Mets and Phillies: A tale of two seasons

Okay, perhaps it’s not full Dickensian London and Paris on the cusp of the French Revolution, but the baseball fortunes of the fan bases for the Mets and Phillies provide us interesting contrasting tales here in 2018, even if they end up with the same record when it’s all said and done. And perhaps the most curious thing is that we can argue who had the better year and who’s positioned better for the next few seasons.

The Mets were thought to be contenders, got off to a fabulous start, got sidetracked by injuries and poor performance, had a poor May and an abysmal June, started to get guys back from the disabled list and now at the end of the year they are playing well. At one point, a 100-loss season seemed entirely in play; now they may wind up with fewer than 90 losses and might even reach 80 wins.

The Phillies were thought to be at least a year away. Early in the year they received more press for the alleged bumbling of their new manager than for their actual play on the field. But their starting pitching was surprisingly good early on, as was their hitting. They bounced back and forth between first and second place most of the year and ended up making numerous moves around the deadline to bolster their team. But things started to go south the second week of August. The playoffs are out of the question and a sub. 500 record at the end of the year is in play, as they finish the year with one more against the Mets, seven against the Braves and four in Colorado.

Others have pointed out that one of the deciding factors in the NL East this year was the Mets’ performance against the Braves and Phillies. New York is 4-12 against Atlanta and 11-7 against Philadelphia. On Monday night’s SNY broadcast, the announcers pointed out that this is the seventh straight season that the Mets finished with a winning record against the Phillies, which is the longest such streak in franchise history.

And the thing is that it’s not nearly as close as the overall record makes it look. The Mets are 1-5 in games started by Aaron Nola and 10-2 when someone else began the game. What if the schedule broke different and Nola made only two starts against the Mets, which is what Zack Wheeler did against the Phillies despite not being on the DL this year? How would a 4-14 record against the Mets sound or feel?

Essentially, the Phillies were in the pennant race for five months in a year when they weren’t expected to be a contender. On one hand, you have to be ecstatic about that if you’re a Phillies fan. After the Eagles won the Super Bowl and the 76ers made the playoffs for the first time in ages, the Phillies made late spring and early summer fun for the first time since Roy Halladay was pitching for the club.

But it’s also a team that in its last 37 games is 13-24. The offense has gone into hibernation, the starting rotation has become Nola and the four dwarfs, the relief pitching seems unsettled and – I say this as a Mets fan and one who has watched some bad defensive play for the better part of the last decade – their fielding is horrendous.

Their top prospects – J.P. Crawford, Mike Kingery and Aaron Altherr – have done their best Dominic Smith impersonation. After a good start, Odubel Herrera has been a huge disappointment and Maikel Franco has settled into a league average player rather than a superstar. Hector Neris, their closer who got off to such a fine start, has allowed 11 HR in 44 IP and was busted to the minors. Jake Arrieta has a 4.67 ERA since the All-Star break and that’s the second-best mark after Nola among their starters. And at (-127) DRS, they have the worst defensive team in the majors.

Can you feel good about that going forward?

Meanwhile, the Mets’ bad stretch came much earlier and for a while they were battling with the Marlins for the basement, rather than the Braves for the division lead. But they’ve been playing at a .544 winning percentage since the All-Star break, an 88-win pace over a full season. Wheeler has joined Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard to give the team three top-tier starters. All three would be in the top 15 in the NL in ERA if Syndergaard had enough innings to qualify.

And with the promotion of Jeff McNeil, the return to form of Michael Conforto and the development of Amed Rosario, the Mets are third in the NL in runs scored here in the second half.

It’s not all sunshine and lollipops for the Mets, however. The infield defense still could use some tightening up and the bullpen needs a major infusion of talent. And it’s an open question what the two lefties in the starting rotation will give the club going forward.

