We’re just two weeks into the baseball season, but one thing has been crystal clear: these are not last year’s New York Mets. The team is 10-1, the best start in franchise history, and are currently have baseball’s best record. For context, it took the 2017 Mets until the end of April to win their 10th game.
So what’s different? Why are the Mets looking so successful so early? Let’s look at four reasons the Mets are blowing everyone away in the first two weeks of the season.
“Five Aces” and great pitching
It feels like a million years ago that the Mets touted their incredible five aces rotation. And it feels that way because until now, they haven’t been able to put it together (usually because of injuries). But the dream rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz has finally become a reality.
Wheeler, who missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to Tommy John surgery AND missed a large portion of 2017 due to a stress reaction, was the first Mets starter to go seven innings this year. Matt Harvey looks like he’s figure out how to pitch again. In fact, the caboose of the good pitching train is Noah Syndergaard, who after three starts has the highest ERA at 3.94.
And it’s not just the starters, either. The Mets’ entire pitching staff has baseball’s best ERA at 2.47, and Jeurys Familia leads baseball with six saves. The bullpen has been nearly spotless over 11 games, with four different relievers rocking a 0.00 ERA. Early on, most of their pitchers have looked good. Now it just has to continue.
Hitting when it counts
The Mets’ offensive numbers don’t really jump out at you. They’re 11th in average (.240) and 16th in slugging (.395). They’ve hit 11 homers, which is tied for 17th in baseball. They’ve scored 55 runs, which is 12th in baseball. But they’ve allowed only 31 runs, the fewest of any club. Teams don’t have to hit all the time and in every inning to win. They just have to score more runs than their opponent.
Despite being 12th in runs scored, the hits are coming. Adrian Gonzalez, of all players, is hitting .296/.406/444. He’s third in average behind Juan Lagares (.368) and Asdrubal Cabrera (.333). Even guys who haven’t gotten into the groove yet have found ways to contribute. Yoenis Cespedes is hitting just .178, but he’s whacked three homers and leads the team with 10 RBI. Todd Frazier’s average is low, but he’s walked nine times, the most of any player on the Mets. A productive offense isn’t always about gaudy averages and high home run totals. They certainly help, but so far the Mets have found the right mix and it’s working for them.
It’s easy to dismiss clubhouse chemistry as a non-factor when teams are doing well, but after years under old school manager Terry Collins, change has clearly been beneficial. First time manager Mickey Callaway is earning rave reviews for his work in New York. Players are staying engaged in the game from start to finish, spending all nine innings in the dugout, and that energy is fueling the players and creating a culture that works for them.
There’s also Salt & Pepper, the team’s celebration for 2018. According to the New York Post, Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, and Adrian Gonzalez were looking for something they could do every time someone gets a hit. First base coach Ruben Amaro Jr. came up with it, but Frazier’s the one who spread it around. Every time someone does something good on the bases, they break out an invisible salt or pepper mill and grind it. Todd Frazier even ordered t-shirts for the “Salt & Pepper club.” Outwardly it might seem silly, but a team celebration is a sign of a healthy clubhouse, something that’s been missing from the Mets for a few years.
Injury bug avoidance (so far)
If you remember one thing about the 2016 and 2017 Mets, it’s probably about injuries. And while two weeks isn’t a long period for most teams to avoid significant injury, it’s pretty huge for the injury-prone Mets. Since the season began, the team has experienced one major injury to an everyday player: catcher Travis d’Arnaud tore his UCL and may need Tommy John surgery.
Injuries are unpredictable, and the Mets seem to attract them like magnets. Who knows what the rest of the season will hold. But for now, they’re capitalizing on their lack of injuries and playing like there’s no tomorrow.
So will all of these good things continue? Who knows. The team is clearly feeling great about their new manager and their new approach, and it’s showing on the field. It’s early in the season, but this is all good news for the Mets. They have 151 more games to play, and they’re the only ones who can keep it going.
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