Swept by the Braves and struggling against the Phillies, the Mets are proving that their playoff hopes are fleeting and the Cardinals should not be worried.
Last week, I wrote to you all trying to convince you that the Cardinals would be better off spending October sitting on their couches, rather than on a baseball field. To be honest, I was bored watching the Cardinals look satisfied with losing, that they were fine with losing the Wild Card. They were playing horrid defense, getting walked over by the Cubs, and had mistakes snowball into big innings. It was not Cardinals baseball nor playoff contender caliber baseball. A team that loves to win looks like this:
But thankfully, I was wrong. The Cardinals have proved over the past week that they still have fire in them. And now more than ever, their play is reflecting it. A series split with SF and 2 of 3 from the Rockies at Coors Field have propelled them into contention.
And that fun thing I mentioned?
The Cardinals from old are back and better than ever. And to make it even better, one of their biggest competitors hasn’t played this poorly in a long time.
The Miserable Mets
Out of their five ace pitchers: Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom, and Zack Wheeler, you will find zero with a fully healthy arm. Syndergaard is the only active pitcher left out of that crew, and he has been pitching with bone spurs in his elbow all season. This has left the Mets with a rotation that looks something like this:
- Noah Syndergaard
- Bartolo Colon
- Seth Lugo
- Robert Gsellman
- Gabriel Ynoa
So much for their ace pitching staff. Syndergaard is undoubtedly a bonafide ace, and he is not one that you would like to be squaring off against in a one game playoff, but he can only pitch once every five days, and even he is vulnerable to bad days, like his last start against Atlanta. Even more, his bone spur has blown up at different points this season. With the added pressure for him to perform, Syndergaard could fall victim to overthrowing, a problem he admittedly has had in the past.
I’m not even going to take time to talk about Bartolo. He keeps defying the odds time and time again, so I don’t think it’s worth even looking into his stats. Although he has been successful, he isn’t the Reyes to your Carlos Martinez.
The back end of the Mets rotation is what really caught my eye. The Mets’ 3-5 starters have 13 career starts between the three of them. Robert Gsellman pitched to the tune of a 3.99 ERA in the minors this season before his call-up. He has been pitching to a stellar 3.13 ERA over 5 starts; however, he’s been pitching to a microscopic .28 HR/9 innings. This is simply unsustainable.
Jake Arrieta led the majors in this stat last year, and he was at .39. Gsellman is no Arrieta. Pitching at a relatively hitter friendly Citi Field (with its new adjusted fences), he is bound to give up more long balls in the future, and likely will see his ERA increase with it. The sample size is so small at this point that present successes aren’t reliable predictors of the future. He hasn’t thrown enough to let his flaws fully show.
Lugo, a 3.84 pitcher this year in the minors, is 26 years old as a rookie and is pitching well above his potential. Despite his 2.61 ERA over seven starts and nine relief appearances, his FIP, or Fielder Independent Pitching, is 4.12, according to Fangraphs. Qualifying pitchers with similar ERAs don’t show FIPs above 3.50 at the most. To put it simply, Lugo has been getting lucky. As he pitches more, it is inevitable that his performances will falter. It is just a matter of time.
It is kind of pointless to discuss Gabriel Ynoa at this point, since he has 2 career starts (that did not go particularly well), including getting knocked out after 2 innings last night. He has a 3.97 ERA at hitter friendly AAA Las Vegas, and is seemingly not big league ready. At 23 years old, he is unpolished, yet is already a career minor leaguer. He has been in the minors since he was 16 years old, and has thrown over 800 career innings.
There isn’t much to him. As a contact pitcher throughout his career, he does not stack up as ace material. He struck out only 78 in nearly 155 innings this year at AAA. That is not a pitcher that will be the difference maker for the Mets, or someone who can hold down the back end of the rotation down the stretch.
To put it frankly, the Mets do not have the pitching to keep them in contention. They got swept by the Braves, granted it was with a little bad luck:
— rich batchelor (@VanHicklestein) September 22, 2016
The Mets struggled mightily in their first two games against Philadelphia. Despite their extremely friendly final few weeks on the schedule, the Mets do not have what it takes to propel them into the playoffs. It will be yet another year of disappointment for the Queens faithful, a year that will be celebrated by the Cardinals. And that is a prediction I am confident I’ll get right.
Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports