Max Scherzer, Jeff McNeil among those most to blame for New York Mets’ failure in 2023

Don’t look now but the New York Mets have won six of their past eight games. Though nine games under .500, the Mets are somehow just seven games out of the third and final wild card in the National League.

But curb your enthusiasm. The Mets need to jump five teams in their final 37 games to land a wild card spot. And remember, they’re only one game out of last place in their division. Plus, their four-game winning streak ended with a 7-3 loss to the woeful St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. And next up is a three-game set against the Atlanta Braves, who’ve pummeled them all season.

So, we should spend less energy on studying the Mets’ playoff chances and focus on a favorite pastime in New York.

The Blame Game.

Let’s examine the main culprits for the Mets woeful 2023 season.

Related: Updated 2023 MLB power rankings

Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter play major roles in New York Mets’ struggles

new york mets buck showalter

With owner Steve Cohen’s blessing, Eppler built the most expensive team in MLB history. It featured an older, injury prone starting rotation and a bullpen filled with “optionable” relievers as opposed to good ones. Far too many position players were one dimensional and unathletic. And Eppler really needed to add another quality relief pitcher after Edwin Diaz tore his patellar tendon at the World Baseball Classic.

To the general manager’s credit, his offseason moves were largely successful. Kodai Senga (10-6, 3.19 ERA, 10.7 K/9) is the Mets’ best starter. Justin Verlander was injured to begin the season but was pitching at a high level when traded to the Houston Astros. Reliever David Robertson and outfielder Tommy Pham were two of New York’s best players before being dealt. Starter Jose Quintana (after missing half the season following rib surgery) and reliever Brooks Raley have been solid.

Showalter had no answers when the Mets hit their June freefall (7-16). The manager has stubbornly stuck with Daniel Vogelbach at DH. And most damning, the Mets have been sloppy defensively and prone to making boneheaded plays on each side of the ball.

Regression from David Peterson and Tylor Megill

new york mets struggles, david peterson

Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo each was atrocious when the Mets needed them the most as the season spiraled out of control in June. And each is far more important to the Mets than Peterson and Megill.

But Alonso does have 39 home runs and 94 RBI. Lindor has 75 RBI, a .798 OPS and played a solid shortstop. Nimmo’s average is way down, but he has hit an MLB career-high 18 home runs and his .365 OBP is solid.

Peterson and Megill, though, regressed in a major way that helped crush the Mets. Counted on to step in as sixth or seventh starters this season after pitching well for the 101-win Mets in 2022, each failed miserably. They landed back in the minor leagues after being called upon early in the season to fill in for Verlander, Quintana and Carlos Carrasco.

Peterson lost the feel for his slider. Megill lost speed on his fastball. And each has struggled to throw strikes, pitching from behind with soaring pitch counts that result in quick exits which taxed the beleaguered bullpen.

Related: 2023 MLB Playoff picture

Starling Marte’s struggles with the New York Mets

new york mets struggles

Marte was an All-Star and lineup catalyst his first season with New York in 2022. But he’s been a shell of himself this season. And his lack of production (13 extra-base hits, .625 OPS in 89 games) has been impossible for the Mets’ offense to overcome.

The veteran outfielder had offseason surgery on each of his groins, which might explain his on-field issues. He hasn’t been able to drive the ball and seems to be cheating on pitches, unable to catch up to the fastball. Marte has also been extremely vulnerable chasing breaking pitches out of the strike zone. It hasn’t been pretty and now he’s on the IL with a groin issue after recently being sidelined with migraines.

Jeff McNeil in the midst of a down season

MLB: New York Mets at Kansas City Royals

No one in the Mets’ lineup has had more giveaway at-bats this season than McNeil, an All-Star and National League batting champion a year ago. Weak contact and an inordinate amount of ground balls have been McNeil’s calling cards this season.

His production has improved the past two weeks, and McNeil is driving the ball again, hopefully a good sign for 2024. But the fact that he was recently 70 points below his league-leading .326 average from a year ago is damning evidence to how much McNeil helped sink the Mets this season.

Related: Max Scherzer and MLB’s highest-paid players of 2023

Max Scherzer struggled in ace role for the New York Mets

MLB: New York Mets at San Diego Padres

Scherzer was 9-4 in 19 starts before the Mets traded him to the Texas Rangers. But the three-time Cy Young Award winner was hardly the ace the Mets expected.

The 39-year-old had a 4.01 ERA and allowed a career-worst 1.9 home runs per nine innings (23 HR total). Scherzer surrendered five runs or more six times and three home runs or more three times. When the Mets needed him most with Verlander and Quintana out early in the season, Scherzer was suspended 10 games for sticky stuff found on his glove and then struggled upon his return.

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