Mets showing some early positives in wild start to season

4 weeks ago

At least the Mets managed to play three straight games without interruption this week, before another rainout Thursday ended the streak.

Eight games played, six postponed or suspended — it’s April baseball in a pandemic. With snow in the weekend forecast at the Mets’ next stop, Colorado, a few observations from the eight games manager Luis Rojas’ crew has managed to play.

Brandon Nimmo may have finally arrived

Nimmo has been around long enough — his Mets debut occurred in 2016 — that it’s easy to overlook he’s really only played one complete season in the major leagues. That came in 2018, when he slashed .263/.404/.483 in 140 games. Injuries kept him sidelined for most of the following season and then came pandemic-shortened 2020.

Now 28 years old, Nimmo can hardly be classified as a kid, but perhaps the Mets are finally witnessing his untapped upside. It starts with a .583 on-base percentage that is leading the major leagues and solid contact at the plate.

Let’s not get too gushy over eight games, but Nimmo’s early success has settled the debate for now whether Nimmo or Jeff McNeil belongs in the leadoff spot. It’s possible McNeil will eventually rise to claim that position, but Nimmo’s ability to see pitches and get on base leaves him as the better option.

The Mets are getting length from their starting pitchers

Marcus Stroman and David Peterson each gave the Mets six innings against the Phillies this week, after Jacob deGrom went eight against the Marlins on Saturday. Though Taijuan Walker was removed after 4 ¹/₃ frames in Tuesday’s doubleheader, the fact the game went just eight innings (seven per the doubleheader rule and one extra inning) created less stress on the bullpen.

Robert Gsellman still hasn’t appeared in a game and Jacob Barnes has pitched only once — a result also of the postponements and off days that have kept everybody in the bullpen fresh.

Brandon Nimmo and Marcus Stroman
Brandon Nimmo and Marcus Stroman
Getty Images; N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

“I think [the starters] have been consistent, they have kept good pitch counts, and it’s gone to the point where some of our relievers haven’t thrown yet, with the good outings our starters are having,” Rojas said. “It has kept us in games, and that is something we would love to see throughout the season, something we didn’t have last year. We overused our bullpen because of that.”

Just maybe the Mets have a real bench

J.D. Davis went on the injured list after the Mets’ second game, and his absence has hardly been noticed. That’s a credit to Luis Guillorme and Jonathan Villar, who have provided solid defense at third base and important hits.

Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora Jr. haven’t been as noticeable yet, but the résumés of both veteran outfielders make it easier for Rojas to double-switch late in games.

Homers aren’t necessary

You would expect this lineup — led by Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, Dominic Smith and Michael Conforto — to produce plenty of homers before this season is complete. But the Mets have hit just five through their first eight games, led by Smith with two. Maybe the ball will start jumping for the Mets this weekend a mile above sea level at Coors Field in Denver, though the anticipated cold weather could negate a potential explosion.

Mets batters are wearing bull’s-eyes (again)

Conforto still isn’t hitting, but he is getting hit — he was drilled four times in the first eight games, including his controversial elbow-guard clipping that forced in the winning run against the Marlins in the home opener. Overall, the Mets have been plunked nine times, which is tied for second in the major leagues. The Mets led the major leagues in getting hit by pitches in 2019 and were second in that category last year.

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