The New York Mets are one of baseball’s surprise teams this season. First-year Manager Mickey Callaway’s club jumped out to a 10-1 start, the best in franchise history, and the Mets were outscoring opponents 55-31, allowing the fewest runs in the majors. Their runs scored total could look even better in the coming weeks, giving them a chance to run away from the scuffling Washington Nationals in the NL East.
The hot start was possible thanks to the starting rotation finally being healthy at the same time. Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler took all of their scheduled starts for the first time ever, and they are 5-1 with 66 strikeouts and 17 walks in 59 2/3 innings. Their 3.17 ERA is also 13 percentage points better than the league average ERA after accounting for league and park effects, trailing only the starting rotation of the Los Angeles Dodgers (20 percentage points better).
Callaway also found two superb relievers in Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, both of whom transitioned into relief roles. Gsellman has struck out over 44 perfect of batters faced, relying on a 94-mph sinker as his out pitch. Lugo will mix in a change-up, slider and curveball to his fastball to keep hitters off balance, and he has yet to allow an earned run in three appearances. Closer Jeurys Familia appears to have regained his form from 2015 and 2016, when he was one of the top closers in the game. Most notably he has allowed just three batters out of 30 to hit a ball 95 mph or harder; he allowed a hard-hit rate of 30 percent in 2017.
New York’s pitchers are also pitching to expectations, meaning we should expect this success to continue. Their .266 weighted on-base average against, which combines all the aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value, is the second-lowest in the majors, as is their expected wOBA against (.284) based on each hit’s exit velocity and launch angle.
The hitters haven’t been as prolific, but they have been good with a chance to get better. New York is batting .240 with a .736 OPS, creating runs at a rate that is 8 percent higher than the league average after accounting for league and park effects (108 wRC+). Its .318 wOBA is the 11th-highest in the majors and should be even higher based on each hit’s exit velocity and launch angle (.347 expected wOBA). And that’s with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez having a strong start. The 35-year-old is batting .296 with a .851 OPS, producing runs at a rate that is 46 percent higher than the league average, which would be his best season since winning the Silver Slugger award in 2011. He was also named a Silver Slugger in 2014 with inferior numbers to this year’s production.
That the Mets could still improve at the plate should be unsettling for the struggling Nationals, who find themselves in a similar situation in terms of lacking offense but a very different situation in the loss column.
The Nationals’ difference between their actual (.318) and expected (.348) wOBA is almost identical to the Mets’, so there is a possibility their bats “wake up” just like New York’s. But their pitching, even if it improves from where it is (.323 wOBA against) to where it should be (.302 wOBA against), still puts them behind the Mets in terms of production.
|Weighted on-base average||Weighted on-base average allowed|
All of this makes it tougher for Washington to take command of the NL East. In fact, its chances to win the division, per FanGraphs, have dropped from 78 percent in the preseason to 59 percent entering Friday’s games, whereas the Mets’ chances have doubled from 19 to 38 percent.