Mets' first week has positives and concerns

Three reasons to be confident, and three things to worry about in the season's early days

April 5th, 2019

NEW YORK -- As with everything this time of year, the caveat is that it’s early. Very early. In some cases, what we’ve seen over the first week of the regular season will hold true into September. In many cases, it will not. Still, the Mets have given us a glimpse into their identity over a 5-2 start, so with that in mind, here are three reasons to be confident going forward … and three reasons for concern.

Three reasons for confidence

1. The lineup looks legitimate

This is not just another ode to Pete Alonso, though he’s been a significant factor. With Alonso looking like a National League Rookie of the Year candidate and raking, the Mets have demonstrated genuine improvement in their starting eight. and have also hit well, albeit not for much power. Within Mets circles, there is little doubt and will snap out of early slumps. Even without those two producing much, the Mets have averaged 5.29 runs per game -- eighth in the league entering their off-day Friday. For a team that ranked 19th in runs per game (4.35) over the previous two seasons, that’s a significant uptick.

2. The roster has multiple dimensions

In the past, the Mets attacked teams with home runs. These Mets are different. They have fewer homers (four) than wins (five) so far this season, due in part to a more situational approach. According to Statcast data, the Mets have more opposite-field hits and a higher percentage of opposite-field hits than every team but the Brewers. The Mets are also stealing bases at a slightly higher clip than last year and feature more athleticism up and down the roster. Manager Mickey Callaway has been aggressive with his double switches and defensive replacements, with and giving the Mets strong end-of-game options.

3. Let’s talk about starting pitching

is a stud. There’s little left to say about the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, who hasn’t allowed a run for 26 consecutive innings. Behind him, the Mets received a fine start Thursday from , who hit 100 mph on the radar gun and appears primed to settle in as a legitimate No. 2 starter. also quelled worries with a reasonably strong start in his first outing, giving the Mets confidence that his rough spring was an aberration. And while gave up four runs in five innings in his lone start so far, he also struck out seven and flashed plus-plus stuff all game. He should be just fine.

Three reasons for concern

1. Let’s talk about starting pitching

Wait, what? For as good as deGrom has been, and as much promise as the next three pitchers in the rotation have shown, some legitimate concern exists at the back end. only gave up two runs in his debut against the Marlins, but was hit hard all game. He’ll need to prove himself after posting a 5.77 ERA last season.

Behind him, the Mets feature almost no proven rotation depth. Hector Santiago was roughed up at the end of Spring Training, and walked three batters in five innings on Triple-A Opening Day. didn’t break camp with his Minor League teammates due to a shoulder injury. Kyle Dowdy went to the Rangers on a waiver claim. The bright spot is , who ended last year strong and added velocity this spring. But the Mets will need more than six starters over the course of the season, and don’t appear particularly inclined to invest in free agent Dallas Keuchel.

2. The bullpen is struggling

This might be the most concerning element of the Mets’ season to date. , and have all had issues, pressing closer into more work than the Mets would like. And while Diaz is 3-for-3 in save opportunities, he’s also been a little shaky at times himself. For these bullpen arms, there’s no rest for the weary. Four of the Mets’ seven relievers have appeared in more than half their games already.

3. The division is a problem

Mostly, NL East teams have beat up on each other so far, though they’ve also combined to go 5-2 outside of the division. As a result, the top four NL East teams are all sitting at .500 or better. It’s way too early to be scoreboard watching, but the Phillies, Braves and Nationals have shown no signs that they’ll make things easy on the Mets this summer. The Mets will need to continue taking care of business early, with 19 of their first 24 games coming against NL East opponents.