The 2015 New York Mets season has been one to remember. The season started off strong with an eleven-game winning streak that launched them into first place in all of Major League Baseball.
Since then they have been as mediocre as the rest of the National League East, but that still has them sitting at second place at 47-42 at the All-Star break. Maybe the best question is how this team got to this point this season. Between injuries and lackluster hitting, the Mets are still miraculously at a point where they can contend in the second half thanks to their young core and dominant rotation.
In what has been a year filled with the rapid call up of the top prospects to the Major Leagues, the Mets have been no exception. Four of the Mets’ top prospects including pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz as well as Kevin Plawecki and Dilson Herrera have received the call up from Triple-A Las Vegas. Since being called up on May 10th, Syndergaard has been one of the most exciting pitchers in baseball and a potential future all-star. Matz on the other hand has only two starts so far but still has tons of potential and was even considered by some to be the best young pitcher in the organization. Unfortunately, he was just shut down with a torn lat muscle.
As seen in the table above, both Syndergaard and Matz have been really good as rookies (Matz is a very small sample size though with two starts). Syndergaard, if his stats qualified, would be 10th in the league for starting pitchers in K/9 and xFIP. And even currently, he’s second among all Mets starters in WAR this season (to none other than Jacob DeGrom) in a rotation that includes Matt Harvey and Bartolo Colon. He might be 4-4, but the way he has pitched makes it obvious why wins and losses don’t matter as stats for pitchers.
Plawecki on the other hand has also been a good replacement since Travis d’Arnaud has gone down, especially in regards to pitch framing. He is currently 10th in MLB with 30.4 extra strikes (pitches outside of the strike zone called strikes minus pitches in the strike zone called balls) which is also good enough for 10th at 4.5 additional runs saved. This is even better considering he has had fewer opportunities than those above him due to limited playing time. Unfortunately, his offense has been below average, but that is not surprising considering the rest of the team is at a similar place in their offensive struggles.
Herrera has unfortunately dealt with the injury bug as well which has limited his opportunities. But he still has been extremely promising considering he is only 21 years old, and was acquired by the Mets for Marlon Byrd and John Buck back in 2013. He is expected to be starting at second base in 2016, pending any team moves.
The Injury Bug
The bug has struck the Mets as it does every year, but this year has been particularly hard. According to mangameslost.com which keeps track of days players have been on the DL, the Mets are only second in Major League Baseball to the Texas Rangers with 988 games lost. The Mets only had one major loss due to Tommy John surgery which is why they have been able to stay close in the playoff race, but still they have a history of not disclosing injuries correctly.
As seen in the chart above posted on Twitter by Jared Diamond, the Mets have not been clear about most of their injuries with the media. Ranging from Wheeler’s supposed minor injury resulting in Tommy John surgery four days later, to David Wright’s minor hamstring issue that ultimately ended up being spinal stenosis (a potentially career hampering diagnosis), which still has not seen Wright back doing baseball activities in three months. These injuries have continued to bite the Mets throughout the season and have prevented them from being able to win more games and be in first place in the NL East. However, I don’t think most Mets fans mind being two games out of first in the division and one out of the Wild Card at the All Star break. However, without the injuries the Mets have faced, it is easy to see how they could be at least a few games in front of the Nationals.
It would be naïve to ignore the problems that the Mets have suffered on offense as those are just as much as reasons for their struggles as blaming injuries. The Mets are in the bottom third of the league in terms of all major offensive statistics. Ranging from OBP where they rank 26th, to Slugging Percentage and OPS, where they rank 28th in the league, the Mets have struggled on offense in all terms. There is potential that some of it can be contributed to poor luck as they are second to last in all of baseball at BABIP, but it is incredible with their poor offense that they are in second place in the NL East and within reach of the second wild card spot. And with these stats it is no surprise they are 3rd to last in all of Major League Baseball in terms of Runs Scored and weighted Runs Created Plus, with only the Philadelphia Phillies (worst record in all of Major League Baseball) and the Chicago White Sox (last in American League).
Despite a complete lack of offense the Mets have stayed competitive with their pitchers. With a rotation led by Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard; the Mets pitching has been positively dominant this season. Going into the season the pitching was expected to perform well but I don’t believe anyone had any idea how great it would be. The main reason behind this is that opponents have not been able to get on base. The sheer dominance of their pitchers is on display between their ability to strike out hitters and the lack of hitters reaching through walks. The Mets are also in the top 7 in the league in both xFIP and SIERA. It is not surprise that with how well their team has pitched that they are right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
2nd Half Outlook:
The Mets have set themselves up nicely for a potential spot in at least the National League Wild Card game. It is highly unlikely that they will win division with the Nationals having a 72% chance to win it, but at almost a 40% chance to make the playoffs, the Mets’ odds may be good enough to allow them to win a Wild Card spot to make the one-game playoff. With their strong rotation, players returning from injury/suspension and only potential upside for their lineup; there will be a playoff atmosphere at Citi Field come September. Unfortunately, with a negative run differential things are not necessarily promising.
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