But the Phillies need Altherr, Crawford and Kingery all to make the step forward next year that Rosario has seemingly done over the last five weeks. They need Herrera to rebound and Franco to take the next step. And they need a couple of the non-Nola starters to be better than bottom tier SP4s. And even if all of those things happen, and nothing unexpected occurs like Nola and Rhys Hoskins missing months at a time, they’re still left with a questionable pen and a bad defensive team.

It will be interesting to see how the final two weeks play out. Can the Phillies step up against teams fighting for playoff positioning? The Braves are playing for home field advantage in the NLDS and the Rockies are looking to win the division and avoid the one-game Wild Card. Can the Mets go into Washington and finish with a winning record against a team that has won the previous two season series by a 25-13 mark? Can they take advantage of their final six games being at home, a place where the team has performed miserably (33-42) this season?

After games of August 7, the Phillies were in first place and held a 17-game lead over the Mets. While unlikely, it’s still mathematically possible that the Mets can overtake the Phillies down the stretch. Most likely, the over/under would have Philadelphia finishing with five more wins than New York. The expected standings at FanGraphs shows the difference at eight games. If you can find someone to offer that wager, it might be worth your while. The combination of how poorly the Phillies are playing here over the last six weeks, combined with their ending schedule, makes it unlikely to me that they would add to their current lead.

7 comments for “Mets and Phillies: A tale of two seasons

  1. Pete In Iowa
    September 19, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Don’t see the Phillies as a threat to win the division next season, nor as a wildcard contender. I’ll take our young talent and pitching over theirs any day.
    Couldn’t care less how many more wins than us they will end up with this season. It’s completely meaningless.

  2. Madman
    September 19, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Harper,Machado, Phillies go after both, chances they get one. That changes things a lot.

  3. Eraff
    September 19, 2018 at 11:59 am

    The Mets are in decent position to make productive Baseball moves—the questions are going to be about the talent Level of the Front Office Itself, and the Financial side of things.

  4. Eraff
    September 19, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    Machado should be a Mets target…a rare young star who checks lots of boxes for them.

  5. Chris F
    September 19, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    The Mets were supposed to be contenders, played 2 weeks of unsustainable baseball (starting pitchers going 5-6 innings, flawless pen, and unusual amount of clutch and late inning scoring), then pretty much face planted the whole summer until September, when things dont matter. Sure, they’ve played better, but all in all, Id much rather get a top 5 draft pick. The Mets are harder to predict, because the pen wont be here next year, hard to know if Jake will throw another CY year, but mostly its hard to know of McNeil is for real, is Rosario? Which Conforto shows up? Bruce? Are the Mets on schedule? behind schedule? I really cant tell.

    The Phillies are ahead of schedule. No one considered them a threat, and despite a manager who is permanently the conductor of “crazy train”, stayed relevant for 4 + months of the season. They have a ton of kids, and quite frankly are running out of gas. Thats a predictable arc. They have a lot of work to do thats for sure. And lets face it, doing well in a Division as utterly bad as the NL East isnt much outside the I-95 corridor.

    The one thing worth considering is this: The Phillies have a lot of salary cap space. In the 5 years prior to rebuilding they were averaging about 165M$ payroll, while the Mets best 3 years is about 145M$. So where does that leave the teams? The Mets have 92M$ in contracts next year and surely will be over 100M$ with arb raises. This gives them about 40M$ should they go to their avg max. The Phillies have 69M$ on the books, and lets add 10M$ for arb, and start at 80M$. If they go to even 150M$, thats 70M$ in available space…thats a lot to maneuver with.

    Where do the teams size up for next year? Im guessing pretty similar to this year, or somewhere near parity in records in Sept 2019.

    • Michael Walczak
      September 19, 2018 at 2:00 pm

      The Phillies could technically sign Harper and Machado. That would be an unbelievable but expensive coup.

      I am really hoping the Mets shock and and sign Machado.

  6. MattyMets
    September 20, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    They have one big advantage over us – lower payroll and an ownership that seems ready to pounce on either Harper or Machado in the offseason. Arrieta needs to adjust to reduced velocity and they still need to add another starter. I hate the Phillies but if I was a fan I’d be encouraged.

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