The New York Mets took a step back in 2016. After winning the National League pennant in 2015 and being picked by some to win the World Series last year (or maybe it was just me that took the Mets to win it all in ‘16, I don’t know), the team slipped behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East and said a quick goodbye in the wild-card game.
It’s not as though that’s a bad year—in a National League whose top six or seven teams are extremely good, just being in the top five for the postseason takes some doing—ask the St. Louis Cardinals, who were left out. And once the Mets got to October only a vintage Madison Bumgarner performance sent them home.
So I don’t want to overstate how much of a comeback is needed. But this is a team with the talent to win the World Series, a hungry fan base that hasn’t seen them do it since 1986 and if 2017 is going to be the year in Queens, three players in the everyday lineup have to step up…
*Travis d’Arnaud looked on the upswing when he posted a stat line of .340 on-base percentage/.485 slugging percentage in the pennant year of 2015. But he slid back sharply last season. In the prime of his career, having just turned 28 years old, the catcher needs to stay healthy and be productive again.
*Injuries caused first baseman Lucas Duda to collapse in 2016. Duda was an emerging star the previous two years. He hit a combined 57 home runs over 2014-15 and a good batting eye gave him nice on-base percentages. Duda only played 47 games last year and wasn’t very good when he was on the field—a meager stat line of .302/.412.
*The front office sought to bolster the offense at the trade deadline last summer with the acquisition of Jay Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds. Bruce’s season-long numbers were good—33 home runs and he slugged .506. But he was terrible in his time with the Mets.
The transition from Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati to Citi Field in New York is dramatic and not favorable to the hitter. With Bruce’s game always overly dependent on home runs, it’s a fair question of whether he can produce in this park.
New York finished 12th in the National League in runs scored last year, while Washington was 4th. That’s why, even though the comeback of Matt Harvey in the rotation is important and higher-profile, the revival of key offensive players in the Mets lineup will determine if they win the NL East.