'Really bad inning': Mets commit costly errors

April 22nd, 2021

lowered his glove but couldn’t corral the baseball, which trickled back onto the dirt beside him. grabbed a bloop single and fired it to the backstop. bobbled another ball and threw it toward the visiting dugout. watched a grounder approach him up the middle, then hesitated and let it scoot by him for a double.

These snapshots, unfolding over two innings of a 16-4 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday, represented merely some of the defensive miscues the Mets committed at Wrigley Field. All told, Mets fielders accounted for four errors, and they could have been charged with more if an official scorekeeping decision or two had come down differently.

If a trouble spot existed for the Mets heading into this season, it was defense. They’ve done nothing but highlight that worry in April, committing 11 errors in 13 games.

And, again, it could have been more.

Most of Wednesday’s trouble unfolded in the fourth inning, beginning with three consecutive one-out singles off David Peterson -- the last of them a sinking liner that dunked in front of Dominic Smith. The next batter hit a potential inning-ending double play ball to Davis, who simply booted it. That was the third error in two games for Davis, whose .429 average since returning from the injured list hasn’t masked the multiple runs he’s given back on defense.

“We’re all human,” Davis said earlier this week. “Even Gold Glovers sometimes don’t go errorless throughout the season.”

Two batters after Davis’ error, David Bote hit a bloop single to shallow right, where Conforto grabbed it and threw to no one in particular, adding fuel to what became a seven-run inning. More defensive miscues would follow, including a catcher’s interference and a single that Smith couldn’t corral, despite the ball’s 90% Statcast catch probability. In the fifth inning, a Matt Duffy single deflected off pitcher . In the sixth, reliever threw a wild pitch that veered behind Kris Bryant, ricocheted off the brick wall behind home plate and skittered nearly all the way up the third-base line.

That was far from the only out-of-control baseball in this one, as the Mets committed four-plus errors for the 135th time in their history (though they fell well short of the franchise-record seven they committed in a game in 1996). Duffy sympathized with the Mets, noting that the near-freezing conditions created an atmosphere in which “you can't feel your fingers, you can't feel the ball hit your glove.” While the Mets didn’t disagree with Duffy’s assessment, they didn’t harp on that aspect, either.

“It’s not good that we’re losing games -- let’s not get that mixed up -- but it’s great that it’s happening now because we’re continuing to learn, we’re continuing to know each other,” said Lindor, whose first homer as a Met became a footnote to the team’s defensive struggles. “I’d much rather this happen now, or in Spring Training, than it happen late in September when we’re fighting for a playoff spot, or when we’re in the playoffs -- God willing. So we learn from it, and we move on.”

These sorts of defensive issues are nothing new for the Mets, who have struggled in that area since last making the playoffs in 2016. Their year-by-year Defensive Runs Saved totals tell the story of a team costing itself hundreds of runs over the past four seasons:

2020: -22 DRS (26th in MLB)

2019: -86 DRS (28th in MLB)

2018: -69 DRS (27th in MLB)

2017: -78 DRS (30th in MLB)

Although the Mets made one significant defensive improvement over the offseason, replacing Wilson Ramos with McCann at catcher, they did not upgrade elsewhere. Lindor may be the finest overall shortstop the Mets have had since José Reyes in his prime, but he won’t necessarily provide better defensive production than Andrés Giménez did last summer. The Mets considered upgrading their outfield alignment, but passed on free agent George Springer, leaving them with three below-average defenders in Smith, Brandon Nimmo and Conforto. Pete Alonso, who was maligned for his defense as a prospect, has actually been one of the Mets’ more solid contributors in that area this season.

Alonso also provided half of the Mets’ offense Wednesday, clubbing a 429-foot homer out of Wrigley Field and onto Waveland Ave. It wasn’t nearly enough. By the time Javier Báez countered with a grand slam in the sixth, the game was largely out of reach because of New York’s defense.

“Everybody knows what happened out there,” manager Luis Rojas said. “Really bad inning, led to other bad innings as well.”

If the Mets are to make a change, the logical place would be at third, where Luis Guillorme and Jonathan Villar split time when Davis was on the IL. Earlier on Wednesday, Rojas gave Davis a vote of confidence, noting that “you only get better” by going through struggles like these. Rojas doubled down on his stance after the game, saying Davis “is going to be back there at third, and he’s going to be making plays for us.”

He could have been talking about any of the Mets, who must improve defensively -- and fast -- if they want to become the class of the National League.

“We turn the page because we have to in baseball,” Lindor said. “But we remember. And we make the adjustments and get better at it each day.”