Now that the New York Mets’ 2020 season is over, we are going to take a look at the year as a whole over the few weeks. We will break down the offense, starting pitching, relievers, coaching staff, declare a team MVP, and more. We continue today with a look back at our preseason predictions for the team.
The 2020 season didn’t go according to plan for the Mets, which is incredible to think about considering the amount of hype the team had entering the year. Back in spring training, there was reasonable optimism that the Mets could win the National League East while summer camp further added to that enthusiasm. So what exactly happened? Let’s look back at our preseason predictions and see what we can learn from them.
1. Can the Mets stay healthy?
What we said then: The Mets are in decent shape as the season starts, but they could begin the regular season down three relievers. The big blow is Marcus Stroman’s calf injury, which could sideline him for several weeks in a season that is only 66 days long.
What actually happened: Stroman’s injury ended up costing the Mets dearly as he never pitched before opting out. There were a few players landing on the injured list for short stints but nothing that was tremendously costly over the course of the year. The Mets also weren’t afflicted by the coronavirus too badly, seeing Jared Hughes and Brad Brach miss time at the start of the year while Tomas Nido tested positive during the season, ending his campaign in late August.
2. Is Luis Rojas an upgrade over Mickey Callaway?
What we said then: One thing in Rojas’ favor is his history as a minor league manager, which gives him a bit more experience running a game than Callaway did, and an added bonus of some experience with the new extra-inning rule. Callaway did a lot of unorthodox things so if Rojas can bring a bit more stability it would be a win for the Mets.
What actually happened: Rojas was certainly more conventional than Callaway, which was good, but he had a tough time getting a feel for how to use his pitching staff. There were also a few instances of questionable lineup construction although that may have been influenced by the front office.
3. Is Yoenis Cespedes ready to roll?
What we said then: For the first time in two years, the Mets will have Cespedes ready to roll in a regular-season game. There is no doubt that Cespedes can have a monstrous impact on the lineup and history shows the Mets win a lot when he plays. What Cespedes has left in the tank is a mystery but the DH should allow the Mets to keep him healthy over the course of the season.
What actually happened: Cespedes returned with a bang, launching a game-winning homer on Opening Day, but quickly grew disgruntled with his role and opted out after just 11 days.
4. What can Pete Alonso do for an encore?
What we said then: Alonso took MLB by storm in 2019, shattering the Mets’ franchise record by leading the league with 53 home runs. The clear cut Rookie of the Year, Alonso will now look to show that his impressive campaign wasn’t a fluke. If Alonso can find a way to hit at least 15 home runs in 60 games it would be a huge positive for the Mets.
What actually happened: We nailed the home run count as Alonso hit a team-high 16 homers but he was not nearly as effective as his rookie campaign, seeing his batting average drop by nearly 30 points and his OPS decline from .941 to .817. This edition of Alonso was far less effective than the one who won the Rookie of the Year award in 2019.
5. Where will Robinson Cano bat in the order?
What we said then: Rojas immediately drew some heat over the weekend when Cano was slotted third in the batting order for both exhibition games. The justification could be made that the games don’t count and Cano needed at-bats after missing eight days of summer camp, but the Mets can’t afford to let him hit third to protect his ego. Cano isn’t one of the Mets’ four best hitters and should not be in line to receive more at-bats than someone like Cespedes or Michael Conforto.
What actually happened: The Mets started Cano at sixth in the order and his hot hitting eventually earned him the fifth slot over the course of the season. Cano had a solid year, hitting .316 with 10 homers and 30 RBI’s, making his batting order spot the least of the team’s concerns.
6. Can Jacob deGrom win three straight Cy Young awards?
What we said then: All eyes on the mound will be on deGrom, who will be going for history as the first New York pitcher to ever win three straight Cys. deGrom will have to be outstanding from the get-go, which is a bit different from how he won the two awards by becoming more dominant as the season progressed. Even if he doesn’t win the hardware the Mets need deGrom to be their ace and stopper even more than ever before.
What actually happened: deGrom was brilliant from the jump but two shaky starts at the end of the season cost him a chance to win a third straight Cy Young. Even with that being the case deGrom continued to showcase why he was the best pitcher in baseball in 2020.
7. Can the rotation behind deGrom hold it together?
What we said then: On paper, the Mets appear to have a solid rotation, but it is notably thinner than it has been in years past. The loss of Zack Wheeler to free agency will hurt while Noah Syndergaard is out for the year with Tommy John surgery. Stroman’s injury is a killer as it means Steven Matz, Porcello and Wacha will each assume more responsibility. There isn’t much behind them so the Mets will have to look at some combination of David Peterson, Erasmo Ramirez and Corey Oswalt to hold the fifth spot.
What actually happened: This was prescient as the Mets’ rotation collapsed behind deGrom. Stroman never pitched while the other three regressed. David Peterson was solid but it wasn’t enough to keep the Mets in contention this season.
8. Can the bullpen be better in 2020?
What we said then: The reason the Mets missed the playoffs last season was due to a historically bad bullpen. Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia had lost seasons, leaving Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo as the only arms Callaway trusted in big spots down the stretch. The addition of Dellin Betances will help while the law of averages says that the other quality arms out there should improve in 2020. Familia in particular has looked impressive in summer camp while a less lively baseball could help Diaz regain command of his slider, which was flat a bit too often in 2019.
What actually happened: The bullpen was better but it wasn’t lights out to say the least. The biggest positive came out of Diaz, who rebounded from a shaky start to re-establish his grip on the closer’s role entering 2021. Familia and Wilson were inconsistent while Betances never looked like the dominant guy the Mets hoped they were getting over the winter. Lugo’s move to the rotation weakened this group and his role next season will have a big influence on the group’s overall direction.
9. Who is the Mets’ X-Factor?
What we said then: The obvious answer here is Cespedes. Having a healthy Cespedes makes the Mets that much deeper in the lineup and scarier for opposing pitchers to deal with. If Cespedes isn’t the same guy it weakens the Mets’ depth considerably.
What actually happened: Cespedes opted out but the X-Factor ended up being Dominic Smith, who took his newly found playing time and emerged as one of the team’s best offensive players.
10. Prediction Time: How will the Mets do in 2020?
What we said then: The prediction game is always fun and it is even more so in a short season when randomness can make a mess out of the best-laid plans. The good thing for the Mets is that almost all of their key guys are healthy and have had full summer camps, leaving them in good position to get out of the gate hot. This team was a popular pick to contend for the NL East crown in February and the loss of Syndergaard shouldn’t be as impactful in a shorter season. We’ll say the Mets go 35-25 to claim the division crown and advance to the NLCS before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
What actually happened: Oof. The Mets went 26-34 to finish in dead last in the division, somehow finding a way to miss the postseason in an expanded playoff format despite getting a boatload of help in the final week of the regular season. This one definitely didn’t age well.
Check back tomorrow as our Season in Review series continues by awarding the 2020 team MVP award!