Inbox: Postseason run in the cards for Mets?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans

August 26th, 2019

Apologies if you’ve heard this one before, but the Mets’ upcoming stretch -- 12 consecutive games against teams ahead of them in the National League Wild Card standings -- may be their most important of the season. As the Mets prepare for that run during a restful Monday off-day, let’s dig into another batch of Inbox questions:

How many wins is it going to take to win a Wild Card spot? And can the Mets get there?
-- @Jake-Schechtman via Twitter

That’s not an easy question to answer, though using history as a guide allows us to take an educated stab. Last year, 89 wins was the minimum required to clinch a National League Wild Card berth. The previous two years, it was 87. Right now, the Cubs are in control of the second NL Wild Card spot at an 86-win pace; given all that data, 87 is a decent guess at this year’s minimum to qualify for the postseason.

The question, then, shifts to what the Mets must to do win 87 games. Following their loss to the Braves on Sunday, they are 67-63. They’ll need to go 20-10 the rest of the way, which is not an unreasonable goal considering they recently ripped off 20 wins in 25 games. More pertinent, the Mets’ next 12 are all against teams they’re chasing: the Cubs, Phillies and Braves. If they can win eight or more of those, their playoff odds will go through the roof.

Realistically, does Jacob deGrom have a shot at winning another NL Cy Young Award this year?
-- @Vgiacalone11 via Twitter

Is he the favorite? Not at this point. Does he have a shot? Absolutely, and a pretty decent one. Looking at some key Cy Young Award indicators, deGrom is the only pitcher to rank the top six in the NL in ERA, FIP, innings, strikeouts, fWAR, bWAR, WHIP and ERA+. He’s also arguably the league’s hottest starting pitcher, with a 1.04 ERA since the All-Star break.

deGrom’s problems are twofold: One, despite a recent hiccup, Hyun-Jin Ryu continues to lead the league in ERA by such a wide margin that he will garner serious consideration even among voters who ignore his strong win-loss record. Two, Max Scherzer rates higher than deGrom in half of the aforementioned statistical categories, including ERA.

At this point, the race is close enough that it wouldn’t be surprising to see any one of deGrom, Ryu or Scherzer win it, pending September results. Mike Soroka, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke could all still make a push as well. If deGrom can pull off a repeat, he’d become the first Met to win a major Baseball Writers' Association of America award in consecutive years.

Where should bat in the lineup when he comes back, and how much playing time should he get right off the bat?
-- @mojohill22 via Twitter

Isn’t it funny how quickly things change? For most of this decade, the Mets struggled to find an obvious leadoff hitter. When Nimmo returns from his months-long stay on the injured list, they’ll have three: Nimmo, and , all of whom have thrived in the role at various points the past two seasons.

For as long as Rosario stays hot at the plate, I suspect Mets manager Mickey Callaway will continue batting him first -- not only has he earned that assignment, but it would allow the Mets to string together a potent top four of Rosario, McNeil, and . Nimmo would make sense to slot in between right-handers and , batting sixth as he reacclimates to big league pitching.

As for how much playing time he deserves, that depends on how much rest Nimmo and his balky neck will require down the stretch. If he is capable of playing every day, Nimmo figures to be one of the Mets’ top three outfield options alongside Conforto and Davis. (McNeil makes more sense as an infielder for now, for reasons outlined below.)

Why play , who hits into double plays too often? Why not leave at second base and put McNeil at third base?
-- @nyc2dcdon via Twitter

Because of Frazier’s track record and power potential. But the roster is about to grow more crowded. Once Nimmo returns, the Mets will need to play McNeil mostly at second and third if they want to give Conforto, Davis and Nimmo -- three of their best hitters on paper -- regular playing time. That should cut into the reps of both Frazier and Panik, and once joins the active roster, things will crowd even further.

That, of course, assumes continued health elsewhere on the roster. But with multiple injured Mets close to returning, Frazier’s playing time seems likely to dwindle in the coming weeks.

Any September callups that can help the bullpen or bench?
-- @JuanBago via Twitter

The Mets’ most significant offseason additions are likely to be those coming off the injured list: definitely Nimmo, probably Lowrie, maybe even or . Each of those players can fill a need for the Mets.

Beyond those four, the Mets are probably looking at only basic additions: a third catcher and a few extra relievers, most if not all of whom have been here before. The Mets are going to win or lose largely with the personnel already in Flushing.

Davis is playing extremely well, and does not deserve a platoon. So what might the Mets do with Smith in 2020?
-- @NebTheSportsGuy via Twitter

I still see a trade as the long-term outcome for Smith, given that he’s blocked at first base by Alonso and doesn’t seem to fit snugly anywhere else on the roster. He’s valuable to the Mets as a left-handed bat of the bench, to be sure, but also deserves a crack at a full-time role. At this point, a trade may be the best thing for Smith’s career.

Will eventually become the full-time closer?
-- @MartinIsacio via Twitter

Doubtful. The Mets value Lugo’s ability to pitch multiple innings too greatly, and don’t want to pigeonhole him into the ninth if they don’t have to. That, combined with the fact that the Mets have been relatively careful with Lugo’s usage since he partially tore the UCL in his right elbow several years ago, means he’s likely to stay in his current role long-term, saving games only on occasion.

What exactly is the role of David Wright?
-- @LukasPendi via Twitter

Since becoming a special advisor to general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, Wright has spent time around the team at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, at Spring Training in Florida and at regular-season series in San Diego, Los Angeles and New York. He’s offered Van Wagenen insight on everything from scouting reports to contract structures. It’s not full-time work, but the Mets consider it valuable.

Outside of that, Wright fills his time raising his two young daughters in Los Angeles.