The 2018 season was set to either be a year of triumph or misery for the New York Mets. A plethora of injuries derailed the team in 2017, having come off of consecutive playoff appearances. Ultimately, management opted to run with virtually the same team they had been while supplementing with free-agent bargains.
When the last out of 2018 was recorded, the Mets won 77 games, five more than 2017. The season was filled with inconsistencies. March, April, and September saw a record of 35-19 although May and June combined saw just 15 wins. While it was a season riddled with disappointment for the Mets, it was still an eventful one. 2018 was not a typical 77-win campaign as many headlines seemed to engulf the on-field performance.
New York Mets 2018 Season Recap
Farewell to the Captain
The biggest storyline of the season for the Mets did not emerge until the final month of the season. After two seasons of trying to battle back from spinal stenosis, team captain David Wright played in one final game at Citi Field before retiring due to his back issues. Wright went hitless and played four innings in the field in front of a crowd of 43,928, the largest crowd of the season aside from Opening Day.
Starting Pitcher Stability
The high note for the 2018 Mets was their starting pitching. Their ensemble of high-quality starters (Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz) was finally healthy and pitching together. That is before Harvey’s continued struggles saw him shipped to the Cincinnati Reds.
deGrom emerged as the star of this pitching staff. After flying under the radar while the likes of Harvey and Syndergaard stole the spotlight in the past, 2018 was deGrom’s time to shine. Despite finishing the season 10-9, he pitched to a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and only 152 hits allowed in 217 innings pitched. These statistics, plus setting the record for consecutive quality starts, have turned the former Rookie of the Year into a Cy Young front-runner.
While a finger injury and a bout with hand, foot, and mouth disease limited Syndergaard, the Opening Day starter, he closed out the season strong. His final four starts saw him allow just three runs in 26 innings, including a shutout and 15 consecutive scoreless innings to close out the season.
Wheeler and Matz made good progress this year as well. While Matz was inconsistent, he managed to lower his ERA from 6.08 in 2017 to 3.97 while his strikeouts per nine innings also increased from 6.5 to 8.9. After years of injury behind him, Wheeler, a former sixth overall pick, started to live up to the hype. In the second half, Wheeler dominated to the tune of a 1.68 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 75 innings.
Free Agent Blunders and Changing of the Guard
One contributor to the Mets’ futility was a number of free agent signings that didn’t pan out. The biggest of which was bringing back Jay Bruce, someone with a proven track record in a Mets uniform. Bruce, like most of the team, struggled with injuries, and his numbers suffered. Known to be a power hitter, he only hit nine home runs while driving in 37 runs.
Todd Frazier, who is seldom injured, spent extended time on the disabled list. Frazier only hit 18 home runs, drove in 59 runs, and barely got on base 30% of the time. Anthony Swarzak was another free agent failure, only pitching in 29 games to the tune of a 6.15 ERA. Jason Vargas also disappointed the Mets faithful. He made 20 starts and allowed 100 hits in just 92 innings pitched with a 5.77 ERA.
In the midst of these players falling short of expectations, general manager Sandy Alderson stepped down from his role. Alderson has been battling cancer and his situation escalated to a point which required him to resign. For the rest of the season, the likes of John Ricco, JP Ricciardi, and Omar Minaya all contributed to the role of general manager.
As the off-season progresses, the team hired former CAA superagent Brodie van Wagenen to take over. Van Wagenen plans to use his knowledge of the game and salesmanship to bring the team back to contention. Additionally, Minaya will stay on to rejuvenate the farm system.
Another headline that dominated the 2018 season for the Mets was their lack of offense. This has been a recurring theme amongst the team for several seasons now, especially without Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup. The offensive totals were nothing to brag about as the team hit .234 with a .312 on-base percentage collectively. They struck out over 1,400 times though managed to score over four runs per game.
Brandon Nimmo proved to be a pleasant surprise, hitting .263 with a .404 on-base percentage. If 2018 wasn’t a fluke, Nimmo should be a quality table setter in the Mets lineup moving forward. Amed Rosario was handed the starting shortstop job and struggled. While he showed flashes of potential in the second half, he only hit .256 with a .295 on-base percentage while striking out 21.5% of the time.
One surprise was Jeff McNeil. The August call up turned heads by hitting .329 with a .381 on-base percentage. He also only struck out 24 times in 225 at-bats (10.6%). McNeil played his way into the conversation for the starting second base job in 2019.
The van Wagenen hiring has received mixed reviews, but only time will tell if it was the right one. For now, all that is known is that he is dedicated to making the Mets winners again. As it stands right now, the starting rotation is the clear strength of the team.
The bullpen will need an upgrade and the offense will need a big name star in the middle of the lineup while Cespedes recovers from heel surgery. The team has money to spend, but it will be up to van Wagenen to convince ownership to spend big and make a run at the big name free agents that could take the team back to the World Series.
Embed from Getty Images