The New York Mets have had an inconsistent start to the 2021 Major League Baseball season, struggling with their lineup inconsistency and star shortstop Francisco Lindor's slump. With a middling record heading into a divisional showdown against the Atlanta Braves, the Mets need to make a playoff push if they want to justify their high payroll and make up ground on the first-place Braves in the NL East race.
Through their first 60 games, the Mets have submitted disappointing offensive numbers, scoring 0.8 runs per game less than last season while the average team is scoring 0.3 runs more. The team essentially brought back the same group of players as last season, but they still strike out relatively rarely, walk frequently, and hit home runs less often than other contenders.
Lindor, who signed a $341 million contract with the team, has been averaging only .688 OPS through 60 games, which is the 26th best among the 48 shortstops who have played at least 50 times. Although Lindor has been playing every game, his offense has been average, with eight strikeouts in his recent homestand. However, his solid glove makes him valuable to the team. Manager Buck Showalter has mentioned Jeff McNeil, Eduardo Escobar, and Mark Canha as potential replacements for Lindor.
The Mets are currently .500 with a negative-12 run differential, but sit just two games away from a playoff spot thanks to their position in the National League, which is allowing the average to contend. However, to make a playoff push, they need to face four winning teams in their next five opponents, starting with the first-place Braves, to determine if they are capable of improving their record.
The New York Mets, along with the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres, have invested around $1.1 billion in payroll, including luxury-tax penalties, with the expectation of making the playoffs or having a shot at the World Series. However, as of now, none of these clubs seem to merit a wild-card spot. The Padres are fourth in NL West with a 28-32 record and are tied for sixth in the wild card, seven games back. The Padres' issue is clutch hitting as they rank last in the majors with a .198 average and .624 OPS with runners in scoring position. In addition, the Padres have had injuries and unclutch plays, and the sequencing may be the club's enemy this year.
In conclusion, the New York Mets need to overcome their inconsistency and make a playoff push if they want to justify their high payroll and compete for a World Series title. They need to improve their offensive numbers and find a way to get Francisco Lindor out of his slump. The upcoming games against winning teams will be a true test of their capabilities.