Saturday, July 16, 2016

Are the Mets Really a Second-Half Team? Not So Fast!

The Mets began the second half of the season on a positive note last night, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies by the final score of 5-3.  It was the kind of start needed by a team that expects to be in a heated race for the division crown or one of the wild card spots.

At the start of the midsummer break, a certain Norse god (and sometimes Mets pitcher) took to Twitter to remind Mets fans of what they should expect from the team during the second half of the season.

Well, Syndergaard's sole second half in the majors was in 2015, so his experience is one of a 43-30 record after the All-Star break after the team went just 47-42 during the season's first half - a first half that included an 11-game winning streak.

Sadly, Syndergaard did not consult me before sending out that tweet or else I would have given him a little history lesson.

Since the Mets moved to Citi Field in 2009, they had won just one second-half opener prior to last night's victory.  That win came in 2014 in San Diego.  The Mets were so busy celebrating their post-All-Star Game victory two seasons ago that they were in full hangover mode for the rest of the four-game series at Petco Park, dropping each of the next three games there.

In fact, since 2002, when David Wright and Jose Reyes were still pups in the minors and Bartolo Colon was still under 200 pounds, the Mets are a combined 35 games under .500 after the break, going 474-509.  That includes last year's team, which won nearly 60% of its games in the season's second half.  Compare that to what the Mets have done in the first half of each season since 2002, when the team gave us thoughts of October baseball on a regular basis, as they went 685-656, or 29 wins over the break-even point.

This can be taken back all the way to the early days of the franchise.  Since 1969, when the team posted its first winning season, the Mets have been above .500 at the All-Star break on 28 occasions in those 48 campaigns.  That's almost 60% of the time in just about half a century's worth of seasons.  However, the Mets have only been able to post winning records in the second half just 23 times since 1969, meaning they've had sub-.500 second-half records more than half the time going back nearly five decades.  And that includes the 1975 and 2014 seasons, when the Mets finished one game over .500 in each campaign's second half (39-38 and 34-33, respectively).  It also includes the 1994 season, when the Mets went 15-11 in the abbreviated second half, as a strike killed the season just one month after the All-Star Game was played.

As much as we, as Mets fans, would like to think that our beloved team has traditionally been a second-half team, the truth of the matter is that the team has usually played its best baseball during the first halves of each season.  Of course, last year's team was an exception, but that was because the Eric Campbells, Darrell Cecilianis and John Mayberrys of the first-half world were replaced by the Michael Confortos, Juan Uribes and Yoenis Cespedeses of half No. 2.

Sandy Alderson may just upgrade the team in the next few weeks leading up to the trade deadline on Aug. 1, but the more likely scenario is that the players currently on the team will have to find a way to get healthy, stay healthy and make sure their bats and arms are healthy as well.

A Yoenis Cespedes-like savior isn't going to walk through that door this year.  And if he does, he better make sure he doesn't trip, fall and end up on the disabled list as he passes through it.

If Cespedes keeps going down, so will the Mets' chances of returning to the postseason.  (Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

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