So far this critical Mets off-season is off to a great start. Ownership finally accepted that having a triple A team in another time zone and hitter friendly climate wasn’t the best idea. Moving the squad to upstate New York will allow for better roster flexibility and organizational communication. Signing a progressive young manager known for working successfully with pitchers on a winning team was the second smart move. Next will be filling out the coaching staff and seeking to plug roster holes through free agency and trades. But before the front office embarks on this yeoman task, it would behoove them to look at some of the common themes among this year’s playoff teams.
Defense and speed are kinda important
Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell, Didi Gregorious, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner. Seven of the 10 teams that made the playoffs has a young star at shortstop. Hopefully, Amed Rosario can join this list soon. He certainly has the raw tools and potential. The three teams who lacked a superstar at shortstop had one in centerfield like A.J. Pollock, Charlie Blackmon and Byron Buxton. The two teams that had studs at both key defensive positions made it to the World Series. Not coincidentally, the Dodgers and Astros each boast strong catchers and second baseman as well. So, the old fashioned notion about strength up-the-middle still applies. As of now the Mets have a potential star at one spot and replacement level players at the others. This is not a recipe for success. Another common denominator of this year’s playoff teams is speed. Rabbits on the bases tend to score a lot easier, not just through steals, but by aggressively advancing an extra base whenever possible.
A deep bullpen is essential
Having two reliable relief pitchers is no longer enough to get a team to and through the post season. Few pitchers regularly go seven innings or more these days and odds are at least one starter through each rotation turn is going to knocked out early or injured. Wouldn’t be nice to not have to write off those games every time? Extra inning games are often won and lost by the bullpen. In addition to keeping games close and minimizing the number of heartbreak losses a team suffers in a season, bullpens are increasingly being used to take pressure off teams’ rotations. A team with a strong bullpen can make the playoffs and advance despite only having two or three reliable starting pitchers. But a team with five good starters and a lousy pen isn’t going to go very far. Look at the Yankees as a perfect example. Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos, and Jerry Blevins is a nice start, but the Mets need two more arms they can really count on in the bullpen.
A playoff run requires reinforcements
The Astros, Dodgers and Indians were all on their way to 100- win seasons, yet all three made big moves to add talent at mid or late season through smart trades. The Dodgers added Yu Darvish to an already strong rotation, Tony Watson to an already strong bullpen, and Curtis Granderson to an already deep outfield. The Indians added Jay Bruce to an already strong lineup and the Astros added Justin Verlander to give their rotation a second ace. That’s how you go all in.
Smart coaching can make a difference
The Astros’ A.J. Hinch brilliantly piggybacked Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton in game 7 of the ALCS to knock out the Yankees. The Dodgers’ Dave Roberts sorted through a crowded outfield to find the hottest bats to get them from one round to the next. And the Indians’ Terry Francona conducted his bullpen like a philharmonic orchestra. Hopefully, the Mets’ new skipper can make such smart moves when the season is on the line. And hopefully our front office can find the right pieces to make the Mets better resemble a contender this off-season