On Sunday we introduced the idea of the six-week hot streak and how we shouldn’t let that overly influence our view of a player. So, let’s flip that around a bit. Instead of looking at a player, let’s look at a team. And instead of a hot streak, let’s look at a cold stretch.
The 2018 Mets went 77-85. And as the old Bill Parcells quote goes, “You are what your record says you are.” No one is debating that in any way, shape or form.
But it’s not difficult to find a six-week stretch that was out of whack from the rest of the season. Here is the Mets’ season broken down by three consecutive stretches, with their winning percentage in parentheses:
Opening Day to May 21: 24-19 (.558)
May 22 – June 30: 8-29 (.216)
July 1 to end of season: 45-37 (.549)
For 125 games of the season, the Mets played at a 90-win pace. And for 37 games, they played at a 35-win pace. Now, it’s not quite this neat and tidy, as you can easily see the bad stretch starting earlier. But this is what we get with the six-week window.
So, why were they so bad these six weeks?
On May 21, the following players were already on the disabled list:
Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki, Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, Juan Lagares, Anthony Swarzak, Hansel Robles.
They were joined by: Noah Syndergaard (5/26), AJ Ramos (5/27), Wilmer Flores (5/28), Jeurys Familia (6/7) and Jay Bruce (6/18)
And forgive me for being cruel but Jason Vargas was activated from the DL and was turning in stinkers on a regular basis. So, that’s four starting position players, the three relievers counted on to pitch the 8th and 9th innings and the club’s 1A ace not active for all or parts of this bad stretch.
Everyone is sick about hearing about injuries. But regardless of how tired you are about hearing about them, to pretend that they didn’t play a major part in sinking the season is not dealing in reality.
RosterResource.com tracks injuries for all teams. They have a proprietary method, which they label Roster Effect Rating, which shows which teams are hit hardest by injuries. The Mets placed second in their formula, behind only the Angels, despite having the fifth-most DL stints. The Mets had 28 total DL stints while the Angels had 32. The White Sox had the fewest DL stints with 16. But the team that was least impacted by injuries, according to the Roster Effect Rating, was the Rockies.
The Dodgers led the majors with 38 DL stints but they were able to overcome that big number because of three reasons: 1) Amazing depth, especially in pitching. 2) Max Muncy, who was released by the A’s, gets promoted early in the year and puts up a 5.2 fWAR. 3) The club pulled the trigger on a deal to acquire Manny Machado. Their financial clout allowed them to do 1) and 3) from the above list. But do they make the playoffs without Muncy?
Interestingly, the Dodgers also had (roughly) a six-week stretch that was out of whack, although theirs came at the beginning of the year. They started off 16-26 (.381) and then went 75-45 (.625) the rest of the season. LA began the year with Justin Turner and Julio Urias on the DL and then added Logan Forsythe (4/15), Rich Hill (4/15), Yasiel Puig (4/29), Corey Seager (4/30), Hyun-Jin Ryu (5/3), Clayton Kershaw (5/3) and Tony Cingrani (5/9) when the (roughly) six-week period was up after 5/16.
The Mets were hurt most in position players while the Dodgers’ rotation took a beating. But the Mets had more guys out and didn’t have the luxury of Muncy or Walker Buehler as injury replacements. Kudos to the Dodgers for having superior depth.
The Dodgers were the only team among the top five clubs in Roster Effect Rating to make the playoffs. The other two clubs at the top of the list were the Nationals (4th) and Cardinals (5th). The next playoff team on the list was the Indians, who placed eighth, but who had the advantage of playing in the weakest division in baseball.
You hear people say that since the Dodgers were able to overcome their injuries that there’s no reason for the Mets to use them as an excuse. But what about the Nationals? They were supposed to run away with the NL East this year and they finished eight games off the pace. What about the Cardinals? They’re supposed to be the model organization yet they finished 7.5 games behind. It seems more accurate to say that the Dodgers are the exception.
Undoubtedly, some of you are going to insist that the six-week stretch that’s not indicative of the talent is the final six weeks of the season. The Mets went 25-16 (.610) while in the first 121 games they were 52-69 (.430).
But in this closing stretch, the team wasn’t decimated by injuries. They weren’t starting Jose Lobaton and Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Reyes in this span. To be sure, they still had injured guys – Cespedes, Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Bruce and Swarzak, most notably. But Syndergaard was back and Zack Wheeler was dealing. Shoot, even Vargas wasn’t awful. And in this stretch, they had their own Muncy with Jeff McNeil.
In 2019, McNeil, Amed Rosario and Wheeler should all be on the team while Lobaton, Gonzalez and Reyes should all be elsewhere. With that first trio giving strong results down the stretch, the Mets played at a 99-win pace, even with normal to above-average injuries and some awfulness in that time frame from Frazier and Austin Jackson.
Perhaps what you think of McNeil, Rosario and Wheeler will be a litmus test for which six-week span you find more of an outlier.