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Three Positive Notes From Mets’ Disappointing Opening Weekend

Since we had to wait so long for MLB’s regular season to actually start, it may feel weird to already be disappointed by or have an urge to complain about the New York Mets. Or, maybe we feel right at home.

Either way, manager Luis Rojas‘ club is three games into the 2020 campaign and they’ve come out the other side with a disappointing 1-2 record. It already feels like light-years ago that Yoenis Cespedes announced his return with authority by belting a go-head home run in the seventh inning on Opening Day.

Because we need some things to make us smile right now, here it is again:

After Friday’s 1-0 victory, it was hard to not smile about the Mets. Everything seemed to fall into place on Opening Day, which is unequivocally New York’s favorite day of every year. They were well on their way to a 2-0 start before Edwin Diaz gave up another homer and blew another save, and then the wheels fell off in Rick Porcello‘s team debut on Sunday night.

As New York heads to Boston to start a four-game home-and-home series with the Red Sox, I thought it was appropriate to point out three positive things to momentarily keep our spirits up.

Front End of Rotation Looks Great

Is it particularly shocking that Jacob deGrom got his season off to a customary no-decision while shutting out Atlanta over five innings with eight strikeouts? No, not at all. However, it was good to see him run out there and look like his typical, dominant self after having an injury scare about a week before Opening Day.

With Marcus Stroman on the shelf and working himself back from a calf tear, it’s more important than ever to keep New York’s two-time Cy Young winner healthy and tossing off the mound every five days. Even with getting pulled from that intrasquad game and getting an MRI, nothing looked off at all for deGrom.

As for Steven Matz, his performance was more eye opening. He twirled six strong innings, which included allowing one run on two hits (one homer), one walk, and seven strikeouts. Oh, and the velocity boost Rojas was pumped about? Turns out it was legit. Between 2015 and 2019, the hardest average fastball velocity Matz posted was 94.3 mph as a rookie. On Saturday, his average fastball velocity checked in at 94.9 mph, and there were a number of times where he was living in the 95-97 range. Could this be the start of a breakout season for the lefty? Let’s hope so.

The Offense Has Nowhere To Go But Up 

Let’s not beat around the bush here — New York struggled all weekend on offense, and we really didn’t give it much thought after Friday’s win because, well, the Mets won. Plus, it was only one game. But now, we’re three games into a 60-game sprint and those issues are still there.

It’s been nice to see Amed Rosario, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo get themselves going rather quickly. That’ll be even more important when Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso start getting balls to drop.

As our own Rich Sparago said, McNeil has dealt with some tough luck because he’s made some solid contact in a handful of plate appearances thus far, although he hasn’t exactly looked excellent in the batter’s box. Alonso has been the one who has struggled the most. I didn’t even realize this until Gary Cohen said it on Saturday, but he didn’t hit a homer at all during Grapefruit League action and nothing left the park off his bat during Summer Camp.

So, he hasn’t lifted a ball over an outfield wall in a game since his 53rd dinger last September. When he lined a single in his final at-bat Saturday evening, you could see a sense of relief come over his face when retreating back to first base. He’s struggling and could just use a little confidence boost. All it’ll take is connecting on one swing for him to shake everything off and go on with his business of dropping bombs at a rapid pace.

Drew Smith’s Velocity Looks Tasty

After making his MLB debut with the Mets in 2018, Drew Smith had to sit out all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. His return to the mound has consisted of just two-thirds of an inning, but it was encouraging nonetheless.

His average fastball velocity during his debut season with New York settled in at 96.3 mph. After one appearance in 2020, it was in the same ballpark (ha, get it?) with a mark of 95.3 mph. This is important because if the Mets hope to have one of baseball’s most effective bullpens like projections have said, it’ll be because of the hurlers who round out the relief corps.

Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, and Diaz will likely (read: hopefully) make up the vast majority of the bullpen production this year. But depending on what happens moving forward — from the perspective of health and/or production — the rest of Rojas’ relievers will be important in bridging the gap to them and also keeping their arms as fresh as possible.

This weekend didn’t at all go how the Mets were planning after Friday’s Opening Day victory. It wasn’t all negative, though. Let’s hope some of these silver linings lead to more consistent positive results in the immediate future. You know, like today in Boston.

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