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Money Isn't Everything: Why the 2023 Mets Are Failing

Photo by D. Benjamin Miller and Licensed under CC 1.0

The New York Mets are drowning in the 2023 MLB season. At the time of writing, the Mets are 36-44 in the NL East, and they find themselves 17 games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves. The Mets only have 4 more wins than the Nationals, a franchise that was written off before this season even started. The worst part about the Mets’ season is their absurd payroll and how it compares to their on-field performance. This team has the league’s highest payroll, sitting at $353,546,854 million. This is almost $77 million higher than the second-highest payroll, which belongs to the Yankees. The Mets’ spending in 2023 will be more than $252 million higher than the same Nationals who have four fewer wins than these Mets.

The Mets are in a rough position with the All-Star break approaching in the next few days. Their players have been underperforming like nothing the game has seen before. The insane payroll combined with this outstanding underperformance by players who were meant to be stars have thrust this year’s Mets into the conversation of being one of the most disappointing teams in recent history. Granted, injuries have played a part in the Mets’ woes. However, with seemingly infinite amounts of money being put into the wrong players, the situation unfolding in Queens is worth examining further.

The Mets’ bullpen has been a massive weak point in 2023. With Edwin Diaz going down before the season with an injury from celebrating in the World Baseball Classic, the depth of the Mets’ bullpen has become an issue. It seems that this team is taking a page out of the Yankees’ book, as when a star player goes down, the entire team loses their sense of self. Mets relievers have given up the second most home runs in the league, only behind the pitiful Oakland Athletics. The ‘pen has the 9th highest ERA at 4.27 and falls in the bottom 10 for total saves, something that would have never been expected with Diaz’s success last season. While their Diaz replacement in David Robertson has been well above average, boasting a 1.54 ERA with 11 saves in 35 innings pitched, the rest of the bullpen has done nothing but give up hard contact to opposing lineups.

One of the main issue relievers has been Drew Smith. Smith has the makings of a solid reliever, impressively landing in the 96th percentile in Fastball Spin and ranking in the 79th for strikeout percentage. However, he ranks in the 1st percentile for Barrel %, 15th in average exit velocity, 25th in HardHit%, 21st in walk percentage, and 17th in chase rate. All of these ranks point to a pitcher who has a lively fastball but gets lit up by hitters at a high rate. Smith also seemingly can not induce a lot of swings outside the zone with his arsenal, made clear from his 17th-percentile chase rankings. The Mets are in desperate need of a star reliever at the trade deadline. Unfortunately, their lackluster win-loss record could point to the Mets being sellers at the deadline. Whatever the case is, their bullpen needs help. Good teams will overcome injuries, and the Mets have not shown the ability to capture bullpen success after the injury to their beloved Diaz. For a better look at Smith, feel free to visit his Savant page linked here.

The Mets’ starting rotation has not been shining the way they had hoped. With names like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander leading the rotation, any fan of the game would expect this pitching staff to be among the league’s best. However, a rookie who had not thrown a pitch in America before the 2023 MLB season began is the Mets’ ace. Kodai Senga leads the team’s rotation in ERA, strikeouts, and batting average allowed. While Senga is stepping up, stars like Verlander have taken a large step back.

Verlander won the AL Cy Young just one season ago. He proved that he could capture success at his age. When the Mets first signed him, the front office and fans alike were not worried because he seemed to have “aged like fine wine.” Age has caught up to Verlander in 2023, as the 40-year-old is having the worst season of his career for the Mets. He holds a 4.11 ERA in 10 games started. In his 57 innings pitched, Verlander has only collected 49 strikeouts, good for a 32nd percentile ranking in strikeout percentage. Like the bullpen, Verlander gives up hard contact for breakfast. He lands in the 11th percentile for average exit velocity and 14th in HardHit %. Verlander does not have the same ability he once had to miss the barrel of the bat, proven by his 23rd percentile Whiff% rank. His expected stats do not even point to a player who is simply unlucky. In fact, his expected batting average jumped over 35 points from 2022 to 2023 (.207 to .241 xBA). Verlander will likely level out and have somewhat of a valuable season for the Mets, but as of now, he is not (just look at the percentiles on his Savant page).

Someone who will not capture that success is Carlos Carrasco. The 36-year-old is struggling mightily in 2023. It seems like Carrasco is trying to support his team colors with his Baseball Savant page with the amount of blue that is featured. None of the relevant percentiles clock in above the 44th. The righty has a 6.19 ERA in 10 starts with only 33 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched. The rotation situation is tough for the Mets, again, since they could end up being sellers at the deadline. Verlander and Scherzer are making far too much money to be traded to any franchise, and no one wants the other pitchers who are actively losing games for the club. A change does need to happen with the starting pitching, and it starts with not signing players who are on the wrong side of 30 (or 40 in some cases).

The Mets’ offense has been nothing special, either. While their stars Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor are performing as expected, the depth of offensive talent just about stops with those two. It could be argued that the two players above aren’t even the most productive on offense, as Brandon Nimmo and Tommy Pham both rank higher than Alonso and Lindor in OPS. However, Alonso and Lindor have a sample-size advantage over the other two hitters, making their production a bit more impressive. A rookie is leading the pitching staff of this team, but that type of production is not happening with rookies in the starting lineup. Brett Baty, the Mets’ number two prospect, is having a lot of trouble with major-league pitching this year. In 57 games, Baty is slashing a .246/.317/.369, good for a .686 OPS. There is virtually zero extra-base power in his swing this year. However, there is conflicting data based on his power percentiles that point to a player who could start to break out power-wise. Baty ranks in the 80th percentile for average exit velocity, 85th in HardHit %, and 90th in Max Exit Velocity. Strangely enough, Baty falls in the 43rd percentile for expected slugging and 38th for Barrel %. Baty simply does not make enough contact for his power tools to be a factor in his game. He only has 21 RBI in 208 plate appearances. However, the Mets are not giving up on Baty, as they just traded away his only competition at third base in Eduardo Escobar.

Another letdown player has been Starling Marte, who has an even more lackluster slash line of .253/.305/.329. As an everyday player, this type of production from Marte has been extremely disappointing. In 300 plate appearances, Marte has just 24 RBI and 4 home runs (and his underlying metrics don’t help). A hot streak for these Mets hitters is desperately needed. An entire offense can not be sustained by just 3 or 4 hitters, and the Mets are seeing the result of exactly that in 2023.

While personal experience watching this Mets team is not something that went into this summary and diagnosis, the numbers on paper reveal a team who can not sustain success. The Mets did not win a series in the entire month of June. This front office is going to be placed in an extremely tough situation at the trade deadline in 2023. The Mets are serving as a glaring example that having the ability to sign any player they want does not immediately equal success on the field. It is going to be a tough climb out of the depths of the NL East for the Mets. This team needs to at least get third place in the division to avoid being labeled as the most disappointing team in MLB history.


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