The Mets open the second half on Friday at Citi Field with a 15 percent chance of making the postseason, according to Fangraphs.
They’re projected to finish the season at .500, which would leave them out of the postseason.
It would be a result that was hard to predict following an offseason that saw them add Justin Verlander to the top of the starting rotation, where he joined Max Scherzer.
But as Verlander said during his introductory press conference in Queens in December, “The longer I play the game, I’ve realized you can’t take anything for granted. We had some incredible teams in Houston that weren’t able to get it done.”
If Verlander doesn’t want to add the 2023 Mets to that list, it will largely be up to him and Scherzer improving on lackluster — or worse — first halves.
Verlander will get the first opportunity, starting against the Dodgers on Friday at Citi Field, with Scherzer going on Sunday.
Kodai Senga, the Mets’ lone pitcher to get to the All-Star Game, will start Saturday, between the two veteran right-handers that have so far disappointed and failed to live up to their salaries of $43.3 million apiece.
While neither former Cy Young winner has met expectations this season, Scherzer has been the bigger disappointment.
Scherzer, who turns 39 this month, has finished a season with a higher ERA than his current 4.31 just once in his career — and that was back in 2011.
His slider, typically an effective pitch, has been getting torched so far this season, and he was forced to serve a 10-game ban for violating MLB’s ban on sticky substances, although Scherzer insisted all he used was “sweat and rosin.”
Though Scherzer has shown flashes of his old self — like when he strung together three straight promising starts to drop his ERA from 4.45 to 3.87 — he has slipped back into ineffectiveness, as he did with back-to-back clunkers to finish the first half, giving up nine runs in 11 innings.
Scherzer is also giving up homers at more than twice the rate he did just a year ago — 18 in the first half after 13 in all of 2022.
His strikeouts have also dipped, while his walks have gone up.
All of it leaves Scherzer with a 0.9 WAR, according to Fangraphs, which is the same as ex-Met Steven Matz, who is 0-7 with a 4.65 ERA in St. Louis.
The numbers aren’t as rough for Verlander, 40, but they are nowhere near where they were during his Cy Young award-winning season with Houston in 2022.
After missing the first month of the season with an injury near his shoulder blade, hitters are batting .243 against Verlander, the highest he’s allowed in nearly a decade — with an OPS of .685, a number topped just once since that same 2014 season.
Verlander’s strikeout rate is also down dramatically.
While it’s been the slider that’s been the primary issue for Scherzer, Verlander’s four-seam fastball and curveball have been significantly less effective in 2023.
Verlander’s four-seamer has been the most ineffective it’s been in the Statcast era, despite no dramatic drop in velocity.
He did show some encouraging signs prior to the break, as Verlander’s last three outings were solid, as well as four of his last five, dropping his ERA from 4.85 to 3.60.
That’s not exactly what the Mets had in mind when they brought him in, but it could be an indication that better days are ahead.
One NL scout believes that may be the case, regardless of what the numbers say.
“I just don’t see them both having seasons where they don’t figure it out,’’ the scout said. “They’ve both been too good for too long. But, look, nothing lasts forever.”
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