Crucial Part of Mets’ Lineup Has Disappeared During Important Stretch

Crucial Part of Mets’ Lineup Has Disappeared During Important Stretch

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets did something monumental on Sunday. It’s something hadn’t yet accomplished all season. That’s right, they finally beat the Dodgers.

In the first six games of their season series, the Mets lost five different times by a single run. The other loss? It was that horrendous 14-4 showing on Sunday Night Baseball. But on Sunday in L.A.? New York ended a mostly negative road trip on a positive note with a 7-2 victory. So what was the secret sauce for this particular game? The one constant throughout this road trip was first baseman Pete Alonso, who registered a hit and a run scored in all seven games, along with eight total RBI. But as we saw for ourselves, having just one player do all the producing on offense doesn’t lead to a bunch of success.

Having Javier Baez come back from the injured list (with Francisco Lindor not far behind) was likely a nice psychological lift. Getting production from other areas of the lineup doesn’t hurt either, though. Brandon Nimmo did his usual thing, but two guys who have been scuffling during the Mets’ most important stretch of games this season — J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil — combined for three hits and five RBI on Sunday.

First homer for J.D. Davis since July 17 comes in a crucial spot. #LGM

— Metsmerized (@Metsmerized) August 22, 2021

It was even more of a surprise because McNeil started this contest on the bench with another fellow left-handed hitter in Dominic Smith. These three dudes — Davis, McNeil, and Smith — are crucial to the overall success of the Mets’ offense, which is evident as this area of the roster continues to struggle.

Sure, both Davis and Smith seem to be dealing with nagging injuries, but they’re on the active roster and getting written into the lineup on most days. So if they’re healthy enough to be playing every day, there comes a time when they just have to figure out how to start producing more consistently.

If we look back to August 13 when the Mets started their 13-game gauntlet against the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants (which finishes this week at Citi Field), these three have all struggled badly. Entering Sunday’s action, there were 10 different Mets hitters with at least 10 plate appearances during this time. In terms of wRC+ and fWAR, Davis (58, -0.1), McNeil (0, -0.4), and Smith (-40, -0.6) ranked seventh, ninth, and 10th, respectively.

That’s not great, Bob. Especially when considering where manager Luis Rojas has been penciling them into the lineup. Davis performed like a clean-up hitter on Sunday, which was good because that was his spot in the lineup. It was the third time Rojas had him in the four-hole since August 13. He’s also hit sixth three times and fifth on four different occasions.

While he was the fifth hitter for three straight games between August 15 and 17, McNeil typically finds himself in the top third of the order. That’s been no different lately, as he’s taken up residence in the second spot five times since August 13. As for Smith, he’s another middle-of-the-order guy that’s expected to drive in runs. Since this stretch of games started for the Mets, Dom has hit clean-up three times and has hit sixth in the order four times.

It’s incredibly hard to get anything going on offense with just about half of the lineup being a black hole (that includes these three, the pitcher’s spot, and whoever is catching).

Between underperformance and injuries, the trio of Davis, McNeil, and Smith have all disappointed when looking at their overall production. Heading into 2021, FanGraphs’ Steamer projections expected them to accumulate a total of 5.6 fWAR. With about six weeks left to go in the regular season, they’ve accumulated just 1.8 as a group.

That ain’t gonna work, but as I just mentioned, there are still six weeks left to go before the playoff bracket is official. Sure, it’s hard to think anything is possible since New York is seven games back in the NL East, they’re losing at a ridiculous rate, and the Atlanta Braves are firmly in first while riding a current nine-game winning streak. But, hey, it’s baseball, and weird stuff happens.

Unlike the end of the Giants series in San Francisco, maybe — just maybe — the Mets can take Sunday’s win in L.A. and use Monday’s off-day to build a little momentum. They host the Giants for three more and then have 15 straight games against the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins. While it’s not as if the Braves and Philadelphia Phillies have incredibly hard schedules between August 27 and September 9, this is the time for the Mets to make a run if they want to have a chance at anything.

The offense will have to score more than 3.5 runs per game moving forward, which is what they’ve done so far this month. Alonso, Nimmo, and Michael Conforto — who has been swinging the bat better of late — need help. Getting some consistent production from Davis, McNeil, and Smith will go a long way in enabling the Mets to keep their incredibly slim chances of playing October baseball alive for as long as possible.

Crucial Part of Mets’ Lineup Has Disappeared During Important Stretch