Mets persevere through injury-plagued 2016

Yo, Thor dominate as Loney, Reyes, Gsellman, Lugo step up to fill gaps

October 10th, 2016

NEW YORK -- The Mets were not posturing when, in the aftermath of their National League Wild Card Game defeat, they said they considered this a successful season. A win-or-go-home loss to the Giants may not have been what the Mets had in mind when they set about their NL pennant defense in April. But considering everything that befell them this summer, it was a testament to all they achieved.

Playing long stretches of the summer without three-quarters of their starting infield and three-fifths of their rotation, the Mets recovered from enough injuries to host the Wild Card Game at Citi Field. That they ran into 's buzzsaw there obscured the fact that, in many ways, the Mets were fortunate simply to have reached the point they did.

Injuries may have been the theme of the Mets' 2016 season, but the team's ability to overcome them was the takeaway, giving them optimism heading into winter.

Center field, second base in limbo for Mets in 2017

With that in mind, here is a look back at the summer in Flushing:

Record: 87-75, second place, National League East.

Defining moment: On the morning of Aug. 20, the Mets were 60-62. They sat in fifth place in the NL Wild Card standings, 5 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, with their manager on the hot seat and more than a half-dozen of their best players injured. But hit two home runs that afternoon in San Francisco and another the following night, leading the Mets to the first of three consecutive victories. They wound up constructing the Majors' best record from that day forward, passing all four teams they trailed en route to hosting the Wild Card Game at Citi Field.

What went right: The Mets shot out to a hot start in April, thanks in large part to second baseman 's nine home runs that month. Then, when injuries and production issues struck, they were proactive in acquiring replacements: at first base, at third and, eventually, in the outfield. All three of those players experienced various degrees of success, helping the Mets hit a franchise-record 218 homers.

The Mets' bullpen also ranked among the game's best from Opening Day through the end of the season. converted a franchise-record 51 saves, the most ever by a Dominican-born pitcher. developed into one of the game's top setup men and , an August waiver-trade acquisition, was solid down the stretch.

Once the Mets reached that point, they took advantage of a soft schedule, beating up on the Braves, Phillies, Reds, Twins and others. They clinched a playoff berth with one day left in the regular season.


What went wrong: Injuries, and a lot of them. With so much focus on his ability to play through spinal stenosis, it was neck surgery that claimed third baseman in June. He went down around the same time as first baseman , who lost four months to a lower-back stress fracture. And Walker suffered a season-ending back injury that knocked him out for all of September. With those three gone, the Mets were forced to play a significant number of games without three-quarters of their Opening Day infield.

Medical issues proved just as damaging to the rotation. The Mets lost to thoracic outlet syndrome in July, to elbow and shoulder injuries in August and to an ulnar nerve issue in September. All three underwent season-ending surgery. For most of the summer, the Mets thought would help them upon his return from Tommy John surgery, but he suffered multiple setbacks and never pitched a single inning.

The Mets also spent long swaths of the summer ranking among baseball's worst offensive teams. But a healthy Cespedes and allowed them to improve mightily in that regard in August and September.

Biggest surprise: Rookies and not only saved the Mets' injury-riddled rotation, but they also came out of nowhere to do it. Gsellman was a 13th-round Draft pick who posted a 5.73 ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas before coming to the Mets. Lugo was a 34th-round pick whose ERA hovered at 6.50 in Vegas. Combined, they went 8-3 with a 2.66 ERA in the Mets' rotation, filling in for Harvey and Matz.

Hitter of the Year: Cespedes, both for his overall numbers and his propensity for shining in the biggest spots. After returning to the Mets on a three-year, $75-million deal, Cespedes led them in most major offensive categories, including home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage and slugging. But the Mets now risk losing Cespedes, who can opt out of the final two years of his contract this winter.

Pitcher of the Year: No one deserves this accolade more than , who finished his first full big league season third in the Majors with a 2.60 ERA and fourth in the NL with 218 strikeouts. A fringe Cy Young Award candidate, Syndergaard made 30 starts for the Mets, more than anyone not named Colon. He remains a critical piece of the franchise's core.

Rookie of the Year: With a nod to , whose exemplary contributions were limited to September, Matz was the Mets' most prolific rookie. Had injuries not interfered, Matz might have made a serious run at the NL Rookie of the Year Award so many predicted for him before the season. He wound up finishing 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA in 22 starts -- strong numbers, but not nearly enough to compete with the Corey Seagers of the world.