Many parallels can be drawn between championship teams. While not always true, there seems to be common themes present, and a team needs to have the right tools to make the ultimate run. Unfortunately, many of these tools are often intangible and qualitative, but we will attempt to analyze these Mets for these qualities.
It is often said that you win in October based on your bullpen and defense. The logic behind this is that during the 162-game regular season mistakes in the field and blow ups in the bullpen are evened out. In the playoffs, just one slip up in either of these could cost a team the series. The Mets are no stranger to this, with Jeurys Familia leading the National League in saves two straight seasons but (his fault or not) blew three saves in the 2015 World Series and gave up the game-winning home run in the 2016 Wild Card game. Defense also became the Mets Achilles Heel in the 2015 World Series.
This year’s team features a deep and improved bullpen with Familia back, as well as with reigning MLB saves leader Edwin Diaz and playoff-experienced Justin Wilson. While the early going success has been mixed, the hope is that this year’s pen can be a team strength instead of a weakness.
Defense on the other hand looks less exciting. The Mets already have seven errors in the young season, and with people playing out of position or grading as poor defenders at their own, it may be a long season. Hopefully players younger players like Amed Rosario and Pete Alonso can continue to improve at their positions over the course of the season.
Another consideration is a team’s ability to win one game. While to make the playoffs, one has to play well again over a 162-game span, in October it is often the one game that counts. To win that one game a team needs to have an ace, and no one is pitching more like an ace than Jacob deGrom. His outing yesterday aside, deGrom had been on a streak of brilliance not seen in 50 years.
Next, we will look at playoff experience. Despite making the playoffs only a few seasons ago, the Mets actually do not have many players with October experience. Only nine players remain from their 2015 and 2016 playoff appearances. However, their offseason additions increased the team’s experience by 20 combined seasons. Also, while playoff experience would seem to pay off, actually this is not always the case. From 2009-2014 the World Series winner had missed the playoffs the season prior. Many of those teams had seen success in earlier seasons though, like the Giants who won three of five but missed the postseason in between.
Almost as important to winning in seasons prior is losing. It seems heartbreaking loss can inspire the greatest of runs, none more apparent then this year’s NCAA Basketball Champion the Virginia Cavaliers (shameless plug from a UVA student right here). But it really can be true in baseball. The 2016 Cubs won after being embarrassingly swept by our Mets the year before. The Astros had been the joke of the league for many years before finally making the playoffs and winning the Commissioners Trophy in 2017.