How will Mets do in their toughest stretch of the year?

Since the cavalry arrived in the form of – in order of appearance – Yoenis Cespedes, Steven Matz and Seth Lugo, the Mets are 3-0. And the reinforcements couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Mets are ready to embark on the toughest part of their schedule. The next 11 games come against playoff teams in 2016 in the Cubs, Nationals and Dodgers. The Nationals are leading their division now, the Dodgers are the first Wild Card team and everyone expects the Cubs to win the Central when it’s all said and done.

The Mets? Who knows what to expect from them. You hear people say they should be selling parts off – even saw an article that said they should shop Reed. I’m not ready to do that. The situation looks bleak right now. But this is the healthiest they’ve been all year. Besides, they’ve still got 101 games to play.

Last year the Mets got off to a fine start, played .500 or so ball for a long time after that and then had a 10-20 stretch. On August 19, they were 60-62 and of course they finished with 87 wins. Now, the idea isn’t that they’ll win games at the pace they did in late August and September of last year. Rather the important thing to keep in mind is that it’s better to be five games under .500 with 101 games to play than it is to be two games under .500 with 42 game remaining.

Winning cures everything. And now we get to see just how much winning can the club do when the competition gets stiffer. If the Mets go 2-9 in these next 11, perhaps it will be time to investigate the trade market for Reed and others. But if the Mets go 8-3, well that’s a whole different ball game. Likely they’ll finish closer to .500 which leaves things in the same muddled state we have right now.

A pessimist will point to 11 fewer games and no closer to playoff contention. And even if the club did make the playoffs, there’s no reason to expect an outcome any different than what happened in the Wild Card game last year.

Man, I hate pessimists.

The optimist will think if they can play close to .500 against the cream of the crop that they’ll be able to clean up against the dregs. And there will still be 90 games left to make a move.

Of course the biggest reason to be an optimist is the performance of the starting pitchers the last five games. Those five starters have combined for 32.2 IP and only 3 ER. They’ve given quality and aside from Matt Harvey’s outing they’ve given quantity, too. It’s not realistic to expect this pace to hold. But it wasn’t realistic to expect only four games out of 20 that the starter would post a Game Score over 50 but that happened for the Mets earlier this year.

So, what do the Mets have in store? The Cubs have pitching problems of their own. They have six starters who’ve made at least six starts and none of them have an ERA below Eddie Butler’s 4.03 mark. Jon Lester’s at 4.13, Jake Arrieta is at 4.46 and John Lackey’s at 5.12 for the season. The bullpen’s been solid but the offense hasn’t been as potent as 2016, either.

The Nationals have lost three in a row and their bullpen is more of a mess than the Mets’. And in their last seven games, they’ve scored just 19 runs. The Dodgers are a different story, as they’re in good shape right now, sitting at 20 games over .500 and featuring two dominant starting pitchers and an elite bullpen. You expect Clayton Kershaw to excel and with a 2.20 ERA, he’s doing just that. But Alex Wood is 6-0 with a 2.01 ERA and his 1.84 FIP suggests he isn’t doing it with smoke and mirrors.

So, there you go. How will the Mets do in three games against the Cubs and four against both the Nationals and Dodgers?

How will the Mets do in this tough 11-game stretch

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11 comments for “How will Mets do in their toughest stretch of the year?

  1. Chris F
    June 11, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    I hope you return to this after this stretch is over. I think 4-5 wins is realistic.

  2. Chris F
    June 11, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    Often times we talk about what the Mets can do – win games – because its all they control. I get that. But they play against other teams, and there is a fixed number of slots. What does their path look like in reality?

    1. Division champions. While it’s easy to point out the flaws in he Nats pen, it’s pretty much the only weakness they have … and they play a lot of easy games til the end of the season. If they some how went to .500 ball to finish, they have 88 wins. I think 94-96 is more likely. I don’t see that this team gets near that. Onward to the wild card.

    2. Wild card. We live in a time where being at .500 by the ASG means you are “in it”. This year looks different because the balance of strong teams moved to the West. If overcoming the Nats looks like a hard road, the NL West has 3 teams as good or better. Again to be in the race for a WC means playing .600 ball to get to 88 wins with the Dodgers Dbax or Rox falling off a cliff.

    Its not impossible for the Mets to sneak into the WC but they need to win like mad and hope really good teams come unhinged. If the Rockies diamondbacks and Dodgers keep their present pace, there is very little chance for a post season spot. Fangraphs projects the Mets with a 12% chance at the post season righ now.

    • June 12, 2017 at 8:39 am

      Indeed, making the playoffs will be a Herculean task.

      Last year when they were 62-62, their chances of making the playoffs was 13%. At that time, the Marlins were at 34%, the Pirates at 28% and the Cardinals at 63%. No matter what point of the season you’re at, there are teams that are doing well and teams that are struggling. All of the teams ahead of them now have gone through extended good stretches and the Mets have really yet to do that. Can they do it? Can they go 30-15 or such? I don’t know but I sure feel better about it now with the three guys back from the DL.

      I’m more than a little shocked that someone who watched the 2008 Mets would be so blase about a horrible bullpen. And right now the Nats’ bullpen is horrible. There’s really no urgency for them to do anything about it now and I surely expect them to make additions (plural) before September. But because of that bullpen, a 9.5 game lead doesn’t seem insurmountable.

