There is nothing like playing quad-A teams and some palace intrigue to change the tone of things in Queens. Gone is the month of August and play against tough competition, which was replaced by as soft a schedule as imaginable and a string of wins that is balancing the run of losses the previous month. The record seems to identify the Mets for what we can see, they are neither a top club on sure track for cold-weather baseball (top 10 teams), nor are they the bottom feeders (bottom 10 teams); instead, as the record shows, the Mets sit in familiar purgatory of the non-descript middle 10 team in the MLB.
Nonetheless, it has been a delight to see runs score, even if runs are being scored against in great numbers as well. This change in fortune has raised the post season odds potential raise to 7-10 % from about 1%; that is still a long fall from the 75% not that long ago. All that said, the talk, almost night-after-night in August about a nearly unprecedented number of one-run games and “how close” the Mets were in the games made me want to dig a little deeper into those games.
The Mets played 28 games in August, and surprisingly enough, only a single double header. As a result, the games were almost all 9-inning affairs, as real baseball is supposed to be played. In this stretch, 11 games (just about 40%) ended in one-run differences, which from the game calls made it seem that this was nearly some sort of near unprecedented run. Their record was a paltry 2 wins and 9 losses. As an aside, for some time, I have thought the Mets curiously manage to “play to the day’s competition” ending in close games regardless of the total runs scored. Were these games as close as a one-run differential would intimate?
The record alone says either this stretch was bad luck, in what would almost certainly “feel like” what should a 50/50 possibility of winning so many close games (of course winning by one run in the losses would have required two additional runs), or something a bit more sinister. The games were by no means low-scoring events, ranging from an 8-7 win against the Nationals on 10 August, to a couple of 2-1 losses against the Dodgers (14 August) and Nationals (27 August).
A total of 99 innings were played across the 11 games, for an average of 9 innings per game. Across this stretch, the Mets scored 35 runs for an average 3.2 runs per game, or simply not enough to have won many of the games. The team scored greater than this average four times. One of the difficult things in watching the August games was the sheer number of innings with no runs scored, despite plenty of runners to drive in. In fact, the Mets only scored in 23 innings, leaving essentially 80% of the innings played with a big fat 0 on the board. They scored the runs on 80 hits, or about 7 hits per game. None of this hints that the games were particularly close, but what really caught my eye was their time chasing the lead.
What is astounding, and serves as a witness for why these games were not really that close, is the amount of time the Mets led in these games. Across these 99 innings, the Mets led games in only 9 innings total, or < 10%. It is easy to see the difficulty in winning the games when constantly under stress from behind (or tied), which led to strings of terrible at bats highlighted by swinging for a home run whatever the pitch, watching first-pitch middle-middle fastballs, and swinging at behind-in-the-count pitches so out of the zone that one could only use the work panic. These games were not close despite only one-run differences. It also gives word for caution should the Mets climb back over the Braves and win the NL East only to face substantial competition come October.