The New York Mets have the 10th-best team OPS in 2022 and they have scored the second-most runs per game. Most of that offensive success has come thanks to slugger Pete Alonso as well as resurgent seasons from utility man Jeff McNeil and shortstop Francisco Lindor (plus, Luis Guillorme to a lesser extent).
With the middle of their lineup doing most of the heavy lifting, the Mets have catapulted to the top of the NL East standings. As of writing this article, they hold a 9.5 game lead over second-place in their division, the largest gap of any division in MLB. However, it hasn’t been their offense that has led them to this point. It’s been their pitching. Remarkably, the Mets’ hold the second-best team ERA in the league. Their bullpen has the ninth-best ERA, and not a single pitcher to start a game this year has an ERA over 4.5. In fact, only one has an ERA over 4, and they’ve done all that without Jacob deGrom and with Max Scherzer now out 6-8 weeks with an oblique strain. This team is going to be unfair when they’re fully healthy.
Since Scherzer went down, the Mets have gone 10-4. That is the third-best 14-game stretch they’ve had all season and they’ve done it without arguably the two best pitchers in the National League. That shouldn’t be allowed. Hell, it feels like a cheat code. How do you lose the two guys you built your entire team around in 2022 and still manage to have the most wins in the National League?
Let’s look into it. As I mentioned earlier, the resurrections of both Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil have a lot to do with it. The team hasn’t scored more than five runs per game since 2006, yet their home runs per game totals are actually lower than where they were a year ago. Hell, their team OPS isn’t even where it was two years ago and they went 26-34 in that COVID-shortened season. The only area offensively where the Mets have improved from 2020 is strikeouts. The Mets are making more contact than they’ve had in years. In fact, 2022 marks the fewest strikeouts per game the team has suffered since 2011, almost a full strikeout less per game than the team was suffering in 2020. With that, the Mets have managed a .312 batting average on balls in play, the second-best in MLB. While BABIP is a fickle stat, often considered very luck-based, fewer strikeouts forces opposing defenses to make more plays, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this number is as high as it is given what the Mets have done on offense.
As for their pitching, the team’s three-headed bullpen monster of Edwin Díaz, Drew Smith, and Seth Lugo have been the biggest reason for the team’s defensive success. The Mets haven’t had this many reliable relievers in a long time, and with guys like Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker all living up to what was expected of them when they first signed on with the Mets, there’s really nothing to dislike about this team.
The only thing that could derail them at this pace is injuries. On either end, offense or defense, the team is pretty thin. Lord knows Mets’ fans don’t want Dominic Smith brought back up before he’s figured out what’s been causing him troubles in Triple-A. Imagine if Pete Alonso was forced to miss extended time. The man is an MVP candidate, and nobody on the Mets’ roster has spent much time at first. The team’s defense would be worse off, the team’s offense would be way worse off and the absence of that huge power bat in the middle of the lineup would probably make it harder for everybody else to hit as well since pitchers would be less worried to pitch around guys like McNeil and Lindor.
Same goes for the pitching staff. They’ve already been decimated by the injury bug. One more might push the Mets over the edge, although pitching coach Jeremy Hefner has clearly worked something out as no matter who’s had to fill a rotation spot, the team has seen great play on the mound.
The Mets are walking on thin ice, but they’ve got such a huge division lead, it doesn’t really matter. I know they’ve lost two in a row to the Dodgers, but in a 5- or 7-game series, fully healthy, I’d take deGrom and Scherzer over whatever the Dodgers trot out on the mound.
The Mets don’t need to make a big splash to acquire some huge high-impact player like most teams did last season. They don’t have to give up a ton of prospects. They don’t have to shell out for somebody they’ll only have for half a season. They don’t need to sacrifice their future. All they need is to sit back and let deGrom and Scherzer get healthy while they nurse their division lead. Let it play out. Don’t overreact to the last two games.