Rejoice, Mets fans! The team is getting ready for its first playoff appearance in nearly a decade. It’s an unfamiliar feeling, and one that we know all too well can be fleeting. It’s something we should all enjoy. The lead-up to the post-season isn’t without it’s question marks and issues, though.
Home-field advantage seemed to be a pretty good possibility heading into the final week of the season. However, being swept by the exceptionally awful Phillies while looking pretty flat did nothing to instill confidence that the team was heading into its first playoff berth in nine years with any vigor. Fortunately, research and recent history have shown that whether a team limps into the playoffs or is scorching hot heading into them is pretty much irrelevant. The bigger issue here may be the lack of that home advantage. Sure, the Mets have gone 26-12 on the road in the second half, a remarkable turn after their abysmal performance as the away team in the first half, and even went 2-1 in their only trip to Dodger stadium this season. The home/road issue isn’t really about the Mets directly at this point, though.
It’s about the Dodgers. As of this writing, Los Angeles is 53-26 at home while being 37-44 on the road. The Dodgers have a wRC+ of 110 at home while that wRC+ is 100 on the road. This is the difference between an above-average performance and league average. On the pitching side, the Dodgers have a wOBA against of .275 at home while it sits at .309 on the road. Here are a few other stats for the Dodgers’ staff at home and away:
Home: 3.05 ERA, 3.25 xFIP, 1.09 WHIP
Away: 3.92 ERA, 3.45 xFIP, 1.29 WHIP
The point here is that we shouldn’t minimize home-field advantage because the Mets have done well on the road lately. We have to consider just how well the Dodgers have actually played at home. In the end, the Mets have already punched their ticket to the tournament where anything can and does happen. It just seems that you’d want to go in with every possible advantage if you can help it, and they could have certainly helped it this week.
Terry Collins’ decisions
The Mets have made things unnecessarily harder on themselves by not cashing in a couple of wins against a bad Phillies team. It’d be unfair to lay the blame, if you’d like to call it that, on only the players for that series of stinkers. Terry Collins did his best to lose that series. The first game was a close one, but the circus that was game two, in which Collins brought in eight (!) relievers, highlighted the apprehensions fans have of Collins’ in-game decision making. Why in the world does Bobby Parnell keep getting opportunities to blow important games?
After losing the first two of the series, it was only logical that Collins sit essentially all of his regulars during Sean Gilmartin’s first ever major league start in game three, right? Why not? The top-notch strategizing of Collins and Phillies manager Pete Mackanin led to four hours and a total of 17 different pitchers taking the mound in the second game. A miserable game to say the least, and one that presumably led Collins to rest his regulars in game three.
Mackanin, managing a team just wanting the season to end, did not make the same concession. By yet again trotting out his “C lineup,” against a red hot Jerad Eickhoff no less, Collins conceded a game that the Mets should have made a point of taking. The need to rest players before the post-season begins is an understandable, and smart strategy. Resting all of your regulars in a single game, essentially giving it up before it even begins, instead of sporadically over several games just boggles the mind.
Just say no to Bartolo
In what has become a rite of passage for any Met, Steven Matz‘s injury has turned out to be worse than the team originally thought. So bad in fact, that there are now questions as to whether or not Matz would be able to start game four of the Division Series. If not Matz, then who?
Bartolo Colon has been a name that’s been thrown around as an option to start game four in that scenario. Colon has been a folk hero in his time with the Mets. He’s equal parts frustrating and joy to watch, but let’s not for a second assume his success against weak teams will translate into success against the NL West champions. Now, to be fair, the narrative surrounding his performance against weak and strong teams has been presented in a misleading light. He’s 13-8 against teams below .500 while just 1-5 against teams .500 and above. That’s not good, but his peripherals against these different classes of opponent aren’t that far out of whack. Granted, he’s given up a full run more to better competition, but he has an OPS of .744 against both good and bad teams. In short, he’s more or less been the same pitcher no matter the competition.
What makes him a dangerous option for game four is his propensity to be a complete disaster on any given day. He’s given up four or more earned runs in 10 of his 31 starts this season. He gave up six or more in five of those games. Opponents in those games ranged from St. Louis to Milwaukee, so it’s not an issue of good or bad opponents. The Mets simply cannot afford to take a chance that Colon will have one of his disasters in what would be a vital playoff game.
Jacob deGrom on short rest would be the way to go here if Matz can’t make the start. There really should be no question about that. You can bet that the Dodgers will most likely send Clayton Kershaw out there on short rest should they be down in the series.
Let’s go Mets!