Here we are, folks: the End of Season Post-Mortem series. If you're new here (which about 50% of our reader base is in comparison to last year), here's a brief explanation: after a team is eliminated from playoff contention, we're going to put their season under a microscope and look at just what the hell went wrong, what went right, and so on and so forth. The goal is to post these the day after a team is eliminated. Also, for the first ten teams eliminated, we're going to post a series called "Hope for the Hopeless", which is going to be an expanded version of the "What Went Right" portion of the Post-Mortem series pieces.
Another losing season is nearly in the books for the Mets, but that doesn't mean it was a lost season. For the first time in a long time, the Mets' future is looking bright. Of course, being the Mets, dark clouds did move in to dim the future right when things were at their brightest.
Preseason prediction: This season feels more like a transitional one for the Mets. They've locked up their franchise cornerstone in David Wright and replenished their farm system thanks to the Dickey trade, putting them in position to contend in the near future, just not this season. Instead, the team uses the season to evaluate youngsters and role players to decide who sticks around for 2014 and beyond. A sneaky good rotation and the emergence of prospects like D'Arnaud and Wheeler could serve as the backbone for a feisty Mets team that puts up a respectable .500 record that leaves fans dreaming big for next season.
What Went Right: Get excited, Mets fans! It is going to be Generation K all over again!!! Huh? What's that you say? Really? Not even one of them? That's rough. Now I'm sorry I brought it up. But lightning never strikes the same place twice, right?
For the sake of Mets fans not committing mass suicide, let's hope not because once again the Mets have the makings of a very promising young rotation. Matt Harvey made the leap in his sophomore season to become not just one of the best young pitchers in the game, but one of the best pitchers of any age. He was primed to challenge Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young before his elbow betrayed him. Wait, what was I just saying about lightning striking twice?
Anyway, if/when Harvey gets healthy again, he has will find he has wonderful sidekick to help him out in Zack Wheeler who has more than held his own since being called up mid-season. Behind them are more seasoned workhorses Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, both of whom are 27 years old or younger and should finish the season with an ERA under 4.00.
For a rebuilding team, you can't ask for much more than a high quality, young and cheap rotation.
What Went Wrong: You know all those nice things I just said about the Mets pitching? Well, forget it, because they are all hurt and that is only a slight overstatement. The baseball world is still mourning Matt Harvey's impending Tommy John surgery (even though he keeps trying to avoid it). Fellow promising young starter Jenrry Mejia is once again dealing with arm problems and had to be shut down to have bone chips removed from his elbow after he made five very impressive starts. Jon Niese missed several weeks because of rotator cuff problems. Jeremy Hefner is going to be TJ rehab buddies with Harvey. Shaun Marcum continues to be a walking, talking shoulder surgery. The only Met who will make more than 27 or more starts this season is Dillon Gee who has pitched through elbow tendinitis all season.
The injuries weren't limited to the pitching staff though as beloved team captain David Wright has not played since early August after suffering a hamstring injury and "untouchable" closer Bobby Parnell had his season end early to get neck surgery for the second year in a row. The Mets certainly haven't been very good this season, but it is hard to know just how bad they really were since they were so badly ravaged by injuries.
Most Surprising Player: Well, this is awkward. The biggest surprise on the team was Marlon Byrd. Note the use of the past tense in that last sentence. The Mets, desperate for anything resembling a competent outfielder, threw a non-roster invite at Byrd who had been the cusp of falling completely out of the league after a terrible 2012 season that included a PED suspension. That low-cost gamble paid off with Byrd clubbing 21 homers (which still leads the team) and posting a 136 OPS+. Then they went and traded him. That in itself was a second surprise as the classic LOLMets thing to do would've been to hold onto 36-year old Byrd and then sign him to a stupid contract extension. It looked like they were going to take that route when they failed to move Byrd at the deadline, but they shockingly wised up in August and traded him and John Buck to Pittsburgh.
Most Disappointing Player: Oh, Ike Davis. What are we going to do with you? Even the Mets don't know as they sent the "slugger" down to the minors at one point this season because of his massive struggles at the plate. As of this writing, Davis is batting just .205, but he spent a great deal of the season with an average well below the Mendoza Line. Of more concern though is that Ike's power pretty much dried up. In 377 plate appearances, Davis has just nine homers and a wimpy .129 ISO. Considering that Davis still draws a lot of walks, the Mets could probably suffer the low average and high strikeout rate if Davis were still hitting for big power (not unlike what they get from Lucas Duda) like he did earlier in his career, but that hasn't been remotely the case this season which has to have the Mets wondering if Davis should be part of their 2014 plans.
The Future: For the first time in a long time, the future is looking bright for the Mets. With a young, talented rotation in place (even with Harvey's surgery looming), the Mets are finally in a place where they are ready to start competing again. Rumors have already begun to circulate that they are going to be dropping some major coin in free agency. The Harvey issue will probably prevent them from being real contenders in 2014, but they have a great opportunity to make some smart signings to position themselves for a serious run at contending in 2015.