New York Mets 2021 Season in Review: Revisiting Preseason Predictions

New York Mets 2021 Season in Review: Revisiting Preseason Predictions

Mets

New York Mets 2021 Season in Review: Revisiting Preseason Predictions

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Now that the 2021 season is over for the New York Mets, we will spend the next several weeks taking a look at the big picture. This deep dive will be broken down into phases every weekday, continuing today with a look back at preseason predictions. 

It is funny to think about how different things can look for a team after the course of a 162-game season. The New York Mets entered the year with a ton of enthusiasm about their season and left it under .500 and staring at plenty of changes ahead of 2022. As we continue our Season in Review series in an attempt to figure out what went wrong, let’s look back at our preseason questions for the 2021 Mets.

2021 Preseason Predictions Revisited

1. How will Francisco Lindor impact the Mets?

What We Said Then:

Contract negotiations notwithstanding, the biggest story surrounding the Mets is the addition of Lindor, one of the top five players in the sport. Lindor tore the cover off the ball in spring training, hitting .370 with four home runs and 14 RBI’s, and made jaw-dropping plays in the field to boot.

The adjustment period to New York isn’t easy for most athletes but Lindor looks like the kind of player who can thrive under the bright lights of the city that never sleeps. If Lindor can become a dynamic star from the minute the bell rings it will mean a lot for the Mets.

What actually happened:

Year one in New York was a lost one for Lindor, who struggled mightily in April and May to depress his season totals. Lindor also got himself into trouble off the field by flashing thumbs-down signals to fans who were booing him in August. Things turned around at the end of the year as Lindor had a strong September but he will need to bounce back next year as he kicks off the lengthy contract extension he inked back in March.

2. Is Pete Alonso Back?

What We Said Then:

Most fans will argue that Alonso experienced a sophomore slump in 2020 but it’s important to remember that he only got to play the equivalent of two months in the midst of a pandemic. Alonso still slugged very well, hitting 16 homers in 2020, but his overall batting approach was a bit off.

Spring training was very encouraging for Alonso, who looked much more confident at the plate than he ever did last season. Seeing a bounceback campaign from Alonso significantly raises the ceiling of the Mets’ offense.

What Actually Happened:

Alonso did bounce back, leading the team in home runs (37) and RBI’s (94) while batting a solid .262. The Mets also saw one of their few bright moments after the first half when Alonso won the Home Run Derby, further cementing himself as a star. Alonso should be a serious extension candidate this offseason.

3. How much has the defense improved?

What We Said Then:

The Mets have undervalued defense for a while now but this team is significantly improved in the field. Lindor’s addition is a massive upgrade over Amed Rosario at shortstop while getting James McCann behind the plate and Jeff McNeil’s return to his natural position of second base should help bolster the Mets up the middle.

There are still significant questions at third base, where J.D. Davis is more of a hit-first player, and the outfield, where Dominic Smith is out in left and Brandon Nimmo is still in center. Expect to see plenty of late-inning defensive substitutions to help the Mets close out games.

What actually happened:

The defense was stellar in the first half but tailed off significantly in the second. Those issues were secondary to the team’s struggles hitting or pitching but there is no question that the Mets need to improve defensively going forward.

4. When Will The Injured Pitchers Come Back?

What We Said Then:

The pitching staff is significantly improved for the Mets but they are missing three key players in Carlos Carrasco, Noah Syndergaard and Seth Lugo. All three should be out for at least the first month of the season with a return towards the end of May a best-case scenario for most of them.

Getting Carrasco and Syndergaard in the rotation will help but Lugo’s return might actually be the most important since the bullpen is weaker than the rotation. If the Mets can get everyone back by June they could really take off.

What Actually Happened:

Lugo was the first back, returning on June 1 and being a solid bullpen contributor who wasn’t as good as he was a year ago. Carrasco’s hamstring injury dragged on until late July, forcing the Mets to rush him back without being fully stretched out, a move that led to one of the worst seasons of Carrasco’s career. Syndergaard also suffered a setback that pushed his return back until late September, where he tossed two innings total.

5. is edwin diaz really back?

What We Said Then:

Things looked bad for Diaz at the start of 2020 when he quickly lost his job as the Mets’ closer. Diaz got the gig back by the end of the year and was strong in September, finishing as our Met of the Month by recording a 0.77 ERA in 11 appearances.

With Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances struggling in the spring, there are few alternatives available if Diaz falters to start the year. Getting a strong season out of Diaz is key to the Mets’ playoff aspirations.

