As the MLB season hits August, the New York Mets season has finally begun. After a horrendous first half, New York’s recent hot streak has completely washed out that bad taste. The Mets were 40-50 at the All-Star break and were sure to be sellers at the trading deadline. However, with a 20-6 post-All-Star break record, the Mets have vaulted right into the top of the wildcard race.
The New York Mets Season Has Finally Begun
The Mets began the second half winning four out of five games on the road against the Miami Marlins and the Minnesota Twins. With the trading deadline fast approaching, there was still the unanswered question of whether the Mets would be buyers or sellers. New York then visited the San Francisco Giants for a four game series. The Mets lost three out of four games — dropping them to nine games under .500. The more frustrating part was the Mets losing three extra-inning games.
New York returned home, and over the next two and a half weeks everything changed. After going 5-1 against the San Diego Padres and the Pittsburgh Pirates, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen made a bold move. The Mets, who were long rumored to be sellers, went out and traded for All-Star pitcher Marcus Stroman. A team with thoughts of selling was suddenly a buyer. All of baseball was wondering what the Mets were up to. With three days left in the trading deadline, the questions were swirling around about the Mets true intentions.
The trading deadline passed and the Mets roster remained intact aside from trading Jason Vargas to the rival Philadelphia Phillies. The long-rumored trading of pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler did not happen. Closer Edwin Diaz, who has struggled in his first year in New York, also was not traded.
The Mets sent a message to their team — “We believe in you and believe this team can make a run.” The argument can be made that Van Wagenen was not getting enough back in those trades, so he decided to play the season out. Since the trade deadline passed, the Mets are 8-1 and a Major League best 20-6 since the All-Star Break. Since the Giants series, the Mets are a red hot 14-2.
The level of competition the Mets have faced since the All-Star break has not been good. Aside from the Twins, whom the Mets swept in a two-game series, all of the other teams are under .500.
Teams can only play the teams on the schedule. The Mets should not be penalized for beating the teams they are supposed to beat. Good teams should be able to beat bad teams. It is completely fair to have questions about how good this team is, but the Mets are now in a position to quiet those critics.
Business Is About To Pickup
The Mets are about to start a long stretch of games where the competition level will pick up. It begins with a three-game series at Citi Field against the Washington Nationals, who are currently leading the wild card race. Then the Mets hit the road with consecutive three-game series against the first-place Atlanta Braves and the struggling Kansas City Royals.
The Mets return home with key series against the Cleveland Indians, the Braves, and the Chicago Cubs. They then close out August with a three-game series in Philadelphia. After playing in Philadelphia, they will travel to the Nationals before coming back to New York for another three-game set with the Phillies. Every game aside from the three games against the Royals will be against teams fighting for the postseason.
Pitching Is Coming Around
The Mets starting pitching has begun to look like the dominant force they were supposed to be. Jacob deGrom is now pitching himself back into the Cy Young discussion. Syndergaard, who might be the most physically talented pitcher in all of baseball, has started to turn it on. Wheeler might be starting another second-half run like he had in 2018. When you add in Stroman and Steven Matz, the Mets trot out a good starting pitcher every game.
The bullpen is and will remain the Achilles heel for this team. Diaz has struggled and does not look like the same pitcher who led the majors in saves last year. Seth Lugo — the Mets best relief pitcher — could start to see some save opportunities. During this run, the bullpen has shown signs of improvement. Mets manager Mickey Callaway will need to carefully manage this group down the stretch. One way is to get length from the starting pitching, and Callaway has vowed to let his starters pitch deeper into games.
Bats Are Booming
Most fans know that rookie Pete Alonso is having a historic season. Jeff McNeil is leading the major leagues in batting average. But the hottest bat in the Mets lineup is Michael Conforto. Conforto, who was already having a solid season, really took off once he was moved up in the lineup. Conforto bats behind McNeil, who is always on base and ahead of the power threat of Alonso. He is on pace to set career highs in HR and RBI.
Perhaps the best offseason acquisition Van Wagenen made was J.D. Davis. Davis, who is now playing every day, is showing the ability he had in the minor leagues. Amed Rosario is having the best season of his young career, while Wilson Ramos has also heated up during this Mets resurgence.
Robinson Cano was having his best stretch of games before tearing his hamstring. The Mets waited all year for Cano to finally get hot, but then the injury occurred, and it could cost him the season.
Flashing the Leather
The other issue the Mets have had this season was their defense. They had some players out of position like Davis, McNeil, Conforto, and Dominic Smith before he got hurt. There was also talk of moving Rosario to center field, where Conforto is currently playing. Rosario was struggling at shortstop.
Davis and McNeil have settled in to become serviceable outfielders. Conforto has done better than expected in center. But Rosario has turned a corner defensively and has been playing a terrific shortstop. Third baseman Todd Frazier has always been good defensively and Alonso seems to catch everything that comes his way at first base.
Callaway has said his best lineup is going to play every day until their legs fall off. This is where the schedule breaks right for the Mets. With five days off throughout August, the Mets regulars will have time to rest without missing any games. For a team without depth, this is a huge break.
Replacing Cano could be difficult. But the versatility of McNeil allows the Mets to go in two different ways. McNeil can play either second base or right field. Although he is a better second baseman, the better free-agent options are at second.
This would have been a great spot to finally see Jed Lowrie, who was signed before the season started but has yet to play for the Mets. He is expected to be out until September.
The only other injured players who could come back are outfielder Brandon Nimmo and Smith. Nimmo has been sidelined with a neck injury since May and could possibly return later this month. Smith is dealing with an injured foot and will be out until September. But his defensive liabilities in the outfield makes it hard for him to see any real playing time when he returns.
The Mets have managed to hit the reset button. Their hot streak has erased a bad start. With a 59-56 record and a half-game out of a wild card spot, the Mets are definitely in this race. The competition does pick up.
But without question, the Mets are playing with a swagger and confidence they didn’t show earlier in the season. It is now go time for the Mets. The pieces are in place for a run, and they are ready.
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