Edwin Diaz’s dedication to the Baltimore Orioles?

One of the most concerning aspects of the New York Mets’ mediocre start to 2024 is that several of their veterans have contributed to their inconsistent play. These are players signed for at least a couple more seasons after this one, so let’s examine how much the Mets need to worry about the long-term performance of some of their purported core pieces.

Velocity issues for Edwin Díaz

On Monday, I broke down a few of the reasons Díaz has struggled so much early this season, with a special emphasis on the number of sliders he’s left in the middle of the plate. I expect Díaz to command both his fastball and slider better as the season goes on and he continues his recovery from last season’s knee injury, and his results should be better.

However, as some in the comments pointed out, it would not be a surprise if Díaz’s velocity did not return to its prior standard. That velo is down two ticks this season from where it was in 2022, and Díaz has a few things going against him here.

First, other pitchers who have undergone the same surgery as Díaz labored to regain their velo. Garrett Richards tore his patellar tendon in 2014 when he averaged 97.1 mph on his fastball. When he returned the next season, that average was 96.1, and it never returned to where it had been. Matt Strahm endured that injury in 2017 and went from averaging 94.0 to 93.8 the following season and 91.6 in 2019 when he bounced between the rotation and the bullpen. Strahm did get back to 94 mph, but five years later and, ironically, after tearing the tendon in his other knee.

Second, this is Díaz’s first time pitching with the pitch clock, and that did influence the velo for some Mets hurlers last season.

Third, Díaz was 28 in 2022 and he’s 30 now. It’s not uncommon for a 30-year-old to start experiencing a dip in fastball velocity.

Díaz can still be successful if he’s throwing 97 and not 99; his velo during his also dominant 2018 season was closer to where it is now than to what it was in ’22. But he needs to be confident in his ability to live in the zone with his fastball at that velo.

Francisco Lindor needs better starts

Here’s what Lindor’s slash line has looked like on May 20 in each of his years as a Met:

So this is one reason why I’m not particularly concerned about Lindor’s offense in the long term. He’s been here before and played better from this point forward.

That doesn’t mean Lindor’s present struggles don’t hurt the Mets in a bigger-picture way. His poor start was costly to the team’s competitiveness early last season and is threatening to do the same this year.

(One comment from last season that stuck out to me came from Adam Ottavino: “You don’t always have the full 162 for it to even out. You only have maybe 100 before you have to make some decisions.”)

President of baseball operations David Stearns said last week that he still believes he’ll look up at the end of the season and Lindor will have had “a Francisco Lindor-type year.” But how a player arrives at those numbers matters, and an August or September hot streak after a trade deadline sell-off won’t do much for the Mets. They need Lindor to start hitting soon.

Is 2022 the aberration for Jeff McNeil?

When the Mets signed Jeff McNeil to a four-year contract extension ahead of the 2023 season, they could look at his body of work and reasonably believe his down 2021 season was, for whatever reason, an anomaly. McNeil had otherwise looked virtually slump-proof, his adept contact skills leaving him less susceptible to the ups and downs his teammates so often endured.

After all, look at McNeil’s WAR (according to FanGraphs and extrapolated in both 2018 and 2020 to a full 162-game season) at the time of his extension:

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