If you want to make the playoffs out of the NL East, you better have two things – talent and luck. This was true in 2019 and it will be the same in 2020, too. Last year’s two playoff teams from the East featured a 97-win team and the eventual World Series champions. Obviously, those two teams were talented. But let’s take a look at some of the luck they received on the way to the postseason.
Had two players exceed 700 PA. Only nine guys did that in all of MLB in 2019 and two of them were on the same team.
Signed a guy on the wrong side of 30 who had combined for 165 games the previous two seasons and he put up 155 games and an OPS 99 points higher than the year before.
Signed a guy who in his age 33 season put up a .675 OPS and for them at age 34, he put up an .858 OPS in virtually identical playing time.
A bench piece for them put up an .882 OPS after never having topped an .800 mark previously and one who had a career .744 rate.
Adeiny Hechavarria gets cut loose from the Mets after posting a .611 OPS. He gets picked up by the Braves and posts a 1.039 mark.
Francisco Cervelli puts up a .526 OPS with the Pirates last year. Joins the Braves and posts a 1.066 mark
Dallas Keuchel misses half the year but is able to give them 112.2 IP at a 121 ERA+. The other major free agent to sit out that long posts a 6.53 ERA.
Touki Toussaint, Jacob Webb and Dan Winkler get added to the team during the year and combine to go 11-1, with one of them posting a 4.98 ERA and another a 5.62 mark.
Exceeded their Pythagorean mark by six games.
Anthony Rendon makes a jump for his age 27-28 seasons and makes another jump at age 29
Howie Kendrick puts up a career year at 35.
Asdrubal Cabrera has a .711 OPS with the Rangers, joins the Nats and posts a .969 mark.
Anibal Sanchez at age 35 reaches 30 starts in a season for the first time since 2012.
Stephen Strasburg makes 33 starts, just the third time in his 10-year career he reaches 30 and the first time since 2014.
Daniel Hudson has a 3.00 ERA and a 1.271 WHIP with the Blue Jays. Joins the Nats and puts up a 1.44 and 0.880 marks, respectively.
After posting a .785 OPS with RISP in 2018, they post a league-leading .887 mark in 2019.
So, what would be the Mets equivalent of what these two teams enjoyed last year? We’ll take both lists in the same order as they were presented above.
Brandon Nimmo and whoever hits second both top 700 PA.
Yoenis Cespedes comes back and puts up a .920 OPS over 155 games.
Jake Marisnick puts up an .875 OPS.
Luis Guillorme puts up a .784 OPS.
The Mets pick up two castoffs from other teams, insert them in their starting lineup and they play at MVP levels, giving the team an incredible late-season boost.
A SP goes down, the Mets sign someone to play at near AS-level for half the season.
The Mets call up Tyler Bashlor, Jacob Rhame and Paul Sewald and they combine to go 11-1.
And on top of that, finish with a six-game edge over Pythagoras
Michael Conforto jumps to the 145 wRC+ range. Except he’s already reached that level in his career, while Rendon had not.
Jed Lowrie puts up a career year
Trade for someone at our weakest offensive position, insert him in the lineup and have him produce at an MVP level for 38 games. You know, like 2015 Cespedes. Except Cespedes was a guy in his prime already having a great year before the Mets got him. Unlike the 33-year-old Cabrera last year.
Michael Wacha makes 30 starts with a better ERA and WHIP than his career marks
Mets don’t have an equivalent here. But let’s just give Noah Syndergaard Strasburg’s mark of 209 IP and 18 Wins.
Mets make a bullpen trade and get a guy who takes over as their closer with a sub-2 ERA and a sub-1 WHIP.
And on top of that, lead the league in OPS with RISP.
Just to be crystal clear, this is not meant to say that the Braves and Nationals don’t have really good players. They absolutely do. And it’s also not meant to say that nothing went wrong. Because, again, they absolutely did for both franchises. It’s just that whenever a team wins 90 or more games, you can guarantee that things went right for them at multiple different places.
And things went right for the Mets last year, for sure. Their SP enjoyed remarkable health. A rookie came up and hit 53 HR. A player who came up in 2018 and had success in half a season with a high BABIP put up a .337 mark over 567 PA. Their 31-year-old catcher set a career-high with 141 games. A bench bat forced into full-time duty responded with an .895 OPS.
It’s just that the list of things that went wrong for the Mets was over twice as long.
The talent level of the Mets is on par with that of the other top clubs in the NL East. We’ll see which club enjoys the best health and good fortune. And if you want to dock the Mets because of questionable health of guys like Betances, Cespedes and Lowrie – that’s fine. Just make sure to dock injury question marks on other teams the same.