Saturday, September 12, 2015

The 2015 Mets Are Going Where Few Mets Teams Have Gone Before

Cespe-date good times, come on!  (Photo by Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports)

On Friday, the Mets won their fifth consecutive game, taking a 5-1 decision over the Atlanta Braves.  The win, coupled with the Nationals' 2-1 loss to the Miami Marlins, increased the Mets' lead over Washington to a season-high 8½ games.

The season is not over yet, even with the Mets' magic number down to 14.  If you look hard enough, you will find a pessimistic Mets fan who will remind you that when the team had a seven-game lead with 17 to play in 2007, the magic number had already been shaved down to 11 at that point.  However, with Washington seemingly on a collision course with the .500 mark and the Mets winning 31 of their last 44 games, the club's coronation as division champions appears to be inevitable.

Since the N.L. East crown is still officially up for grabs (barely), let's look at one thing that has already become certain.  This tweet by a stalker of this site says it all.

The first four times the Mets took an 8½-game lead, they won division titles in each season.  The 1969 squad did not lead the N.L. East by at least 8½ games until the next-to-last day of the regular season, when it held a nine-game lead over the Chicago Cubs.  That team lost the regular season finale to win the division by eight games.  Therefore, should the Mets defeat the Braves tonight and the Nationals drop another decision to the Marlins, New York would have a division lead greater than nine games for just the fourth time in team history, matching the accomplishment of the 1986, 1988 and 2006 squads.  Those teams once led their respective divisions by 22 games, 15 games and 16½ games, respectively.

One of the main reasons why the Mets have built a seemingly comfortable lead in the N.L. East is because they have beaten up on their division rivals.  New York has gone 14-2 versus Philadelphia, 10-6 against both Miami and Washington and 8-6 when taking on Atlanta.  That gives the Mets a total of 42 victories against the foes they see the most.  Now let's consider this tweet by that stalker I can't seem to get rid of.

The Mets feast on division rivals more than any other team in baseball and appear poised to lead the majors in wins within their own division - a feat that's been even rarer in team history than the 8½-game division lead.

As stated before, prior to this season, only four Mets teams had ever led the division by as many as 8½ games.  But only three teams in club annals have ever led the majors in division victories, and it has hasn't happened in over a quarter century.

The 1986, 1987 and 1988 Mets are the only squads in franchise history to win more games within their division than any other team in baseball.  The 1986 World Champion Mets won 59 games against their N.L. East rivals, which was three more than the 56 wins their NLCS opponent - the Houston Astros - posted against N.L. West teams.

The following season, key disabled list stints for the entire starting rotation kept the Mets from returning to the postseason, but didn't prevent them from leading the majors in wins within their division.  The second-place Mets went 53-37 in the N.L. East, which was one game better than the second-place Reds, who were 52-38 in the N.L. West.

In 1988, the Mets won their second division title in three seasons, a crown that was fueled by the team's domination of the N.L. East.  New York finished with a 57-33 record against its division rivals.  No American League team won more than 47 games within its division and only the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League were able to join the Mets in winning more than 50 division games - they were 53-37 against the N.L. West.  That was the last time a Mets team won more games in its own division than any other club in baseball.

Incredibly, the 1969 and 2006 Mets - who posted the third and fifth-best records in franchise history, respectively, and both won division titles - did not lead the majors in wins within their divisions.

The Miracle Mets of 1969, who were 57-33 against the N.L. East, actually had three teams finish ahead of them in the race for superiority within a division, and all three teams were the division champions that didn't win the World Series that year.  The N.L. West champion Atlanta Braves finished 58-32 in its division, while the two American League division winners - the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins - finished 58-32 and 59-31, respectively, against their division rivals.

In 2006, the Mets went 45-29 versus the N.L. East, which was one win fewer than the crosstown Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds posted against their division rivals.  Both teams finished 46-28 against their hated foes.

The 2015 Mets have surprised many experts by not only leading the division this late in the season, but by holding a commanding advantage over the heavily favored Washington Nationals.  In doing so, they are accomplishing things that very few Mets teams in the past have accomplished.

Their 8½ (and growing) game lead in the N.L. East is only the fifth time a Mets team has ever led a division by that many games.  The previous four times it happened, the Mets won division titles.  And their 42 wins within the N.L. East could potentially make this year's Mets squad only the fourth in team history - and the first since 1988 - to lead the majors in division victories.  The 2015 Mets have seven more wins in their division than any other team has in theirs.  No Mets club has ever had more than a four-game advantage over all other teams in games played within the division.

The classic TV show, Star Trek, attempted to boldly go where no man had gone before.  The stars on the 2015 Mets are approaching the end of their 162-game trek, hoping to advance to the postseason for only the eighth time in the team's 54-season history.  But along the way to the promised land, the current team is doing things that few Mets teams have done before.  And if they continue to do so, the Mets might reach the final frontier around late October or early November.

No comments: