We’ve been looking ahead to the penultimate series of the 2022 regular season for months. Somehow we just knew it would all come down to three games in Atlanta, our final series with the Braves, to decide the National League East division. And here we sit clinging to a precarious one-game lead entering this pivotal three-game series.
Yes, both teams have secured a spot in the playoffs, but in the current format, the division leader will have a much better shot of getting to the World Series as they’ll get a first round bye and skip the wild card round for a chance to rest their players and position their rotation to their advantage.
However it shakes out, it’s important to look at the Mets vs. Braves matchup as they could well meet again in the League Championship Series to decide the National League Pennant. Here’s how the division rivals match up.
Even without Mike Soroka (remember him?) who’s been out with a twice-ruptured Achilles tendon, the Braves still have an excellent rotation. Max Fried and Kyle Wright are down ballot Cy Young candidates, Charlie Morton is a reliable veteran, and rookie Spencer Strider is a strikeout machine. Ian Anderson has been disappointing in his third season and veteran addition Jake Odorizzi hasn’t proven to be much of an upgrade on the backend. Those top three line up to face the Mets this weekend and Strider (oblique strain) should be back in time for the playoffs. It’s a formidable starting staff, but only one of these teams boasts arguably the two best veteran pitchers in baseball atop their rotation.
Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are not only dominant and healthy heading into this series, but both are battle tested. Chris Bassitt has been a terrific number three for the Mets and the righty with the old school delivery should be up to the task of facing this tough Braves lineup. Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker are both being considered for the fourth starter role in the playoffs, but neither will see a rotation turn in this pivotal series.
The Mets have had more success against right-handed pitchers this season while the righty heavy Braves lineup has actually fared significantly better against lefties. This further tips the scales in favor of the Mets.
Edwin Diaz has been hands down the best closer in baseball this year and his reliable dominance has been a key part of the Mets 2022 success. However, there’s a lot more to a bullpen than the closer, especially come playoff time. In games when a Mets starter goes seven innings, Adam Ottavino and Seth Lugo have been reliable bridges to Diaz. However, in close games where the starter gets knocked out early or games that go into extra innings, the middle relievers have been mostly unreliable. Trevor May and Mychal Givens have been too hittable, Drew Smith coughs up too many home runs, and Joely Rodriguez too many walks. Perhaps moving Carrasco or Walker to the pen along with one or both of spot starters Tylor Megill and David Peterson will fortify this weak group, but that remains to be seen.
The Braves have a deep and effective bullpen that features two experienced closers in Kenley Janson and Raisel Iglesias, as well as three effective lefties – A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek and Dylan Lee, and the reliable veteran and former Met Collin McHugh.
The Mets lineup is dynamic in that it includes a balance of lefties, righties and switch hitters, guys who can get on base, speed and power. However, the only big power threat is Pete Alonso, while the Braves lineup is loaded with thumpers. The Mets will likely finish with three 20+ home run hitters; the Braves with a staggering seven. The flip side is that the Mets strike out less often than the Braves, who boast three hitters with 160+ whiffs.
Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte do a great job of setting the table for Francisco Lindor and Alonso, and Jeff McNeil, Mark Canha and a resurgent Eduardo Escobar give the bottom of the order some pop. However, the Mets have really struggled to get consistent offense out of the catcher and DH positions. The Braves may not feature two MVP candidates like the Mets, but their lineup has a lot more power and depth.
Both teams sport good defensive squads. The Mets are fifth in the National League in both errors made and fielding percentage, while the Braves are second in both categories. The Mets have turned more double plays and thrown out a higher percentage of base stealers. Comparing position by position and considering range factor, errors, fielding percentage, assists, etc. the Mets have the leg up at more positions, but it’s close.
At full strength, the Mets have Luis Guillorme, Tomas Nido, Tyler Naquin and either the struggling Darrin Ruf or rookie Mark Vientos coming off the bench.
The Braves would have a superior bench but thanks to injuries to Ozzie Albies and Adam Duvall, the bench is a bit watered down with reserves like Orlando Arcia getting thrust into starting roles. The Braves have two fine hitting catchers in William Contreras and our old friend Travis d’Arnaud so they can DH one, but then that moves Marcell Ozuna to left field where he is far from a Gold Glover. The other option is to DH Ozuna and play the light hitting Robbie Grossman or struggling Eddie Rosario in left field. Arcia and Vaughn Grissom will cover second base until Met killer Albies returns.
Brian Snitker has been the Braves manager since 2016 and the former player and long-time organizational coach led them to a World Series win last season. Snitker is a good manager with a steady hand, if a hot head at times. He is supported by some familiar names among his coaches in Walt Weiss, Rick Kranitz, Kevin Seitzer, Eric Young and Ron Washington.
Buck Showalter may be the skipper the Mets needed all these years. The veteran manager has the respect of his players and the support of his front office. This team has been motivated and drama free under his leadership. Showalter gets support from Glenn Sherlock, Eric Chavez, Jeremy Hefner, Wayne Kirby, Joey Cora and others.
Matty Mets prediction: Mets take two out of three in Atlanta and hold on to the division, however the Braves could well knock out the Dodgers en route to a rematch in October. Let’s f&%$#@ go Mets!
9 comments on “Previewing the biggest Mets series in years”
I think thats a fair assessment Matt. I actually think Snitker is undervalued as manager by many. He’s a world series winner. At best the coaching staff is a draw, and may lean to ATL.
I think our mindset, and I sure hope the team mindset is that this is a playoff series. This is as October as October can be. A top team opponent, on the road, in a place where winning has never been easy. We all love the post season, the Mets are going to figure into it somehow, but make no mistake, its starts tonight.
Is it too late? Francisco Alvarez is being called up for the series to be the RH DH, replacing Ruf & Vientos. Again, I think the biggest advantage the Braves have; and have had over the years, is the way (and when) they introduce ballplayers up from the minors.
After much hooplah about the weather it looks like the hurricane will be staying far enough away and I see pretty much zero rain in the forecast for the weekend.
The simple guide to this series is
2+ wins = Mets win division
1 win = coin flip (well 51/49 Mets since they would hold tiebreaker)
0 win = Braves win division
Just based on how these past month has gone it would only make sense for the Mets to take 1 and leave this thing completely undecided for the last series.
Does have that feeling that nothing will be easy. And worst of all it bring the back end of the rotation into Washington and all the fear that brings
DeGrom, Sherzer,and Diaz,it’s what we all hoped for plus a one game lead. It’s there for the taking.
Starting pitching: mets at the top by a little but overall a draw
Relief pitching: braves overall but its close bc of Diaz as long as the top 3 can pitch deep
Lineup: also very close but slight edge to braves for having a deeper 1-9
Where i see this series hinging is on strength vs weakness. Most strikeouts as a pitching staff vs most strikeouts as an offense. Playoffs are about pitching. And we have the bigges intangible…mad max and his ridiculous energy.
Super excited to hear about the Alvarez call up. This move took balls and could make a big statement. If not for his ankle injury, he could have been our Greg Jeffries for September. Ruf and Vientos are just not getting it done. This also gives us another power pinch hitter and a potential spark. If this 20-year-old kid hits a homer this weekend the dugout will go nuts and so will every fan watching at home.
I hear you, Name, and the realty is that it hard to win a series against a great team at their home stadium. If one win is the end result then I think the Mets will still win the division.
Woodrow and BoomBoom comments are hard to ignore, though. MattyMets and I are super excited about Alvarez. My Metsense says Name is right but my heart says No, No No a thousand times No. The Mets will win two and clinch it on Monday in Citi Field. LGM
This is where I’m leaning as well. We win the first two with Jake and Max. Then blow a 7th inning lead in game 3 as the Braves stave off elimination for 1 day and 1 day only. Clincher at home at Citi Field where it belongs.