The compelling NL East – What the Mets and Marlins starts mean

Miami Marlins v New York Mets

By Casey Boguslaw

We just finished up the second week of the MLB season and we’ve already seen a few beanball wars, 10 grand slams, and five teams reach a winning streak of five or more games. We’ve also seen four teams reach a losing streak of at least five games including three teams currently (as of 4/22). There is only one team who has a current 5+ winning streak – the New York Mets, who after Monday night’s win, have won 9 in a row.

The Mets also influenced one of those current 5+ losing streaks, as over the weekend, they swept the Miami Marlins in a four game set. The Mets and Marlins were projected to more or less be punching bags for the heavily favorited Washington Nationals this season. Some prognosticators had the Marlins as a surprise wildcard team but only the boldest even thought about the Mets entering the postseason. Through 14 games of the season, the Mets sit atop the NL East by 2.5 games (4 over the Nationals) and the Marlins are now eight games back.

As baseball fans know, it’s a long season. We are in fact only about 8-9% through the season but the 14 games that have been played by most teams at this point are just as important as 14 games in July or 14 games in September. By no means should Mets fans be buying playoff tickets just yet nor should Marlins be selling off their parts (although you never know with Jeff Loria). Just how good (or bad) of shape are these two teams on opposite sides of the current spectrum?

At 11-3, the Mets are the best team in the majors (tied with the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals). We don’t have a big enough reason to believe that the Nationals won’t right the ship and win this division so let’s lower the expectations to the Mets just reaching the postseason. Since the MLB has introduced the second wildcard (in 2012) teams have reached the playoffs at 88 games in 2012 and 2014 (90 in 2013). For this purpose, let’s use 88 wins as a benchmark. For a team to win 88 games they need to win 54.3% of their games. With the Mets having already won 11 games, they only need 77 more wins to reach that mark. To do that, they only need to win 51% of their games. Looking at a span of 148 games (what the Mets have left) before the season, they were aiming at winning at least 80-81 of those games. Therefore, they are already five games ahead of the pace. Their current nine game winning streak has fans believing that more is to come. For the record, last year’s 79-83 team’s longest winning streak was four.

The Mets have mostly done it with pitching. Their 4.37 K/9 ratio for the entire pitching staff ranks second in the majors. The ratio goes up to 5.2 when you only count the five starters that the Mets have sent to the mound. Matt Harvey is the ace but it can be argued that he has been the fourth best pitcher on the staff thus far into the season.

The crutch that may end up catching the Mets is injuries. They are hoping that the great staff stays healthy, specifically Harvey, who is returning from Tommy John. The Mets have already faced their share of injuries in the young season which makes their success even more surprising. They currently have eight people on the DL and their Opening Day closer is suspended.  The list includes their team captain, David Wright, their starting Catcher, Travis d’Arnaud and Zach Wheeler, a very good starter last year, had Tommy John surgery right before the season. It will be very difficult to keep up the pace that they have set, but it’s good to know they already are ahead of pace.

The Marlins, at 3-11 are a game up on the Brewers for worst record of the season but that’s the only team they are looking down on. Again, if we aim towards an 88 win target, they still have to win 85 games to reach that. Winning 85 games in 148 is a 57.4% winning percentage. The closest team to that mark last year was the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won 58% of their games. It’s hard to fathom the Marlins playing like the 2014 Dodgers for the remainder of the season. They are looking at the opposite of where the Mets are, about 5 games behind pace.

Those who projected the Marlins to make the postseason based their belief on a young, talented lineup able to mash opposing pitchers. Giancarlo Stanton got off to a very poor start, but has started to turn his personal numbers around, although it hasn’t affected the team’s success. Christian Yelich is another person, who also received an extension this offseason that was looked at as a breakout player. Yelich is currently hitting .200 with a .222 slugging percentage.

Unlike the Mets, the Marlins have yet to see their young ace return from Tommy John surgery. Jose Fernandez, according to the latest reports, is not due back until June. It’s hard to say but if the Marlins keep their current pace they will be way out of the race by his return. The Marlins are looked at as a team with a history of short tenures. Would Loria possibly look to move either of his two young potential stars right after signing them long-term?

You can follow Casey on twitter @CaseyBoguslaw or join in the conversation @CTBPod

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