In all professional sports leagues, the conventional wisdom is to play .500 versus the good teams and then clean up against the bad teams. But does it work? Here are the MLB teams that essentially played .500 versus teams who were .500 and above last year and how they fared overall:

Team vs. .500+ PCT Overall Playoffs
Rays 48-44 .522 99-63 Yes
Phillies 47-43 .522 90-72 Yes
Twins 37-36 .507 87-75 Yes
Yankees 47-46 .505 82-80 No
Astros 42-43 .494 90-72 Yes
Rangers 42-45 .483 90-72 Yes
Red Sox 51-55 .481 78-84 No

Five of our seven teams followed this plan to the playoffs. The ones who didn’t messed up by not dominating the bad teams. The Yankees went just 35-34 against teams under .500 and the Red Sox were even worse at 27-29.

The Mets have played 16 games and as of today, all of them have been versus teams over .500 on the season. And the Mets are 8-8. They’re holding their own against the good teams. We’ll see how they fare once they start playing the poor teams in the league.

But the thing is, that there are only 11 teams under .500 in the league right now. The good news is that two of them are in the NL East, meaning the Mets will get 26 games against bad teams right there. The Mets went 16-10 against the Marlins and Nationals a year ago. And that was with them being a 75-win team. If this is a playoff team this year, how much better can they do against those two squads?

The bad news is that with only 11 bad teams – and five of them in the AL – the Mets will only play around 65 games against bad teams. If you go back to the chart above, you see the Twins were a game over .500 against the good teams and wound up with 87 wins. But that’s helped tremendously by playing 89 games against the bad teams. The Mets simply won’t have that many games, unless something unexpected happens to either the Braves or Phillies.

Of course, this is not an ideal way to look at the issue. It’s a back-of-the-envelope way, one which for simplicity makes a lot of assumptions. The most obvious ones are the grouping of teams with dissimilar records together. Last year the Padres were 82-80, so a win against them was counted the same as one against the 104-58 Braves.

We could make it more complex and account for differences in winning percentage more varied than just .500 or better or under .500 – but that still wouldn’t fix everything. No team plays the same throughout a 162-game season and when you play a certain team can matter a lot. The 56-106 2023 Royals had a 7-game winning streak, along with a stretch where they went 10-1. If you played them in one of those time periods, they weren’t exactly a .346 winning percentage squad. And if you played them any other time, they were even worse.

But it would be a giant headache to try to work around that particular issue, assuming it could be done at all.

Still, for a team projected to have a win total in the low 80s, it’s a very encouraging sign to see how they’ve started the season against a challenging schedule. Here are the teams they’ve played to date:

Team Overall Non-Mets
Brewers 10-5 7-5
Tigers 9-7 7-6
Reds 9-7 8-5
Braves 10-5 9-3
Royals 11-6 10-4
Pirates 11-6 11-5
Total 60-36 52-28

The combined winning percentage for the teams they’ve played so far is .625 overall. It will be tough to find another unique stretch of 16 games where the Mets will face teams with a record this good. The Mets have a 14-game stretch in mid-June – when else? – where they face the Padres, Rangers, Cubs, Yankees and Astros – HOU currently under .500 but that could change by then – that might challenge this current streak. But those games are bracketed by facing the Marlins and Nats.

And if you take out the results versus the Mets, the teams they’ve played have a .650 winning percentage. They’re not fattening up their records by playing the team from Queens.

Meanwhile, the Mets have two more games against the Pirates and then three more in Los Angeles against the Dodgers before they finally face their first bad team in the Giants, who are currently 7-10. And San Francisco has two games against Miami and four against Arizona before the Mets come to town, meaning it’s possible the Giants will be above .500 when they play, too.

No team can control the schedule; you just play the squad in front of you that day and hope you catch a team here and there while it’s not hot and playing the best ball of the season. However, there’s simply no way to look at how the Mets have played thru 16 games and not be impressed. We have to assume that at some point the schedule gets easier and that Kodai Senga and J.D. Martinez return to bolster the team.

In the interim, let’s hope that the offense keeps producing like it has recently, putting up five or more runs in six of the last seven games, totaling 50 runs in that span. And if a starting pitcher wants to step up and throw seven innings in an outing, that would be welcome, too.

5 comments on “Mets hold their own while playing a challenging schedule

  • Boomboom

    Great article. I was looking at the “records against better than .500 teams” in the standings and noticed the Mets have played one of the toughest schedules in all of baseball so far.

    I d say even more encouraging than beating good teams is the type of good teams they are beating — young and athletic. The Brewers being the one real exception so far but Cinci, Pitt, Atlanta and KC have speed and athleticism up and down their rosters. We struggled to keep up with that last year. Stearns has put together an intriguing mix and the coaching staff has been selectively aggressive – a double steal with McNeil and Stewart?.

    Not looking past the next 2 with the Pirates but I am excited for the L.A. litmus test. Winning in Atlanta seemed to give the team a lot of self belief.

  • David Groveman

    I was literally looking at this, this morning. In my mind, I’m only viewing the Nationals, Marlins and Rockies as “Bad” teams in the NL and prior to the Mets winning the Royals series, they were probably in that group too. To me the Mets firmly graduate to the “Good” tier when they add Senga and Martinez to the roster, especially if the bullpen success is not a mirage.

    National League Elite: (Teams who I’d be shocked if they missed the playoffs)
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    Atlanta Braves

    National League Good: (Teams most people expected to by vying for the playoffs)
    Milwaukee Brewers
    Philadelphia Phillies
    Chicago Cubs
    San Diego Padres
    Pittsburgh Pirates

    National League Meh: (Teams that aren’t bad but were not really in the playoff discussion)
    San Francisco Giants
    Cincinnati Reds
    New York Mets
    Arizona Diamondbacks
    St. Louis Cardinals

    • Brian Joura

      In the first half of last year, Buck Showalter successfully balanced a pen with three good arms in it. I’d say this year’s pen has at least one more good arm and it might have as many as seven in total. I understand the skepticism with 3-4 of those relievers. But I’m more concerned with what the SP have put up to date being a mirage than the RP.

      • David Groveman

        What do you think of my tiers?

        • Brian Joura

          At this point of the season, it’s one tier too many.

          You have the Braves and Dodgers in Tier 1
          The Marlins, Nats and Rockies in Tier 3
          Everyone else in Tier 2

          Maybe after 50 or 75 games we can split Tier 2 into playoffs and non-playoffs.

Leave a Reply

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

The maximum upload file size: 100 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here