John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
By now, we know the 2019 Mets are nothing if not unpredictable.
So it's still possible, even after their six-game losing streak stalled much of their August momentum, that September will prove memorable for them.
But even if they fail to make another charge, it seems there is always drama around this team.
As such, there are plenty of storylines, between players making runs at individual honors to the future of the manager and to the GM hoping his team justifies his decisions.
Here, then, is your guide for what to watch for over the season's final month in Queens:
If The Mets Can Stay Close…
The schedule could give them a great chance to steal a wild-card spot. While the Cubs and Cardinals play each other seven times over the final 10 games, the Mets have three games in Cincinnati and then finish at home -- four with the Marlins and three with the Braves, who probably will have clinched the NL East by then and have little motivation.
They're 6-0 at home against the Marlins this season.
Will Alonso Hit 50 HRs/Pass Judge For Rookie Record?
His pace has slowed a bit so it looms as a difficult task. Since hitting 30 home runs in the first half of the season, Pete Alonso as of Saturday had hit 12 in 44 games, and only three in his last 18 games. Scouts have noted that he's been chasing high fastballs more of late, perhaps trying to do too much to carry the Mets' suddenly slumping offense.
In any case, with his club-record total of 42 home runs, Alonso needs eight home runs over his final 28 games to become the second rookie ever to reach 50, and 11 to top Aaron's Judge's record of 52.
Will McNeil Win The Batting Title?
Jose Reyes is the only Met to win one, hitting .337 in 2011. Jeff McNeil has led the league most of the season, showing remarkable consistency, but hasn't looked quite the same since coming back a week ago from his hamstring injury.
After going hitless in four of his last five games, as of Saturday morning, McNeil's average had slipped to .326 -- his lowest since going 0-for-3 on Opening Day, if you can believe that. As such he has fallen behind Anthony Rendon (.333), Christian Yellich (.331), and Bryan Reynolds (.329) in the batting race.
Will deGrom Go Back-to-Back?
The Franchise, Tom Seaver, was voted three NL Cy Young Awards as a Met, but even he didn't do it in back-to-back seasons, winning them in 1969, '73, and '75. So Jacob deGrom could be the first in club history, and the feat suddenly looks very attainable after Dodgers' lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu gave up 12 runs in his last two starts, raising his ERA from 1.64 to 2.35.
After his early-season rough patch owed mostly to pitch-tipping, deGrom has pitched to a 1.53 ERA over nine starts since the All-Star break -- even after Thursday night's 4-1 loss to the Cubs in which he gave up more than three runs for the first time since May 17.
For the season, he's fourth in ERA at 2.66, behind Ryu, Mike Soroka, and Max Scherzer. Throw in Clayton Kershaw at 2.76, and any of those five could win, though deGrom leads that group in innings pitched and leads the league in strikeouts.
The Mickey Watch
If the Mets can't put together another run in the next couple of weeks, the focus from the outside could shift quickly to Mickey Callaway's status as manager for next season. He deserves credit for presiding over his team's second-half surge, but there is still considerable speculation that GM Brodie Van Wagenen would like to move on with a new manager next season.
Though he hasn't made as many in-game blunders as last season, perhaps because he has a veteran bench coach in Jim Riggleman, Callaway still makes his share of head-scratching moves, and often makes them worse with his press conferences.
In trying to justify a hasty decision to pull Steven Matz in that game in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago, Callaway went so far as to say that 85 percent of the decisions he makes go against analytics. That quote alone may have sealed his fate with Van Wagenen, who made it a priority to beef up the Mets' under-funded analytics department upon taking the GM job.
Judging The Stroman Trade
Marcus Stroman came to the Mets with high expectations, some created by his 2.96 ERA with the Blue Jays this season, some from his own talk of how he's made for the big New York stage. Even after his ERA slipped to 4.91 as a Met on Tuesday he vowed that he'll "dominate" soon enough.
Meanwhile, the two prospects Van Wagenen gave up for Stroman have pitched very well in the minors. Lefty starter Anthony Kay has pitched to a 1.89 ERA in six Triple-A starts, and is expected to be called up to start for the Blue Jays when rosters expand on Sunday. And Righthander Simeon Woods Richardson has impressed scouts as a starter in high Class A, pitching to a 2.54 ERA, especially doing it age 18, much younger than the average at that level.
The Mets have Stroman under contractual control for one more season, and with very little pitching-prospect depth in the minors, especially at the higher levels, they need him to raise his game or the trade could wind up haunting them.
Is There Hope For the Cano/Diaz Trade?
Robinson Cano is on his way back, much quicker than expected, from his hamstring injury, and as much as Mets' fans may not love him, he could provide a lift over the final few weeks. He was finally starting to produce, hitting .289 with an .896 OPS in the second half, when he got hurt, and if he's right, he's a much better option offensively than Joe Panik.
And suddenly there does seem to be hope for Edwin Diaz. On Thursday and Friday nights he pitched 1-2-3 innings, striking out five of six hitters, looking dominant with both his fastball and his oft-problematic slider.
In addition, he has had six scoreless outings in his last seven, but all in relatively low-leverage situations. If Diaz can do it in in bit spots down the stretch, if nothing else the Mets could feel good about him bouncing back next season.
Which would help take at least a bit of the sting away from watch Jarred Kelenic climb the prospect rankings: he's now No. 23 in MLBPipeline's latest Top 100.