Like beauty, the Mets season is in the eye of the beholder. Nevertheless, here are some indisputable facts presented in the light of lessons to be learned…
The Regular Season Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint
Mets fans know well a major league regular season consumes around 185 days on a calendar over six months. It is a prolonged and arduous trek through three seasons, beginning with games played in forty-degree temperatures, into and beyond the sweltering dog-days of August. School ends, and school re-starts. Three of a calendar’s major holidays come and go.
The Mets ran a sprint in 2019. It served them well only because it came at the end of the season when hope was raised and dashed by games played before raucous crowds at Citi Field in late August and September.
In real terms though, the Mets lost their season in May and June, not in September.
Cliches are valuable because they speak the truth in simple words. In baseball, the games you play in May count the same as the ones in September. The Miracle Mets never materialized in 2019, and the celebration heralding the 1969 team should have served as a reminder that these things only happen once in a lifetime.
Sorry, another cliche applies. The early bird catches the worm – a lesson to be learned for 2020.
If it’s Not You, It’s Gonna Be Them
By what right do the Milwaukee Brewers claim the final Wild Card spot in the National League? (reference the table below)
Here’s a team, the Milwaukee Brewers,that’s going to finish tenth in the National League in Earned Run Average, seventh from the worst in runs allowed, and dead last in Quality Starts with only 34 (a QS is a starting pitcher who yields three runs or less over six innings or more). The Mets finished second in the league with more than twice as many (78).
In all, the Brewers are the only team that’s been in serious contention with a negative run differential (table). So, how did the Brewers manage to pull this off – while the Mets couldn’t?
One clue is in the sentence you just read. The Brewers have Craig Counsell as their manager and the Mets don’t. Counsell was a finalist in the 2018 voting for Manager of the Year, and he is likely to earn the title for 2019.
Like all teams, the Brewers had their share of critical injuries, but it was most notably in the remaking of the team’s bullpen that Counsell shined.
While the Mets continued in vain to run the same guys out there (Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia), Jeremy Jeffries struggled and was eventually released, and Corey Knebel never made it out of spring training. The only reliever to have a consistent level of success is Josh Hader. The rest of the bullpen arms have been riding a tidal wave of productivity.
In short, the Brewers rose up while putting together a hodgepodge team with no stars, save for Christian Yelich, to beat out the Mets and the teams with the most to cry over – the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies.
As hard as the Mets pushed, they didn’t push as hard as the Brewers. And that made all the difference. Over their last 30 games, the Mets have gone 16-14 while the Brewers lit it up at 21-9.
Shocking, isn’t it? With all the hoopla surrounding the Mets, you would have thought they did better than that. But it was the Brewers who snuck in there while the Mets were obsessed with the Cubs. That can’t happen again.
Mets In September, The Loss Column Is Everything
As a way of introducing this widely ignored reality in baseball, yesterday, the New York Yankees are trailing the Houston Astros by only one game in the standings to gain home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
That’s the headline, but not the whole story since the Yankees have two more losses and two more games played than the Astros.
The Yankees cannot win games they’ve already lost. Not so for the Astros who have the situation well in hand because they can win the two games, they have yet to play.
I mention this because the Mets never seemed to make up ground to the teams ahead of them in the loss column. Several times, the Mets lost while their competition was losing. The team would get to within two games in the standings, but they were still four behind in the loss column and where we find the team today.
The Mets Must Beat The East
Against teams in their National League East Division, the Mets managed to compile a record barely above .500 (35-34) as this is written. That is not the way you do it. The same lesson applies to the Cubs who are also 35-34 in the NL Central, and the Phillies who are 34-34 in the NL East.
If not for their record in interleague play (15-5), the Mets are a sub-.500 team. Conversely, the Milwaukee Brewers are ten games over .500 against the teams they play most often in the NL Central.
What this demonstrates is that (again) except for the Brewers, none of the Mets competitors for the final WC spot did well in their respective divisions.
Consider this – winning only four more games against teams in the NL East catapults the Mets to 39-30 – making all the difference to how things turned out for the team.
An Omen Three Weeks Ago
I wish I could have been wrong. On September 9, I wrote a story titled Mets: Too Many Wasted Days And Wasted Nights. An omen of things to come? Maybe, but as we look ahead to 2020, there are lessons to be learned from the 2019 season.
Hopefully, the Mets not only recognize the inconsistencies noted above, but they become a team able to overcome the same lapses in 2020.