August 7, 2020

Monday Mets: Wild Card Conforto Key To Wild Card Dreams

While the Mets chances of playing beyond this week are unlikely, there’s actually still a chance. In order to do that, however, they’re going to need the streaky Michael Conforto to get into one more groove.

At this point in the season, we know who these players are: We know that Pete Alonso is the slugger the Mets have never really had before, we know that Jacob deGrom is one of the most dependable starting pitchers the Mets have had in years, and we know that Jeff McNeil is the feisty top of the lineup guy who can rake. Similarly, that some of the hitters are not consistently reliable, some of the starting pitchers can be impressive one game and depressing the next, and we know that managing this bullpen is much like trying to close an overstuffed suitcase before it explodes. In other words, players have highs and lows throughout the season, but the range is usually pretty apparent pretty quickly.

And then there’s Michael Conforto. When Conforto was brought up in 2015, he made a splash pretty quickly. With 9 home runs in his first 174 at-bats, and a couple more in the postseason, Conforto indicated that there would be a good amount of four-baggers in his future. HIs 2016 experience was not so promising. After a hot start, his performance took a steep nosedive, and by late June he was back in the minors. He did make it back up to the big club a few weeks later, but his season never really took off.

The following season was a major improvement though, including 27 home runs and a .939 OPS, however it was cut short by a a freakish injury (or in Mets world, an injury) to his shoulder. Last year, nobody knew what to expect from Conforto, and while he didn’t improve upon his previous season, he did hit 28 home runs and showed enough to allay fears that his shoulder injury would end his career.

This year has featured some more improvements, including career highs in home runs (31, so far), doubles (27, so far) and RBI’s (87, so far). At the same time, Conforto’s season has also revealed his streaky tendencies. More importantly, perhaps, his performance in September has revealed shortcomings when his team needs him most. In 19 September games, Conforto is batting .174, with a .288 OBP, .348 Slugging, a .635 OPS, 3 home runs and 7 RBI’s. In other words, when they’ve needed him most, his kind of disappeared.

Now, to be fair, one disappointing September should not doom a career. While Conforto is at the point in his career when he starts to transition from youngster to veteran, he will hopefully have plenty of Septembers to improve upon this trend.

More importantly, or at least more immediately, if the Mets want to keep their slim postseason hopes alive, they’re going to need to be able to count on Conforto. The Mets can’t control what the Brewers do, so this may all be for naught. But at the very least, for any shot of becoming a wild card team, the Mets are going to their own wild card to come through.