It’s one of the most exciting times of the year for all 30 Major League baseball teams and their fan bases. Reports of player’s physique, health or development of a new skill are abound. Each team has made a key organizational hire to improve their scouting, analytics or coaching staff. Adjustments were made to training schedules, ballpark dimensions or the MLB rulebook. Whatever it may be, baseball is in the air with anticipation of a full season. While there are models and experts who can predict which teams will make the playoffs, we just never know; there’s a reason that they play all 162 games. As Met fans, I’ve found that we’re a generally impatient and passionate bunch, quick to make judgements after a short span of games. This will never be truer than in 2019, when the National League East teams will be pitted against each other from the onset, shaping the trajectory of their respective seasons. For the Mets, this means 19 of their first 24 games (which is 1/7 of the season) will be played against the revamped Braves, Nationals and Phillies with a few against the pesky Marlins.
Over the last three years, the average National League playoff team has won 93 regular season games at a .576 winning percentage. Over 24 games, this would equate to 14 wins, which is what we should hope that the Mets achieve over this initial span. This will prove that the club can compete at a high level, and set the foundation for the season. Of course, there’s a reason that they play 162 games, things can change which was evident last year when the Mets started hot and then fizzled out. But in a division which can be decided by one game, not a single matchup can be taken lightly. We’ll take a look at these first eight series and map out a path in which the club plays itself into an advantageous position.
The season starts off with a three game series at Washington in which each team will showcase their dominant starting pitching, including newly acquired Patrick Corbin for the Nationals. The Mets, who are 37-21 all-time on Opening Day, will continue the trend and start with a win behind the reigning Cy Young. The clubs will go on to trade wins as the Mets start off 2-1 against the newly staffed Nationals team.
From there, New York travels to Miami for what should be an easy stint. Robinson Cano breaks out for a 5 RBI performance in the first game but the club’s woes of 2018 continue to haunt them as they fail to pull off a clean sweep. Jacob deGrom loses the last game of the series despite giving up only one run over eight innings. The Mets are a respectable 4-2.
For their home opener, the club is back at it against the Nationals, where Noah Syndergaard electrifies Citi Field for a win. However back to back poor performances by Matz and Wheeler combined with figurative, (and perhaps literal), cold bats push the Mets to 5-4. Jed Lowrie makes his debut with the team, pushing Todd Frazier to first base. However to date, production from the first base spot is anemic as Ed from Toms River furiously calls into WFAN for the promotion of Pete Alonso.
The next series pits the Mets in their first interleague series of the year, home for two against the Minnesota Twins. The Mets win a game in easy fashion, but the bullpen blows the other game; the club is 6-5 and treading along in 3rd place within the division.
The following matchup is on the road against the Atlanta Braves which proves to be just what the doctor ordered, as the Mets take three out of four behind their awakened bats. A starting outfielder finds themselves on the 10-day IL and Carlos Gomez makes his return to the club as a fifth outfielder. The Mets are 9-6.
Another road trip, this time to Philadelphia, is projected to match up deGrom, Syndergaard and Wheeler against the big bats of the Phillies. However, the Mets lose two of three as concerns of their offensive production continue to intensify. The club is 10-8.
With the two week mark behind them, Brodie Van Wagenen makes an exciting announcement that Pete Alonso has solved his defensive woes in Syracuse and therefore is now ready for Major League action. The three game road series at St. Louis proves to be an opportune time to get Alonso’s feet wet before coming home to Citi Field. The Mets win two of three, Alonso hits a homerun in his first at bat and Keith Hernandez begins what will be many years of ‘bad fundies’ references. The Mets are 12-9.
Games 21 through 24 are played at home against the Phillies in which the Mets win two. Edwin Diaz locks down the win in the last game of the series by striking out Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto in order. The Mets are 14-10, tied for first place with the Phillies.
The Mets found success in 2015 by playing 18 games over .500 against their NL East counterparts (they played exactly .500 against teams outside of the division). By starting the year 11-8 against the NL East, they would be ‘on pace’ to be 12 games over .500 in divisional play, with a little over half of their games left against other clubs. Coming out of the gate hot is as important as ever. There are certainly some exciting storylines to keep track of, including the names of the opposing teams week over week. Divisional matchups, combined with fresh starts to the season, will prove for high volatility in the standings. I’m of the view that the Mets will start the season on the right foot and prove themselves as contenders of the NL East.