It has been anything but smooth sailing for the New York Mets in 2015, but with one third of the season remaining the Amazin’s sit in first place in the NL East with one of the easiest schedules ahead of them. Can the Mets silence the critics and make it to the postseason for the first time since 2006? Here’s a look at what’s in their favor and potential stumbling blocks to playing October baseball.
Reasons for optimism
The Mets are currently in control of their own destiny. New York has a two-game lead in the loss column over Washington after winning seven straight and eight of its last 10 games. Baseball Prospectus gives the club a 73% chance of making the postseason and a 70% chance of winning the division based on its computer models, while Fangraphs is far more skeptical at 59% to make the playoffs and 51% to win the NL East.
Topping the list of the club’s strengths is its potent starting rotation led by Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard. If you need to keep a run going or stop a losing streak, any of the three options will do. Steven Matz, another rising star, is expected to return from injury in September and fortify the rotation even more. Despite some minor struggles from Jeurys Familia of late, the bullpen remains solid and benefits from trade deadline pickups Tyler Clippard and Sean O’Flaherty.
But we knew the Mets could pitch. Despite the season-long struggle to score runs, the additions of Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Uribe appear to have energized the offense overnight. Even if the production during the current hot streak is not sustainable, the Mets should be able to score enough to win ballgames moving forward. New York also has a very favorable schedule ahead for the final third of the season.
Of the 53 games remaining, the Mets will play 10 against Philadelphia (43-67), seven against Atlanta (50-60), six against Miami (43-67), six against Colorado (46-61), four against Cincinnati (48-59), and three against Boston (49-61). That’s two thirds of the remaining schedule against the worst teams in baseball, and each of these clubs has gotten worse following fire sales at the trade deadline.
Reasons for pessimism
The old adage that you’re never as good as your hottest streak or as bad as coldest run seems especially apt for the Mets with the team on a terrific run and the Nationals having lost six of eight. These runs tend to cancel out soon enough, and the Mets’ two-game advantage shouldn’t could disappear over a bad weekend. Should Washington retake the lead in the division, the Mets will have to beat out the Cubs (60-48) and the Giants, with whom they share a 59-50 record, for the second Wild Card spot. (Pittsburgh, at 63-44, has control of the first Wild Card.)
In other words, two games separate the Mets from a very iffy path to the postseason. Of the remaining 17 games against teams with winning records, the Amazin’s play the Nats six times, so the chance to take control of the division is there. For its part, Washington’s schedule is alarmingly easy down the stretch. Besides 10 games against Miami, the Nats will play seven against Atlanta, six against Philadelphia, five against Colorado, three against Milwaukee, and three against San Diego. FanGraphs gives the Nats an almost equal chance of winning the division (49%) as New York.
In fact, the only viable path to the postseason for the Mets and Nationals is winning the NL East. The competition for the two Wild Cards should give both clubs pause even with over 50 games left to play. It will not be the Mets and Nats squaring off against one another for the chance to play in October, either; it will be the two teams playing lackluster clubs who have written off the 2015 season.
Whichever one can take advantage of the opportunity will advance. Otherwise, the chances of playing October baseball are slim. FanGraphs gives the Mets (8%) and Nationals (9%) barely a shred of credibility for a Wild Card spot.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference (current as of August 6).