The 2019 Mets were done in by their schedule

When the Mets went on their 15-1 run shortly after the All-Star break, many people were unimpressed because it came against teams that were not very good. Yet those very same people failed to hold the Brewers to the same standard. When Milwaukee went on an 18-2 run in September, they were beating the Marlins, Padres, Pirates, Reds and a Cubs team that had quit on itself. But we didn’t hear about that. The talk was how the Brewers were playing great, winning games when it counted.

Conventional wisdom in all sports is that you look to play .500 against the good teams and then clean up against the dregs of the league. But what happens when certain teams get to play significantly more games against the dregs? The A’s got to play 100 games against teams under .500 last year, the most in the majors. By contrast, the Marlins played just 41 games against teams with a losing record, the fewest of any team in MLB.

It should be intuitive that if you’re a sub-.500 team, you’ll get fewer chances to face losing teams. And vice-versa. Of the seven teams that played the fewest games against teams under .500, five of them were under .500 themselves, while a sixth team was exactly .500 on the season. And on the opposite end, the top nine teams with the most games against losing teams all had winning records.

So, who was the only team with a winning record to be in the bottom seven in total number of games against losing teams? Why, the Mets, of course. They faced sub-.500 teams this year 60 times, which tied with the Pirates for the third fewest total in MLB.

So, why did the Mets have such rotten luck with the schedule? The biggest reason was that the NL East was the only division in baseball not to have at least two teams with losing records in it, having just the Marlins.

A distant second is that the Mets always get the short end in interleague play. The Cardinals get to face the Royals as their rival that they play every year and in the 23 years of interleague play, the Royals have been above .500 just four times. The Nationals get the Orioles, who’ve gone 101-223 the last two years. And the Mets get the Yankees, who’ve won 90 or more games 17 times and have never finished with fewer than 84 wins in a season since the beginning of interleague play.

The Mets were 47-55 against teams with a .500 or better record in 2019. That’s a .461 winning percentage, essentially the same as the 101-win Twins, who had a .464 winning percentage. The difference of course was that the Twins played 33 fewer games against those winning teams. The Mets finished strong against these clubs, going 13-6 in their final 19 games against .500 or better teams. But their poor play against the good squads early in the year helped put them in such a big hole.

So, if the difference between the 101-win Twins and the 86-win Mets was essentially all due to the easier schedule of the Twins – buttressed by the fact that the Mets went 3-1 versus Minnesota this year – can we come up with a simple rating system to try to more accurately rank the teams? Let’s try giving double credit for beating a team .500 and above and a double penalty for a loss to a sub-.500 squad.

The Mets were 47-55 against the good teams. So, if we give double points for those wins, they’d be 94-55. They were 39-21 against the poor teams. If we give a double penalty for those losses, they’d be 39-42. Add both splits together and you get 133-97 for a .578 percentage.

Meanwhile, the Twins were 32-37 against the good teams. Double the wins and you get 64-37. They were 69-24 against the poor teams. Double the losses and you get 69-48. Add those together and you get 133-85 for a .610 percentage. The Twins finished with a 92-point advantage in winning percentage. Doubling the good wins and the bad losses cuts their percentage advantage to 32 points.

If we up the multiplier for good wins/bad losses from 2.0 to 2.5, we get the Mets at a .593 percentage and the Twins with a .606 percentage. This 13-point edge for the Twins certainly feels closer to being “right” than the actual 92-point advantage when it comes to describing the relative strengths of the two teams. Let’s do this for all 30 teams and see what we get.

Team Good W Good L Poor W Poor L Wins * 2.5 Loss * 2.5 New Wins New L Pct.
LAD 45 32 61 24 112.5 60 173.5 92 .653
ATL 52 43 45 22 130 55 175 98 .641
NYY 43 32 60 27 107.5 67.5 167.5 99.5 .627
HOU 35 28 72 27 87.5 67.5 159.5 95.5 .625
WSN 48 48 45 21 120 52.5 165 100.5 .621
MIN 32 37 69 24 80 60 149 97 .606
NYM 47 55 39 21 117.5 52.5 156.5 107.5 .593
TBR 38 35 58 31 95 77.5 153 112.5 .576
STL 42 42 49 29 105 72.5 154 114.5 .574
MIL 48 40 41 33 120 82.5 161 122.5 .568
PHI 48 52 33 29 120 72.5 153 124.5 .551
OAK 35 27 62 38 87.5 95 149.5 122 .551
CLE 25 39 68 30 62.5 75 130.5 114 .534
CIN 46 60 29 27 115 67.5 144 127.5 .530
CHC 39 45 45 33 97.5 82.5 142.5 127.5 .528
SFG 42 55 35 30 105 75 140 130 .519
ARI 35 40 50 37 87.5 92.5 137.5 132.5 .509
BOS 28 45 56 33 70 82.5 126 127.5 .497
TEX 31 53 47 31 77.5 77.5 124.5 130.5 .488
COL 38 60 33 31 95 77.5 128 137.5 .482
PIT 30 72 39 21 75 52.5 114 124.5 .478
CHW 35 53 37 36 87.5 90 124.5 143 .465
SDP 40 53 30 39 100 97.5 130 150.5 .463
MIA 38 83 19 22 95 55 114 138 .452
LAA 29 55 43 35 72.5 87.5 115.5 142.5 .448
TOR 35 58 32 37 87.5 92.5 119.5 150.5 .443
SEA 22 59 46 35 55 87.5 101 146.5 .408
KCR 28 60 31 43 70 107.5 101 167.5 .376
BAL 26 67 28 41 65 102.5 93 169.5 .354
DET 19 65 28 49 47.5 122.5 75.5 187.5 .287

In 2019, the average team found themselves playing 53% of their games versus teams .500 and above and 47% versus below-average teams. Yet the Mets played a whopping 63% of their games versus teams .500 and above. By contrast, the Twins played just 43% of their games against the good teams. And that’s not the worst mark this year in MLB. The Astros played just 39% of their games against teams with a winning record and the A’s had a 38% tally.

