MLB’s Opening Day is right around the corner, baseball fans. And remember, we’ve got three games going Sunday, April 2. So we thought we’d wrap up the week with some division previews. You’ll get the AL/NL East today, the AL/NL Central on Thursday and the AL/NL West on Saturday.
Then before the action kicks off Sunday, our World Series winner will be revealed. That, along with various award-winners and the 2018 Hall of Fame class. But these won’t simply be predictions from yours truly, no. Instead, we’ll be looking through the lens of Out of the Park Baseball ’18.
You can thank Matt Collinsa��among others, I’m surea��for why you’re about to see this.
First off, have you ever played Out of the Park Baseball? If your answer is a�?Noa��, go remedy that. Then come back here. Because what youa��re about to see is exactly whata��s going to happen this season.* They might as well not even bother playing the games.**
*This is actually just for fun. Please enjoy it.
**I dona��t really mean this.
Folks, we’re going to streamline the NL East for y’all this time. Kind of. Why? Because nothing can top what chaos the Tampa Bay Rays caused over in the AL East. Nothing today, anyway. But buckle up, Mets fans, because you’re in for one helluva season. (In a good way.)
Now normally we’d take you through the standings month-by-month, just as we did over in the AL. But this time, there’s no need. That’s because the Mets rolled from April through September, never relinquishing the top spot. By season’s end, here’s how the standings looked:
- New York Mets (96-66).
- Washington Nationals (85-77).
- Philadelphia Phillies (77-85).
- Atlanta Braves (71-91).
- Miami Marlins (71-91).
I don’t know which is funnier, the Braves winning 70-plus games or the Nationals not qualifying for the postseason. (I’m kidding, I know exactly which is funnier.) So, how did the Mets finish atop the NL East? Well, the way they went about it was nothing short of impressive.
A hero to many a Mets fan, Yoenis CA�spedes struggled mightily out of the gate. Fortunately, many others stepped up. Others that included: Juan Lagares (.319/.374/.418), AsdrA?bal Cabrera (.289/.337/.467), Wilmer Flores (.288/.333/.438), Travis d’Arnaud (.277/.347/.431) and even Jay Bruce (.305/.328/.508). Like the Rays in the AL, it was entirely a team effort. Like the Rays in the AL, the Mets persevered without their star at his best for an extended period of.
But what happened on the mound?
Matt Harvey (7.59 ERA; 21.1 IP) and Steven Matz (5.23 ERA; 20.2 IP) got off to horrid starts, but Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Robert Gsellman did anything but. This trend more or less continued all season, only with both Harvey and Matz getting on track. And, the best part? Thor, deGrom and Harvey all logged 200-plus innings in 2017. It gets even better, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
First off, let’s give credit to the Nationals. At the end of April, they were level with the Mets. At the end of May, they were once again level with the Mets. But of course, an MLB season isn’t played over two months.
While several bats cooled, the pitching turned it up multiple notches. Not one starter would post an ERA higher than 3.59 in the month of May. And, all five tossed at least 33 innings. Then came the bullpen. Jeurys Familia (5.23 ERA; 10.1 IP) struggled, but Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins picked him up. In 29.1 innings between the two, they combined for an ERA of 0.96. Ben Rowen and Fernando Salas were nearly untouchable as well.
Similar to Tampa Bay, it was all happening. And it was all good. We know it continued, but just how hot could the Mets possibly get?
In a word: Incredibly. On the mound, at least.
Matz and Gsellman tailed off in June, but the bullpena��Familia included this timea��couldn’t stop shutting everyone down.
CA�spedes still struggled, but Wilmer Flores was having none of that. Neither was Neil Walker, slashing .365/.434/.649 with six dingers over 83 plate appearances. Aside from those two, however, literally everyone else in New York’s lineup struggled. Still, they held a 2.5-game lead over Washington come June’s end.
And they remained steady from there.
Admittedly we’re progressing fairly quickly here, but again: the Mets never slipped up. Their lead was 3.5 games at the end of July. And, down to just 2 at August’s conclusion. But like the Rays did in September, the Mets pulled away. By October 1, 11 games separated New York and the Nationals. The former went through October with an 18-10 record while the Nats tailed off with an atrocious 9-19 mark.
So where did the production come from? Just about everyone.
CA�spedes finally woke up in July, doing so in a big way. With 84 PAs to his name, he slashed .355/.417/.592 with 5 dingers. Flores continued his stellar season, this time with a month of .312/.369/.468. Lucas Duda didn’t hit well consistently, but got on base 33 percent of the time and added seven long balls of his own.
But where the bats went cold, the hurlers sizzleda��especially Thor, Harvey and Matz. In July, anyway. Moreover, the bullpen continued to stroll. It wasn’t that everyone was doing well all of the time, it’s that there was balance. There was never a case of both the offense and defense going south at once. Come season’s end, that was readily apparent.
We hinted at Thor’s full body of 2017 earlier in the piece, so here’s how it shook out: 234.1 IP, 2.96 ERA; 295 strikeouts (11.3 K/9) to 51 walks (2.0 BB/9). So close to 300a��so close. But he wasn’t without help:
- Jacob deGrom: 215 IP, 3.01 ERA; 229 K, 43 BB; 9.6 K/9, 1.8 BB/9.
- Matt Harvey: 209.2 IP, 3.65 ERA; 232 K, 68 BB; 10.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9.
- Steven Matz: 177 IP, 3.41 ERA; 180 K, 37 BB; 9.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9.
- Robert Gsellman: 169 IP, 3.36 ERA; 140 K, 56 BB; 7.5 K/9, 3.0 BB/9.
Off the top, heckuva rookie season for the 23-year-old Gsellman. Who needs Zack Wheeler if Gsellman performs like that, am I right? (More on Wheeler in a moment.) But the best news of all, Mets fans: your entire rotation remains healthy! Including, but certainly not limited to, The Dark Knight.
The bad news: Wheeler does not. After logging 74.2 impressive innings at Triple-A Las Vegas (2.77 ERA; 9.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9), he tears a back muscle and is sidelined for several months. Though I feel like if what happened above resembles reality in any way, shape or form, Wheeler’s injury blow becomes less bad (for the team). For Wheeler, it’d be devastating and quite simply, unfair.
Oh, and the bullpen rocked it too. But we won’t bore you with individual numbers this time. Instead we’ll only say this: the Mets led the league with a 3.30 team ERA. Nobody else in their division was under 4.11. The next-closest mark was nearly half a run away. And, the league average was more than one full run (4.41) higher. In short: the Mets absolutely controlled opposing bats.
And as the regular season came to a close, the offense looked like this (minimum 200 PAs):
There’s a handful of dingers in there, a few solid lines as well. But nothing about the Mets screamed a�?elite offensea�? this season. Fortunately, they had more than enough pitching to make up for that.
So would their journey continue far into the postseason? You’ll have to come back Sunday for the answer. In the meantime, enjoy the ride, Mets fans!