If the New York Mets had a team motto for the 2017 season it would something like, “Finishing what you started and start what you want to finish.” 47 games, almost 30% of the season, could determine if the other 115 games matter in Queens.
The Mets schedule has them playing against only National League East opponents until May 8th when the Giants come to Flushing. The NL East can be shaped by how well the Mets come out of the gate. A great start to the season would mean the rest of the East has to beat up on each other while the Mets sit back and watch. It is hard to catch up with a team when you are not playing them. A terrible start could mean it is the Mets who are struggling to play catch up all summer.
A good start and finish could see Queens celebrating late into October. (NewsDay/ Thomas A. Ferrara)
Even if the Mets are unable to run away with the East with a successful beginning of the season, so long as they remain close they will have the opportunity to catch up at the end of the season. The final 15 games of the Mets’ season is against only NL East opponents. If the Nationals, the expected winner, have not clinched the Division, the 3 game series in Queens starting on September 22nd could decide who wins the National League East in 2017.
In 2016, the Mets began the 2016 season 20-12 (0.625) through their first 32 games and finished the season 9-6 (0.600) in their last 15 games. The Nationals also began the 2016 season 20-12 through the first 32 games, but finished 7-8 (0.467) over their last 15 games. This 2 game difference could be reduced to 8 season games that eventually led to the Nationals winning the East. Washington went 7-3 in the last 10 games before they clinched the division and began resting players for the playoffs. The Nationals were playing well when they secured their playoff spot, and then let off the game and coasted through the finish line.
The Mets could be the smacked in the face by their own play by the end of the season. (www.mlb.com)
Injuries happen to every team, so it is hard to justify a team coming up short based solely on an injury to a single player or a select group of players. The easiest way for the Mets to win the East is to play better against the Nationals and the Braves. In 2016 the Mets were 7-12 against Washington and 9-10 against the Braves. The Mets should have a winning record against the Braves and at least play .500 against the Nationals. This is a three game swing in the wins column, reducing the Nationals lead down to five games. New York went 12-7 against both the Phillies and the Marlins and needs to do so again this season. Good teams beat up on the teams they are better than in an effort to stockpile victories.
The Mets are off to an 8-11 start, wins and loses through 19 games this season. Their first 32 games and their last 15 games, roughly 30% of the season will loom large as to the success or failure of the 2017 season in Flushings. The Mets can put pressure on the National League East from the beginning or dig themselves into a whole that could be nearly impossible to get out of. If the Mets hope to finish what they start this season, they must start what they want to finish at the beginning of the season.
The Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets in five games to win the 2015 World Series. Half of The Winning Run staff (Bernie and myself) were correct in our predictions for which team would win. However, while we expected the Royals to win, we did not expect the Mets to lose so quickly. The Mets seemed to run out of steam in the World Series. Their bats went cold, the back half of the bullpen became wobbly Jell-O, and the team seemed to forget how to play fundamentally sound baseball. This doomed the boys from Flushing.
The Mets and Royals both played like a team. No single player led them to victory or defeat; rather the teams, as a whole, decided their fates. The Mets held the lead in all five games; in four of the five games the Mets held the lead at least through the end of the 7th inning. New York got quality pitching out of their starters. The issues arose when the starters were left in for too long (Game 5, Matt Harvey) or when the bullpen had to hold a close lead late in the game. Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia blew three saves. Blaming an error here or a poor decision there for the Mets defeat would be easy. However, the Royals victory was as much a team effort as the Mets defeat was a team effort and the numbers show it.
The Royals had the advantage on offense. Kansas City had 197 AB, 47 Hits, 10 Doubles, 1 Triple, 2 HR, 25 RBI, and 27 R in the World Series. The Royals drew 17 BB against 37 SO. Kansas City had a .239 BA, .295 OBP .330 SLG, .625 OPS, and were 7 for 7 in Stolen Bases.
The Mets had 181 AB, 35 Hits, 1 Double, 0 Triples, 6 HR, 18 RBI, and 19 R in the World Series. New York drew 14 BB against 46 SO. The Mets had a .193 BA, .254 OBP, .298 SLG, .552 OPS, and were 1 for 3 in Stolen Bases.
The Royals and Mets both sent 16 different players to the plate during the World Series. Kansas City had 16 more At Bats and collected 12 more hits. The Mets displayed their power by hitting 4 more HR. While the Royals did not hit many balls out of the park, they collected 9 more Doubles and the only Triple in the World Series. Kansas City collected 7 more RBI with 3 more BB and 9 fewer SO. Putting the ball in play more consistently resulted in the Royals having a .046 higher BA, a .041 higher OBP, a .032 higher SLG, and a .073 higher OPS. Additionally, the Royals attempted 4 more Stolen Bases than the Mets and collected 6 more Stolen Bases. The Royals were constantly pressuring the Mets.
The Royals knew they would not win trying to engage in a slugging contest with the Mets, thus Kansas City relied on their speed and ability to get on base. Putting pressure on the New York defense paid off, as the Mets committed six errors in the four World Series games they lost. These errors, from Daniel Murphy missing a ground ball to New York’s inability to turn a double play, gave Kansas City more opportunities to score. The boys from Flushing seemingly forgot how to play fundamentally sound baseball when it counted the most.
