The unexpected favorites

The unexpected favorites

The Mets overcome the Yankees as New York’s team

By Henry Schweber ‘19
Contributing Writer

For the past eight years, if you were to tell anyone that you were a Mets fan, the automatic response would be, “I’m sorry.” That’s unless you were speaking to a Yankee fan, who would gloat in your face and bring up the fact that they had 27 rings or something. Well, no need to apologize anymore. The Mets are currently 83-61, in sole possession of first place in the NL East and 9.5 games ahead of the Nationals, who many predicted to make a World Series run before the season began. Even Terry Collins, the manager for the Mets said, “this [season] is far and above what we expected.”

So, what led us here? The success of this young pitching staff was to be expected, however many questioned how long it would take for these guys to develop. It turns out it was quicker than nearly everyone thought. It all starts with the ace of the staff, Matt Harvey. Coming off a lost season to Tommy John surgery, Harvey was expected to be held to an inning cap of 180, which has caused some turmoil. He has currently pitched 171 2/3 innings, so abiding by this limit would effectively probit him from pitching in the postseason. The Mets’ general manager, Sandy Alderson, claims that he heard different reports by their team doctors.

No matter how this situation unfolds, however, the Mets still have a plethora of quality options behind their ace, giving fans optimism for the first time since 2006. Reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Jacob deGrom, has been masterful, compiling a microscopic 2.40 ERA while striking out 185 batters. Rookie Noah Syndergaard has been razor sharp as well, maintaining a 3.20 ERA while striking out 137 batters in only 129 innings. Even Bartolo Colón, a 42-year-old journeyman, has been effective, amassing a 14-11 record while chewing up some valuable innings.

Where the real surprises can be found, however, is in their lineup. Ranking a mere 22nd in runs scored last year, the Mets have substantially improved on that regard, increasing their ranking to 13th this year. That is in large part due to their trade deadline acquisition of outfielder Yoenis Céspedes. In 41 games with the Mets, Céspedes has accumulated 17 home runs and 42 RBIs, all while maintaining a pristine .308 batting average. Another key cog in the lineup is Curtis Granderson, a 2014 free agent acquisition who has rebounded nicely with 23 homers after a disastrous campaign last year.

While it may seem premature to declare that the Mets are destined for postseason excellence, this is the most talent they’ve had since that 2006 team that lost in the NLCS. Even then they were extremely close to obtaining a World Series bid. The parallels drawn between the 2013 Pirates and the current Mets bode well for future success. After years of mediocrity, the Pirates finally realized their potential with a strong pitching staff, led by rookie Gerrit Cole and veteran aces Francisco Liriano and A.J Burnett, and key offensive production of Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen. If the Mets pitching remains strong, and they can get continuous production from the key bats in their lineup, then the Mets can go far this postseason.

How far they go is circumstantial. The competition in the National League is fairly shallow, with the Cardinals as the favorite. As it currently stands, the Mets would be facing a Dodgers team with a high payroll and even higher expectations. With two Cy Young quality arms in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, they were expected to dominate. However, injuries and ineffectiveness from normally high producing hitters, like Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson, have dampened their postseason outlook. Their bullpen is arguably the worst in the MLB, with an average 3.99 ERA, and the Mets look ready to capitalize, as their bats are heating up at exactly the right time. If the Mets beat the Dodgers in this series, then they would advance to the NLCS, a very realistic possibility.

Assuming the Mets take care of business in the first round, they would have their work cut out for them, facing either the Cubs, Pirates or Cardinals. All three of these NL Central teams sport some great front line pitching and good young hitters. Out of these teams, the Mets can only hope that they don’t have to face the Cardinals. A perennial World Series contender, the Cardinals have the look of a dominant team. Stacked with a plethora of good hitters and a reliable bullpen, it would take some magic to advance past them. With how the Mets season has shaped out so far, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.