The Mets figure to be locked in a six-month dogfight with the Braves, Phillies, and Nationals. But don’t be surprised if the Marlins decide the NL East…
The Mets have the privilege of playing in the strongest and, therefore, most competitive divisions in the major leagues. Four teams, including the Mets, will do battle facing each other in nineteen intra-division games throughout the 2020 season.
All four teams have gone about strengthening their roster during the offseason, and more transactions could be on the way. Here’s a brief look at key additions and subtractions:
- Philadelphia Phillies Begin with the most significant addition – their new manager Joe Girardi. Steady, non-flamboyant Joe. Add former Yankee cohort, Didi Gregorius, on a one-year show me you can still play deal and Zack Wheeler on a five-year $118 million venture to back up Aaron Nola. Carryovers also include Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto.
- Washington Nationals The 1-2-3 starting pitching punch of Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin, remains intact and is the National’s biggest asset. Gone is Anthony Rendon, who signed with the Angels – a significant loss in run production. The Nats are the third oldest team in the majors, and their window of opportunity is closing.
- Atlanta Braves The Braves been the most active team this offseason. In mid-November, they signed catcher Travis d’Arnaud to a two-year deal and lefty reliever Will Smith to a three-year contract. The Braves are pushing hard for Josh Donaldson, and they’re also in talks with the Rockies about Nolan Arenado.
- New York Mets The Mets signed veteran starters Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Dellin Betances is on board for one-year to help in the bullpen. So far, the team still lacks a major league centerfielder, but Starling Marte remains a possibility in a deal with the Pirates.
The Mets are more evenly matched against their rivals than they were last year. A late-season surge enabled the team to finish ten games over .500, but in a race expected to be as tight as a drum, the Mets need to stay close all the way.
Oddly, it’s the Miami Marlins who could well hold the keys to the eventual division winner. Whatever Derek Jeter is trying to do down there isn’t working.
He’s done very little to improve the team this off-season, making the Marlins the odds-on favorite to battle the Orioles and Royals for the worst record in baseball.
The Mets will join their three rivals in playing the Marlins nineteen times throughout the regular season. The outcome of those games can quickly boost a team to the NL East title. I’ll demonstrate what I mean by considering each team’s record against the Marlins as follows:
- Team A 10-9 +1
- Team B 12-8 +4
- Team C 13-6 +7
- Team D 14-5 +9
That’s a difference of eight games in the standings from Team A to Team D, and five games from Team B to Team D.
That separation is more than enough to impact the race in the NL East, making Team D an easy winner.
This assumes, of course, that the closely-knit rivals play at or near .500 when they play each other, and injuries to key players covering long stints on the IL do not occur.
Mets vs. Marlins – Key to success
You might be wondering which team among the Mets (13-6), Braves (15-4), Nationals (15-4), and Phillies (9-10) gets assigned a letter in the above table.
I have no idea, but the numbers in parenthesis are each team’s record against the Marlins last year.
I do, however, know this much. The team that wins the NL East will be the team that crushes the Marlins to the tune of what the Nationals and Braves did last season.
They will be the team that comes mentally prepared to play the worst team in their division as though each game is Game 7 of the World Series…