When I started thinking about what to write about today, the first thing that came to mind was doing something about the Cubs, given how they clinched the NL Central yesterday thanks to a Giants victory over the Cardinals. Then again, the way in which they clinched was about as exciting as watching butter melt in a cold room and the last thing you need right now is another article about how amazing the Cubs are. We already know the Cubs are the full package, a team with no obvious flaws, and anything less than a World Series victory is going to be a let down at this point. Instead, I want to look at one of the contending teams who we haven’t checked in on a while and who was looking like they might be an afterthought for a while, the Mets.
While the Nationals haven’t clinched yet, the 10-game lead they currently hold over the Mets with no head-to-head games remaining means the Mets are playing for the Wild Card. While the AL is the wild west when it comes to the Wild Card spots and we can (and should) all cheer for Team Entropy, the situation in the NL is a bit less exciting. The Mets, Giants and Cardinals are all fighting for it and then we get to the Marlins and Pirates. Most likely, we’re going to see one of the Mets, Cardinals and Giants playing an elimination game. What’s surprising is that the Mets are even in this situation at all, much less that they might have the best chances of all three of those teams.
Over the offseason, we ranked the Mets pretty high up amongst their MLB brethren and generally liked the moves they made, especially loving the Yoenis Cespedes signing. Early on in the season, it looked like things were working out in spite of the fact that the Nationals have looked like a postseason-bound team for the duration. Of course, right around the time that article praising their offseason moves was written, the Mets started to struggle and the Fangraphs graph of their playoff odds started to look like a stock market crash, reaching an all time low on August 19 of 6.7%
A rotation featuring Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon and Steven Matz gives any team a chance to win more often than not and that was the impetus for seeing the Mets making another deep run in October this year. Of course, things haven’t played out that way. Harvey’s last start this season was on July 4, as he underwent season ending surgery. DeGrom has been dealing with forearm soreness and last started on September 1. Matz has been dealing with shoulder issues and hasn’t started since August 14.
Despite how rough things were looking even before the injuries really piled on, things have been A-OK for the mets, as they’ve gone 17-7 since their low point on August 19. 26-year-old RHP Seth Lugo started off the year pitching in relief, but has started five games to the tune of a 2.27 ERA thanks in no small part his phenomenal curve. Over all, he is in possession of an ERA+ of 167 on the year. 23-year old Robert Gsellman has three starts (plus an appearance where he came in during the first inning) with an ERA of 3.08 and an ERA+ of 132. 25-year old RHP Rafael Montero had a couple starts where he pitched well enough for his team to win, but then had an absolute blow up in his last start against the Nationals and is apparently now out of the rotation. He’s the only pitcher of the three who was ever considered a top prospect, and that was back in 2014, and he’s also the only one who’s had problems, posting a 7.36 ERA over his three starts in August and September thanks to his last start.
In just over two weeks their playoff odds have jumped from 25.9% on September 1 to 75.7% today. Now obviously, a large portion of that is due to a variety of other factors, like the fact that the Giants have played like complete and total disaster in the second half, but let’s give credit where credit is due: the Mets are looking like a team that deserves another crack at the postseason this year, even if there was a long stretch there where they didn’t.
Matz and DeGrom could be back soon. They’ve got the easiest schedule for a contending team by far, with all but three of their remaining games coming against the Twins, Braves and Phillies and the other three are against the Marlins. With a schedule like that, they might even be able to set up their rotation to start Syndergaard in the Wild Card game. That might not be how we envisioned the season playing out, but there are certainly worse fates than the one the Mets currently find themselves in.