      Since May 1, the Mets have scored 3 or fewer runs 9 times. By contrast, the Nats have done it 16 times. That’s not a team that’s just going to be able to club its way to wins all the time. It’s a little different team without Eaton and with Zim playing at an All-Star, rather than MVP level. Plus Trea Turner has struggled since the beginning of May, too. And the fewer times they score 23 runs, the more times that bullpen comes into play.

      Right now the Mets are “only” playing without their top starter and their closer. Where would the Dodgers be without Kershaw and Jansen? It’s beginning to feel more like a fair fight and there’s still enough season left to not feel fatalistic about things.

      • Chris F
        June 12, 2017 at 10:37 am

        Sure, the Nats need to be worried about their pen. I get it, and the memories from a decade ago are still fresh. Im just not prepared to say the Mets have magically added enough after 48 hours in Atlanta to think that “the magic is back”. Ces is essentially a DH now. He still cannot run. Are you thrilled with that? Lugo looked great. Gsellman maybe turning the corner. At the same time, all this Harvey keeps looking better drivel is just that. Im not sure what progress is hapenning, but it not helping the relievers. Jake is a hot mess presently. There is a lot of heavy lifting to do. The Nats play a lot of easy teams

        I think it is possible the Mets have a chance to play in the post season, but reality dictates they need to rely on the kindness of others to fail.

        • June 12, 2017 at 12:05 pm

          Right now, the Mets need Matz and Lugo more than they need Cespedes.

          There’s a big difference between playing an ATL squad without Freddie Freeman and the three teams they’re playing in the next 11 games. It’s a measuring stick and I sure hope that the team is relishing the chance to see what it can do against the top teams.

          My eyes are wide open about the challenge ahead of them.

          That being said, virtually no team goes an entire season without failing, without having a stretch of poor play. The Nats were 32 games above .500 last year and they had one stretch where they went 9-12 and another where they lost 7 games in a row.

          The Mets have already had a 4-12 stretch and another time where they lost 7 in a row. That could be indicative of their true talent level or it could be that they got their lousy play out of the way early instead of late June, July and/or early August like in the past two years.

          Let’s see how the top teams do when they hit hard times. Because you know they will.

          • Chris F
            June 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm

            Its a lot easier to lose 7 in a row than win 7 in a row. I cheer for this team and have my whole life. But I feel overwhelmed by the unbridled and often overly optimistic enthusiasm that many Mets fans express in the face of reality. That lack of realism I see elsewhere does impact what I say here. I also try to look at things as objectively as possible. Lugo has a partly torn UCL. At any moment he is done for 18 months; Matz…what else is there to say? Anyway, I will feel a lot better once we see 13 or 14 out of 20, and against some decent competition.

            I want them to win, but I get it that Im yin to everyone else’s yang.

            • Jimmy P
              June 12, 2017 at 12:28 pm

              It’s funny, I am not at all seeing “overly optimistic enthusiasm” for this season among Mets fans. I’d never categorize that way.

              Most people I know out in the world are like, yuck, it’s been brutal. Then we talk about whether the manager should be fired or not, which morphs into a conversation about “whose fault is it,” or just bad luck. I mean to say, the appraisal I see is one of, wow, this team is having a really crappy season. And that’s pretty accurate . . . so far.

              Having hope and having optimism are different things.

  3. Metsense
    June 12, 2017 at 7:39 am

    I would expect a 6-5 record. Anything less would be losing ground and painting themselves into a corner. The next nine games after that have the potential for six more wins which will leave them at 40-41 at the halfway mark heading into Washington DC for a three game Independence Day series. I would consider it an accomplishment if they could get the record above .500 by the mid way mark.

    • June 12, 2017 at 8:44 am

      I would imagine most people would expect 5-6 wins so I intentionally split those two totals.

  4. Jimmy P
    June 12, 2017 at 10:42 am

    You said it all when you pointed out there are still 101 games to play.

    Of course it’s not over.

    They have a month to make a statement. Would like them to win 6-7 games in this upcoming stretch, which won’t be easy.

    The Nationals are a good team. The pen is bad, but they will try to address it during the deadline. When I look at the season Zimmerman has had, well, that’s just crazy. This was a guy many had written off, now putting up MVP numbers. Does not seem sustainable. Losing Eaton hurt them a lot. I’m surprised that Turner has struggled, but he’s a candidate for a strong second half. Overall, I think they are playing a little over their heads right now.

    I still believe anything is possible.

    They don’t give out prizes to the first person who quits on a season.

    This winter, I vacillated between 89 or 91 wins for the Mets. Had issues with team — the pen, the defense, the lack of offensive diversity — but kept returning to the quality of those starting pitchers. So far, I’ve gotten that pretty much backwards, but I’m hopeful that the staff will establish itself at “top 5” quality for the second half of the season.

    They’ve got a shot.

  5. Pete from NJ
    June 12, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    Over the last two seasons we’ve come on strong after some rough times

    2015-remember the feeling of the staring pitching needing to throw a shut out for a win because the hitters were no where to be seen. Sudden turnaround and the world series.

    2016- two games below .500 in late in the season and the guys start winning at a percentage very unforseen.

    2017-Lots of losses from two western division teams and then a wildcard.

    Lets talk about this after the next three series. 60% are thinking pretty positive.

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