Now that the New York Mets’ 2018 season is over, we are going to take a look at the year as a whole over the next several days. We will break down the offense, starting pitching, relievers, coaching staff, and declare a team MVP along the way. We continue our season review today with a look at some surprises and disappointments from the 2018 campaign.
As a whole, the New York Mets’ 2018 season was a disappointment. Despite getting off to an 11-1 start, the Mets finished with a sub .500 record for the eighth time in ten years. The Mets also missed the postseason for the second straight year and the 15th time in the past 18 campaigns, a disappointing trend the franchise will look to begin reversing next season. Before we fully turn the page on the Mets’ 2018 season, let’s look back at a few significant surprises and disappointments from the year that was.
Zack Wheeler Turns Into An Ace: The biggest surprise for the 2018 Mets was the emergence of starting pitcher Zack Wheeler into a bona fide ace. Wheeler didn’t even make the team out of spring training, losing his rotation spot to Seth Lugo, but earned a spot again after dominating Miami in a fill in start in mid-April. The Mets let Wheeler keep chugging along after Matt Harvey lost his rotation spot, and it was more of the same from Wheeler, who struggled to get ahead of hitters or deep into games. Something clicked in the middle of the season, however, and Wheeler suddenly developed into a dominant pitcher.
Wheeler was the Mets’ best pitcher in the second half, going 9-1 with a 1.68 ERA in 11 starts and compiling an outstanding 73:15 strikeout to walk ratio in 75 innings pitched. That 1.68 ERA was the third lowest in the majors among starters with at least 60 innings pitched following the All Star Break, trailing only Tampa Bay Rays’ lefty Blake Snell (1.17 ERA) and Pittsburgh Pirates’ right hander Trevor Williams (1.38 ERA). The Mets held on to Wheeler at the trade deadline when they felt they were being low balled, and that decision proved to be a prudent one. The team now has to decide whether to try and sell high on Wheeler this winter or lock him up long term before he hits free agency after the 2019 season.
Jeff McNeil Seizes The Second Base Job: Coming into the season, very few prospect experts, let alone fans were discussing Jeff McNeil as a serious option for the Mets in the future. McNeil was an injury plagued second baseman with little pop entering his age 26 season, the definition of a non-prospect if one ever existed. Once the games started, McNeil broke out in a big way, hitting .342 with 19 home runs and 71 RBI’s across two levels, forcing the Mets to call him up in late July. McNeil started at second base for the rest of the season and held his own, batting .329 with three home runs, 19 RBI’s, and a .381 on base percentage. The Mets also had to be pleased with McNeil’s defense, which was far better than advertised in the minors. McNeil slotted in nicely to the two hole of the batting order, and his emergence should help the Mets take one item off their shopping list this winter.
Brandon Nimmo Shows He Can Handle Every Day Responsibilities: The Mets began the season planning to platoon Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares in center field until Michael Conforto returned from the disabled list. Conforto came back just a week into the season, drying up Nimmo’s playing time and even earning him a ticket to AAA Las Vegas for a few days. The Mets brought Nimmo back shortly after an injury and he eventually got his chance to play every day. The results were great, as Nimmo produced at a near All Star level in the first half to earn a full time job. Nimmo’s final totals were a .263 batting average with 17 home runs, 47 RBI’s, and an excellent .887 OPS. The Mets would like to see Nimmo get better against left handed pitching, but he did demonstrate some serious power potential, adding 28 doubles and eight triples to go with those 17 home runs. If a few more of Nimmo’s fly balls clear the fence next year, the Mets could have an impact corner outfielder under team control for the next five years.
Injuries, Injuries, Injuries: Stop if you’ve heard this before-another Mets’ season was destroyed by injuries. The Mets had 28 different DL stints in 2018 and had the second largest roster effect from those injuries according to Spotrac. Simply put, the Mets not only lost a lot of man power to the disabled list but also had a lot of impact players spend more time on the shelf than on the field. Todd Frazier, who the Mets signed to be their starting third baseman and had never been on the DL before, landed on there twice in 2018 and missed about a third of the season. Jay Bruce, who the Mets brought back to add some pop to the middle of their lineup, missed two months with a back issue and was completely ineffective before the DL stint. Anthony Swarzak missed half the season with various issues while every starter (save Zack Wheeler) took at least one trip to the disabled list, with Noah Syndergaard missing seven starts due to a finger injury. The biggest blow was the loss of Yoenis Cespedes, who played in only 38 games before undergoing a pair of heel surgeries that will knock him out of action for a significant portion of the 2019 campaign.
The Bullpen: As we covered the other day, the bullpen was a complete disaster for the Mets. The 2018 edition of the bullpen accumulated a 4.96 ERA, the third worst mark in the majors, and struggled to protect solid efforts from the starting pitching. There were a lot of reasons why the bullpen was terrible, but the group’s poor performance was a constant under former General Manager Sandy Alderson’s watch. The new GM will need to make finding quality bullpen arms a priority this winter if the Mets hope to win in 2019.
Continual Dysfunction: The arrival of a new manager and coaching staff, along with the Mets’ good start, led to hope that the organization would start to behave more professionally. That certainly was not the case as the Mets embarrassed themselves publicly on many occasions. Whether it was odd statements from the manager about how the Mets’ record wasn’t the most important thing, a disappearing act from the Mets’ three headed GM machine on the weekend Jeurys Familia was traded, more anonymous quotes bashing players and coaches, or flat out dishonesty from ownership the Mets had it all. COO Jeff Wilpon summed up the dysfunction in one fell swoop on the final day of the season when he used an end of the year press conference to essentially throw Alderson, a respected baseball man who is undergoing treatment for a recurrence of cancer, under the bus for the team’s faults. It shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody that a lot of talented young candidates are shying away from the Mets’ GM position due to this toxic atmosphere around the franchise, and as long as it continues to infest the building the Mets will be busy running around aimlessly to try and put out fires that they created instead of devising the best strategy to try and win a World Series.