What Actually Happened:

The numbers look fine but Diaz did have his fair share of meltdowns in big spots. It is fair to argue that Diaz sunk two managers and two front offices, making it an open question as to whether or not the Mets give him a chance to damage a third season in four years.

6. Will luis rojas improve in his second year?

What We Said Then:

Rojas had quite the start to his big-league managerial career, taking over in late January after the Mets parted ways with Carlos Beltran and having to run two spring training periods thanks to the pandemic. Alderson opted to retain Rojas for a second year but the pressure will be on his shoulders thanks to Cohen’s mandate that the organization will win a title within 3-5 years.

That goal will require significant improvement from Rojas, who earned the respect of his players but had a few tactical mistakes in his first year at the helm. If Rojas can’t build on what he learned from 2020 then his job could be in jeopardy by the middle of the season.

What Actually Happened:

Rojas did well at the beginning of the season but had trouble maintaining the pulse of the locker room as the year progressed. Add in some questionable managerial decisions down the stretch and it makes perfect sense why the Mets opted to move on after the season.

7. How will the mets manage COVID-19?

What We Said Then:

The landscape in the country is far better than it was at this point a year ago in terms of the coronavirus but Major League Baseball isn’t out of the woods just yet. Vaccines should be widely available in the coming weeks, which could lead to many players getting vaccinated and reducing their chances of contracting the virus, but the first month or two of the season could still throw a COVID-related landmine into a team’s season.

The Mets were relatively lucky that they only had one player, backup catcher Tomas Nido, test positive for the virus during the 2020 season. COVID ended up sidelining Nido for the remainder of the shortened season and a lengthy absence from a key player due to the disease would significantly impact the team’s fortunes.

What Actually Happened:

The Mets were one of just six teams to fail to reach the 85 percent vaccination threshold among Tier 1 personnel, which is disappointing, but it didn’t really impact their season. The only player on the major league roster to get COVID-19 during the season was Syndergaard, who caught it on a rehab assignment, delaying his return to the major leagues by about 10 days.

8. How aggressive will the Mets be at the trade deadline?

What We Said Then:

The luxury tax has been a consideration for the Mets this season, who opted not to exceed the threshold by splurging on free agents. That decision should leave the Mets some flexibility to add a significant piece or two at the trade deadline if the front office feels it can put them over the top in 2021.

Kris Bryant would be a logical target for the Mets as a rental who can contribute at both third base and in the outfield. Lorenzo Cain would also be an intriguing fit if the Brewers fall out of contention while another bullpen arm would certainly be a good thing to add.

What Actually Happened:

The Mets made one big splash at the deadline, acquiring Javier Baez and Trevor Williams from the Chicago Cubs for Pete Crow-Armstrong. Despite more obvious needs for pitching, the Mets only acquired Rich Hill for rotation depth with no bullpen moves, a lack of urgency that arguably cost them the division.

9. who will be the Mets’ X-Factor this Season?

What We Said Then: 

The Mets’ X-factor will be Marcus Stroman, who has been the forgotten man in the rotation for the most part. Stroman accepted the qualifying offer to return this winter and had a strong spring to earn the No. 2 spot behind Jacob deGrom to start the season.

While the eventual returns of Carrasco and Syndergaard should strengthen the Mets’ rotation, they still need to get quality starts from the rest of the group until that point. Stroman is the most capable pitcher on the staff outside of deGrom and needs to deliver a big performance in his walk year to keep the Mets on track for a playoff appearance.

What Actually Happened:

Stroman delivered a strong year for the Mets, going 10-13 with a 3.02 ERA while leading the team in innings pitched, no small feat after missing the entire 2020 season following a COVID opt-out. The Mets will have a big decision to make on whether to retain Stroman as a free agent after the season.

10. will the mets make the playoffs?

What We Said Then:

The Mets haven’t made the playoffs since 2016, a drought that feels extreme since they managed to miss the postseason in a 2020 campaign where over half the league got to play in October. The good news is that the Mets’ roster has been significantly upgraded to compete in baseball’s toughest division.

The Mets are better than the Phillies, Nationals and Marlins right now while the Braves are a bit better at the moment. The bet here is that the Mets hang tight with Atlanta until they get healthy and a key trade is enough to help push New York into the NL East crown with 95 wins.

What Actually Happened:

This looked very good at the All-Star Break, when the Mets were 47-40 and in first place as FanGraphs gave them a 77.5 percent chance to reach the postseason. We know what happened next.

Check back tomorrow as our Season In Review series continues with a look at the 2021 Mets’ surprises and disappointments!

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