Under this simple system, the Mets would have the eighth-best percentage in baseball, rather than the 12th-best. And rather than 129 points behind the leader, they trail by 60 points in this ranking. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this ranking is that of the Marlins, who find themselves with a percentage 100 points higher than their actual one. The Marlins played a team .500 or better 75% of the time.

Is this any better than actual W-L records? My take as a Mets fan is yes. But even if this ranking is too simplistic to produce meaningful results, it seems few would argue with the overall point that ease of schedule plays a big factor into final records. Perhaps no better example exists than the 1954 Indians, who went 111-43 thanks to going 89-21 against teams with a losing record. They were 22-22 against teams with a winning record. They played just 29% of their games versus the good teams. Compare that to the Dodgers, who finished 2019 with 106 wins. LA faced a good team 48% of the time this season.

6 comments for “The 2019 Mets were done in by their schedule

  1. David Klein
    October 27, 2019 at 10:52 am

    Tremendous article Brian I had no idea someone send this to that oaf Matt Ehalt.

  2. John Fox
    October 27, 2019 at 11:32 am

    If you count WS games, the 54 Indians were 22-26 since they were swept by the New York Giants. Also the Mets may get a short end of the stick by Playing the Yankees each year in interleague play, but I am certain management would not want to give up those sellout or near sell out games.

  3. Chris F
    October 27, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Interesting analysis Brian. My fear is that this type of record manipulation may bring temporary relief to Mets fans, particularly who think the team is better than their record year after year. However, schedules are set long before any games are played, and virtually the same year after year. What your analysis shows is the waxing and waning of teams, which as we know happens all the time, and at various scales. I accept that the NYM-NYY rivalry games hurt the Mets more than other teams.

    A couple questions? Did you do your analysis using end of year records or records at the time of each game. I say this because if you look at the Nats record, they started something like 19-31 for the first third of the season, then played 4 months of some of the best baseball in the game. Without digging into the games specifically, they likely played a lot of games in that stretch who were better than them at the time, but finished below them at the end. My point being that I dont think one can use the end of season record to measure against. And if that becomes too broad a measuring tool, then what time frame would be most suitable? Every team usually goes on a hot streak at some point, making a miserable team like the Marlins a danger during a particular stretch. In fact this exactly happened to the Mets when the Marlins swept them to begin a 13-5 stretch in late May/early June. Sure the Marlins were terrible this year, but that was a bad time to face the Marlins on a .720 winning percentage stretch.

    The Mets have also been winners at this dinner table too. Lets look at 2015, when the Orange and Blue took the pennant with 90 wins. Had the Mets won 90 games this year, they still would have finished in third place in the east (would have netted a WC berth though). In 2015, the NL east was a hot mess with three teams ranging from 20 to 36 games under .500. By comparison the third-place-in-the-Central Cubs, finished with 97 wins.

    I think the last point worth considering about this season in this context is the overwhelming number of self-inflicted wounds that tanked the season regardless of the competition. Its super clear the abysmal defense played a huge role in coming up short. The bullpen wasn’t worth much either, although teams with equally bad pens like the Dodgers and Nats went on to success. Errors are independent of the opposition or their record. Being that bad on defense is pretty much a recipe for disaster – unless you are the Dodgers who played in arguably the worst division in the NL as a whole, but managed to hit nearly 40 more HR and score almost 100 more runs than the Mets.

    • October 27, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      Thanks Chris. And David, too, for the kind words.

      The information for the records was taken from B-R. I’m not sure how they do it, although my guess is that they use end of season records. Your point about record at the time they played is taken. I was going to address this using the Giants, when the Mets played them early in the second half and the Giants ended up winning 3 extra-inning games. But the Giants were barely under .500 when that happened.

      As for the Nats, they were 5-8 against the Mets in their first 50 games. And only 15 of their first 50 games were against teams that finished under .500 – so timing of their games had a lot to do with both their poor start and their hot middle of the year.

      As long as they use an unbalanced schedule, there are always going to be teams that benefit from their division. This year the Mets got the short end of the stick with their division, to go along with the short end that they always get from their interleague rival. And with those two things in mind, I don’t want to hear one word when they finally got to play some poor teams and took advantage of it in the second half.

      • Chris F
        October 27, 2019 at 1:41 pm

        Fair enough. I really like the notion of plumbing the depths of the schedule – nice job on a poorly recognized aspect of the season. The Dodgers seem less a big deal in the context of their opponents. In the “dominate the stinkers” idea, it share helps when you play a out of them. The flip side now makes the Nats CS victory less surprising to me.

        I also think it’s fair to point out that there will likely be imbalance in catching a string a bad teams as well as catching a run of games against good teams, rather than facing good and bad team shuffled together. While I maintain the Mets were not as good as the month after the ASG, I also accept they were better than than the 10 under record coming up to it. I think I predicted a slightly better than .500 record in the stretch of playing better teams in Aug/Sept, which is what they did. All in all, I think the 162 game record is a decent measure of this team, given the opponents they played.

  4. Name
    October 29, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    When comparing the Twins vs the Mets – yes the scheduled is unbalanced, but it is irrelevant because they are not in the same league or division.

    The most important is that your division plays a balanced schedule because the division winner advances to the playoffs – and they do.

    What isn’t fair right now is the wild card where certain teams can have a much easier path than others. Based on this method strength of schedule adjustment, the Mets arguably were the better team than the Brewers, but missed out on the playoffs because they had a harder schedule.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: