It may sound a little odd to call the New York Mets “hot” right now. It’s been a month since the Mets last won back to back games. They’re 3-5 in their last 8 games. But something special is brewing in Flushing Meadows right now, something quite peculiar: the Mets are suddenly showing signs of life. What’s going on?
What the record won’t tell you
Yes, the Mets are 4-4 in their last 8 games. But those last 8 games have been extremely significant for the Metsies: they’ve averaged 4.375 runs per game over that stretch. Scoring runs has been extremely difficult for the Mets this year: they’ve averaged 3.72 runs per game all season long, good enough for 27th in the majors. Despite their superb pitching, the anemic offense has thus far doomed the Mets to sit out of the wildcard slots. But suddenly, the offense has caught fire.
There are a few key players who, after struggling and slumping, seem to have finally kickstarted their season going into the stretch. Of most note is Neil Walker, who has been the best player of the past two weeks, worth 1.1 fWAR. After struggling through May, June, and July, Walker’s August has been hotter than the hot stove. He’s come through in the clutch multiple times while maintaining solid defense. He’s so hot that the Mets are considering resigning him to a long-term deal, which is very important for the Mets after the loss of Dilson Herrera.
Also of note is Alejandro De Aza, who surprised everyone by bouncing back from a terrible start to his season. De Aza, who began the season as a fourth outfielder, dramatically underperformed, playing mediocre defense and hitting to the tune of a .158 BA, leading to calls for the Mets to release him. But suddenly, in July, he was one of the hottest hitters in the league – after receiving more playing time with Yoenis Cespedes‘ quad troubles, De Aza slugged his way to a .375 BA in July, which was tied for 2nd best that month among hitters with 40 PA. While De Aza is obviously not that great of a hitter, he’s made losing Cespedes hurt a little less.
And the rest of the Mets have followed suit. While still not the greatest offense in the league, they actually performed like a league average offense (102 WRC+ as a team over the past week) – which, with their pitching staff, is all that they should need to perform well and go to the playoffs.
If they’re so good, why do they still suck?
There’s a lot of holes in the Mets’ team. Look at their “DL team”, a fictional baseball team comprised entirely of Mets players on the DL. It’s not a pretty sight. Most of the opening day roster is out of action for at least the next two weeks, and most of them are out for the season. It’s been a real struggle for the Mets, with backup players stepping into full-time roles, spot starters moving to the rotation, and bullpens worked to the extreme.
There’s especially a lot of pressure on the pitching staff. Both Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard are pitching through bone spurs. While both are still pitching quite well, their struggles recently have contributed to the Mets losing some games that would have ordinarily won (the Mets have a 42-11 record when they score four or more runs, but are 14-44 when they don’t).
The good news? Relief is on the way. A day off on Monday gave everyone an extra day of rest (the Mets had not had an official day off since July 22nd – a game was postponed on the 25th, but it was made up for with a double-header the next day, further stressing the rotation), and the Mets are reportedly considering bumping Logan Verrett (who has struggled thus far this season) from the starting rotation. A fresh arm would be a welcome change for the Mets, who, despite finally finding their offensive spark, have not been quite as dominant on the mound as they have been in the past.
There’s further hope for the Mets as far as pitching goes as well. Zack Wheeler looks to make his return in about 3-4 weeks time after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and his addition would bolster the rotation in a huge way. The Mets are also reportedly attempting to negotiate for an unnamed reliever that they claimed on the waiver wire, which would further shore up the Mets’ already stellar bullpen.
Is there still hope for the playoffs?
The Mets are not finished by a long shot, despite their apparent struggles. Despite treading water for most of June and July, the Mets are only 2.5 games out of the Wildcard slot – hardly an insurmountable obstacle by any means. The Mets also have the benefit of having one of the easiest second-half schedules in the MLB – though some of their divisional and Wild-Card rivals have easier schedules. This season might come down to the wire, which, traditionally has not gone the Mets’ way, but these don’t feel like the Mets. This team feels like the Bad News Bears: cobbled together out of necessity, lacking their best players, but still with a shot.
Come October, this ragtag team might just survive into the playoffs. It will be even more interesting to see how they fare against the best the NL has to offer, but who knows? These are the Mets we’re talking about. Historically, they either squeak out wins by the narrowest of margins or collapse like a house of cards. Only time will tell.