The 9th inning of Game 5 is the perfect example of the Mets not playing fundamentally sound baseball. Eric Hosmer is on third after a double and moving to third due to a ground out to the right side of the infield. Salvador Perez hits an easy chopper to David Wright at third. Before throwing to first to put out Perez, Wright briefly looks Eric Hosmer back to third. Instead of looking Hosmer back longer, Wright hurried his look back in order to throw out the slow running Perez. As soon as Wright began his throw to first, Hosmer broke for home. The Royals scouting report said Kansas City had a good chance to score a run with Wright throwing to Lucas Duda at first. David Wright has had to alter his throwing motion to a more side arm throw due to a shoulder injury, and he no longer has a strong arm to throw across the infield. Duda likewise does not have a good throwing arm, although not due to an arm injury. Wright’s weakened throw to first, Duda having to stretch for the ball then quickly adjust into a throwing position to deliver a good throw to Travis d’Arnaud at home meant the Royals had a good chance to score. Hosmer’s dash home would have been for nothing had Duda delivered a good throw. However, his throw was well off the mark, missing d’Arnaud completely and allowing Hosmer to score the tying run that eventually sent the game into extra innings. Putting pressure on the defense forcing them to make plays, or forcing pitchers to make more stressful pitches out of the stretch wears on a team. The Royals put the ball in play and used their speed to put more and more pressure on the Mets, until New York faltered, enabling Kansas City to take advantage.
The fight between the Royals and Mets pitchers favored the Royals. In total, the Royals used 11 pitchers over 52 innings. The starters pitched 31.1 innings and the bullpen pitched 20.2 innings for Kansas City. Royals’ pitchers gave up 35 Hits, 19 R, 17 ER, and 14 BB, with 46 SO. As a team, Kansas City pitchers had a 2.94 ERA and a 0.942 WHIP.
The Mets used 11 different pitchers over 51.1 innings. New York’s starters pitched 30 innings and the bullpen pitched 21.1 innings. Mets pitchers gave up 47 Hits, 27 R, 24 ER, and 17 BB, with 37 SO. New York pitchers collectively had a 4.21 ERA and a 1.247 WHIP.
The Mets and Royals used the same number of pitchers, 11, during the World Series. Kansas City pitchers had to pitch 0.2 fewer innings due to more victories at home and leading going into the 9th inning. The Royals starters pitched 1.1 more innings and the Kansas City bullpen pitched 0.2 fewer innings. The Mets gave up 12 more hits, 8 more Earned Runs, 7 more Runs, had 9 fewer strikeouts, and issued 3 more walks than Kansas City. The advantage of the Royals is most glaring in their 1.27 lower ERA less KC and 0.305 lower WHIP.
One of the critical turning points of the World Series came in Game 2 with Johnny Cueto’s complete game victory for the Royals. Aside from putting Kansas City up 2-0 against the Mets in a best of seven series, Cueto’s effort allowed the Royals bullpen to recover from the 14 inning marathon in Game 1. The Mets bullpen used five pitchers for 7 1/3 innings of relief in Game 1, while the Royals bullpen used six pitchers for 8 innings of relief. In Game 2, the Mets had to use four pitchers over three innings when Jacob deGrom was pulled after going five innings. Cueto’s complete game allowed the Royals to completely rest their bullpen in Game 2. This extra day of rest before the travel day to New York gave Kansas City an advantage heading into the rest of the series.
Two full days of rest are invaluable when every pitch means so much. Ned Yost was not faced with the same bullpen concerns as Terry Collins. The Royals could afford to pull their starters, if necessary, in the following games unlike the Mets. New York did win Game 3, but being forced into their bullpen after Yordano Ventura went 3 1/3 innings at worst pulled the Royals back even with the Mets. Cueto’s complete game prevented the Royals from blowing out their bullpen in Game 3 enabling the bullpen to remain strong and keep the Mets from building large leads in Games 4 and 5. Keeping the Mets close enough until the bats came alive in the late innings enabled the Royals to win the World Series after coming back from behind in all four of the games they won.
The Royals winning the World Series in just five games may give the illusion that the Mets were over matched. However, the series was much closer than it might appear. Kansas City capitalized on their opportunities by manufacturing runs and forcing New York to make mistakes under pressure. The Mets were not defeated because of their inability to match up with the Royals; they lost because their fundamentals broke down at critical moments and were unable to build large leads or hold smaller leads in the late innings.
Both the Royals and the Mets played team baseball. Neither team was too reliant upon a single player or a hand full of players. The 2015 World Series was truly about who had the better 25-player roster. Kansas City’s bullpen had to pitch slightly fewer innings but had a crucial extra day of rest. The Kansas City offense was able to put the ball in play more to force the Mets defense to make a play. Generally, New York made the plays they needed to, however the Mets did eventually make mistakes and, with the Royals constantly getting on base, these mistakes cost New York runs and games. More than anything these slight differences between the Royals and Mets are why Kansas City is celebrating their first World Series championship in 30 years and why the Mets are left to wonder what they could have done differently.