|This scene isn't as impossible as you might think for the Mets in 2013 |
(other than the Shea Stadium location, of course).
Stop laughing at the title of this post. I truly mean it when I say the Mets can win the N.L. East. Sure, the team is still eight games under .500 after splitting a four-game series with the division-leading Atlanta Braves. And yes, the Mets remain ten games behind the Braves for the top spot in the East. But there is no reason to think the Mets can't end up on top of their division come September 29, and I have several reasons why.
On the morning of June 18 (otherwise known as "Super Tuesday"), the Mets woke up with a 25-40 record, 14½ games behind the Braves for first place in the eastern division. They were also seven games behind the second place Nationals and six games behind the third place Phillies. In the six weeks since Zack Wheeler made his major league debut and Eric Young, Jr. was acquired from the Colorado Rockies, the Mets have a 20-13 record. The only teams in baseball with more wins than the Mets during that time period are the Los Angeles Dodgers (24-8) and Tampa Bay Rays (24-9). No other team in the N.L. East has more than 15 wins since June 18.
New York also has many games remaining against teams with losing records. After their 7-4 victory over the Braves on Thursday, the Mets have 64 games left on their schedule. Each of their next 14 games is against a team with a losing record. In all, 44 of their last 64 games are against teams with sub-.500 records. The Mets play just six series over the next two-plus months against teams that currently have winning records. Two of those six series are against the Atlanta Braves - a team the Mets have defeated seven times this year, which is the most victories they have against any team in 2013. Another of those six series is against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that is 18-24 since June 5 and has relinquished first place after holding on to the top spot in the N.L. West for most of the season.
Consider this. Since their 12-1 start, the Braves are 45-44. That's over half a season of being mediocre. Meanwhile, the Phillies and Nationals have been mediocre all season. The Mets, on the other hand, have been far better than a break-even team for well over a month now.
Shaun Marcum has been released, thereby freezing his record for all eternity at 1-10. Zack Wheeler has replaced him in the rotation with a 4-1 mark. Dillon Gee has been brilliant over his last ten starts, going 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA. And the bullpen has finally found its groove, posting a 1.98 ERA in the soon-to-be-completed month of July. (Matt Harvey is Matt Harvey, so you know he's going to be good.)
The offense has finally clicked as well. After hitting .229 from April to June (never batting higher than .233 in any calendar month), the Mets are batting .267 in the month of July. They are still averaging close to one home run per game (92 homers in 98 games), but now they've added the stolen base to their offensive repertoire. During the season's first three months, the Mets averaged 12.3 thefts per month, never swiping more than 14 bases in any one month. In the month of July, the Mets have already stolen 20 bases, and that's with the All-Star Break zapping four days off the calendar.
In 1973, the Mets were 12 games under .500 and 11½ games out of first place on the morning of August 6. They went on to win the division. In 2001, New York was 14 games under .500 and 13½ games behind the division leader when their alarm clocks went off on August 18. By September 27, they had cut the lead to three games but fell short of completing their unlikely comeback.
The 2013 Mets are eight games under .500 and ten games behind a team that has been nothing more than mediocre since the third week of the season. They have less of an uphill climb this year than they had in 1973 and 2001. Why is it so hard to believe they can't overcome Atlanta, Philadelphia and Washington in a weak division when there's still over two months to go in the regular season, especially when the team is showing that it's getting better offensively and in the bullpen?
It ain't over till it's over. And with the way the Mets have been playing over the past month and a half, it may not be over anytime soon. As far-fetched as it may seem, ya gotta believe the Mets can still win the N.L. East.