It’s the first of June and the New York Mets are sitting on a 29-22 record, currently 2 games back of the Nationals and in possession of a Wild Card spot. Per Fangraphs, the Mets’ playoff odds are at 78.1%. They’ve got a respectable run differential (+21) and, if you head over to the Adjusted Standings at Baseball Prospectus, you can see the Mets aren’t drastically outperforming their expected win-loss record. They look like a 91-win team and they’re currently on pace for a 92-win season.
While that means little in terms of how the rest of the season is going to play out, they have been contending, as expected, despite the fact that Matt Harvey has been struggling (but maybe he’s fixed again). Other than Harvey, the Mets’ pitching has been outstanding. No surprise there. What’s really amazing is how the offseason decisions the Mets had to make with regard to their lineup have worked out for them so far, and that’s what we’re looking at today.
Any article about the Mets’ offense these days that doesn’t start off with Yoenis Cespedes is clearly the result of a purely aesthetic decision to save the best for last. Cespedes leads the team in bWAR (1.7), OPS (.945) and OPS+ (153). Across MLB, he comes in 5th in SLG (.596) He’s one home run away from being tied for 1st at 15 and leads MLB in the number of at-bats he needs to hit one (11.4). In the past calendar year, Cespedes comes in 6th in fWAR. There’s really not much else to say. While the Mets likely didn’t plug up a hole long-term when they sign Cespedes, thanks to the opt-out after this year in his contract, it was still good to see ownership actually plunk down some cash on a worthy player, given their deserved reputation for not doing so. If the Mets do make it back to the postseason, it will be due in no small part to the contributions of Cespedes.
It’s not just Cespedes who’s contributing, though. Neil Walker was brought in to play second base after Daniel Murphy left for, unfortunately for the Mets, the Nationals. Of course, we can’t get through this article without mentioning that Murphy is hitting .397/.428/.634, leading MLB in batting average and hits (77) and is 7th in fWAR (2.7). So, yeah, this is the one blemish on the Mets’ changes to the lineup this offseason. At least his BABIP (.415) is almost 100 points higher than his career number (.320), so, ummm, maybe he’ll come back to earth soon? Anyways, back to Murphy’s replacement.
Walker is currently having his best season to date so far. He’s hitting .278/.335/.523, good for an OPS+ of 131. He’s striking out more than ever before (24.1% in 2016 vs. 17.7% for his career) and walks are about the same, but he’s traded in an increase in strikeouts for an increase in power. His ISO is .244 this year versus a career line of .164. He’s (rather shockingly) chasing Cespedes in the home run department, having already hit 13 of them (his 2015 total: 16). Since we mentioned the fact that Murphy is currently destroying worlds, it would be rude not to at least also mention that the man traded for Walker, Jon Niese, is currently pitching to the tune of a 4.42 ERA/5.49 FIP and 0.2 bWAR/-0.4 fWAR, so the Mets are definitely in the green on the trade.
Finally, we come to Asdrubal Cabrera, who hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire like Cespedes or helping to stoke the flames like Walker. Cabrera has been more of a kindling gatherer, but his .276/.330/.395 slash line, 103 wRC+ and 0.8 bWAR all make him look like a worthwhile replacement for Wilmer Flores. To continue the fire analogy, Cabrera is gathering kindling, maybe. Whatever it is, it’s better than just sitting around the fire and twiddling your thumbs, which is pretty much what Flores was doing last year.
This time last year, the Mets and Nationals were still neck and neck in the NL East. As we all know, the Nationals struggled down the stretch, despite a season for the ages from Bryce Harper, whereas the Mets were able to get into an offensive groove once they traded for Cespedes. Fortunately for the Mets, they hung on to Cespedes for at least a year, popped off a good looking trade for Walker and signed Cabrera to a short-term deal as well. All these moves are looking pretty good right about now, as they’re helping to keep the Mets afloat. Now if only Murphy hadn’t gone to the Nationals...