Friday, December 27, 2019

Playoff-Ready Mets Building Off Solid 2019 Season

Despite facing major injuries and former manager Mickey Calloway's questionable lineup decisions, the New York Mets managed to squeeze out a respectable 2019 season. They went 86-76 but only finished third in the NL East.

Making the playoffs is difficult. Much harder than in the NBA, because you must win your division to be guaranteed a spot, not just have a good record. It makes it even harder when two of the top three won-loss records come out of your National League division. The Atlanta Braves had a break-out year, winning 97 games. The World Series champion Washington Nationals emerged from the wild-card with 93 wins.

Entering 2020, the New York Mets have a lot to build from, starting with Jacob DeGrom. The MLB Picks experts at SBR recently posted on his Cy Young-winning season. DeGrom won the Cy Young award in a landslide, with the only other NL hurler to get a first-place vote was Los Angeles Dodgers star lefty, Hyun-Jin Ryu.

FanGraphs Stats

DeGrom outpaced his division counterparts Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. His 7.0 WAR was well ahead of the Nationals' pair (6.5 and 5.7 respectively). The only pitcher with a better WAR was Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole, who probably should have won the AL Cy Young award.

Cole didn’t match deGrom's ERA, and his 20 wins came largely from the American League's best batting lineup. deGrom earned his Cy Young with only 11 victories, as voters took note of his advanced pitching metrics ahead of his win total.

DeGrom was 7-1 heading into the All-Star break, and he finished the season with a .97 WHIP and 255 strikeouts – best in the National League. With his contract extension keeping him in New York for the foreseeable future, the New York Mets are +1400 to win the World Series in 2020, tied for fifth with the Boston Red Sox on the World Series odds boards. That number is just behind the Braves at +1200, the Los Angeles Dodgers at +800, the New York Yankees at +650, and the Houston Astros at +600.

The Mets solidified their pitching staff by picking up starters Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello. The two augment an already All-Star rotation that consists of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard.

However, there are many questions about their bullpen. They took a huge step forwards on Christmas Eve when they signed Dellin Betances to a one-year deal. The pen is loaded with Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Brad Brach, Edwin Diaz, and Jeurys Familia. Brach showed promise but there was a lot left to be desired out of both Diaz and Familia. If both Diaz and Familia can return to form, the Mets have a potential lights-out trio at the back end of their bullpen.

They Mets shored up their outfield defense when they snagged Jake Marisnick from the Astros for a pair of minor leaguers. The move gives the Mets outfield flexibility, as they now have a back-up for Brandon Nimmo and the oft-injured Yoenis Cespedes. New Mets manager Carlos Beltran can also move Nimmo to left field and run Marisnick in center field. Additionally, Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis can also play in the infield when needed.

If Cespedes comes back healthy and Pete Alonso repeats his record-setting rookie season, their new acquisitions give rookie manager Beltran much-needed lineup flexibility. That coupled with an improved pitching staff – assuming Diaz and Familia can bounce back in the bullpen – I see the Mets winning 90+ games and challenging for the NL East.

The Mets have formidable competition with the Braves and Nationals, but with the Nationals prime for a post-Series-win slump, the Amazins' could easily slide into a wild card berth at the end of the 2020 regular season.


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