having Syndergaard, deGrom and Harvey making more than 80 productive starts is the single biggest key to their team's success. It's worth noting that, in addition to losing Harvey and Syndergaard, the Mets also played most of the season without their closer, Jeurys Familia, and traded their ace reliever, Addison Reed, in late July.
The point is, Callaway is right, the Mets absolutely can contend next season, especially if Alderson works to improve the team's fielding, bullpen and adds at least one proven hitter. But, perhaps more important, Callaway is right when he says the team's success is dependent on keeping everyone healthy. In the end, the single best thing Alderson and Callaway can do this winter isn't just acquire talent, it's creating a situation that helps keep their top pitchers on the mound every five to six days.
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. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...