It seems strange to say it, but the New York Mets are the hottest team in baseball right now. Obviously, with the games coming thick and fast, that could all change in the next few weeks, but as it stands, there is definitely renewed hope in Queens.
Since the All-Star break, the Mets have been like a different team, and a surprising trade deadline has changed the entire outlook for the rest of the season.
Mets fans are now getting excited about making the playoffs, something that was not at the forefront of their minds as recently as June.
So, what is the reason for this new belief in the Mets? And can they really make the playoffs?
Trade Deadline Madness
A lot happened on the trade deadline across the league to change the way the remaining weeks and months of the regular season will look. But the Mets surprised everyone in the baseball world with the direction they took.
It was expected that the Mets would be sellers this year with rumors of starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler being traded out. Syndergaard in particular seemed resigned to leaving the club in the days running up to deadline day.
But the Mets altered course and became buyers instead. The big deal was trading two prospects to the Blue Jays for right-hander Marcus Stroman. With Jason Vargas going to the Phillies, a starting pitcher did leave; it just wasn’t one that we were expecting.
The trades have so far seemed to work, but some pundits are finding the logic a little strange, to say the least. Stroman will be a free agent as soon as 2020, so this looks like a short-term deal.
Although prospects are never a sure-fire thing, it is odd for the Mets to think it’s okay to lose two on the thinking that everything will be all right because they will win the World Series.
If nothing else, the trade deadline deals have made the rest of the league sit up and take notice of the Mets again. It doesn’t all make complete sense (but when does it ever with the Mets?), but it seems to be working for now.
What Has Happened Since the All-Star Break?
The short answer to that question is that the Mets have taken off.
Wins against the Marlins and the Twins were followed by a series loss to the Giants, and everything was looking very same-y. But then results of a shock trade deadline saw the Mets gain series wins over the Padres, Pirates, White Sox, and Marlins.
It could be easily argued that those opponents are hardly the most fearsome in Major League Baseball, but every team must beat who is put before them.
It has meant that the Mets have gone over .500 for the first time since May, and that has rocketed them in playoff reckoning. If you are looking for two examples of important psychological advantages, your search is over.
The pitchers have been on fire with only Stroman struggling slightly, although that is probably to be expected. Things have looked up with the bat as well, as rookie Pete Alonso has started to hit home runs again.
The Mets are suddenly in contention for postseason action, and at the very least, other teams will be getting worried about what is happening in New York.
What Happens Next?
Now that those relatively easy games are out of the way, the Mets will face a much sterner challenge, including against many of its divisional rivals.
There will be games on the road in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington to come, and what happens in those matchups will go a long way in determining whether the Mets make that wildcard spot.
The Mets may now have one of the best rotations in the league, but they’re also facing one of the most challenging run-ins to the end of the season. Defensive worries have not gone away, and there is still the long list of injuries that has troubled the team all season long.
But if you want to be an optimist about how the rest of the season might go, then you would look at the schedule and see an opportunity to not only win games but more importantly take those wins away from divisional rivals.
The wild card race certainly just became interesting.
Can the Mets Grab a Wild Card Spot?
The seasoned Mets fan will tell you that there is every chance that this resurgence could just as easily fall away spectacularly. But there is definitely more confidence in a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2016 when the wild card game was lost to San Francisco.
One thing to note here is that the Mets are only actually doing what was expected of them at the start of the season. It is only because the beginning of the season went so badly that this is now a big story.
Preseason projections saw the Mets as a playoff contender thanks to additions to the team and the promise of some good starting pitchers and a few big hitters. That obviously went a little wrong in April, May, and June but seems to be getting back on track now.
The Braves look like they will win the division, so it will be one of the wild card spots that the Mets will really have their eyes on. Of the contenders, the Nationals look like the biggest threat, but they also have injury problems. The Phillies look like they are on more of a downward curve, and the Diamondbacks have traded their star player to the Yankees and will probably drop away further from now on.
That leaves Milwaukee and St. Louis as the other main challengers. The Brewers were looking good a few weeks ago but have experienced a drop in form, but the Cards could be the team that forces the issue to the end of the regular season.
It was unthinkable a few weeks ago, but there is a good chance now that the Mets could make one of the wild card spots. But it is not going to be easy.
Latest Betting Odds
With all the excitement of the Mets’ post-All Star Break form, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some of the markets available at MLB betting sites and see if there is anything of interest.
New York Mets to Win the World Series+3000
Let’s be clear; the Mets are not going to win the World Series. The Astros had a much better trade deadline picking up Zack Greinke, and now Houston is the favorite for the Fall Classic.
But there are a number of other teams who all have a much better chance of winning the title than the Mets. The LA Dodgers would probably have no problems swatting away the Mets on their way to the National League pennant, so this is not a bet to take on.
New York Mets to Win the National League Pennant+1500
New York Mets to Win the National League East+1800
As you can see, although many in baseball have gotten carried away with the recent success of the Mets, there is little appetite to put money on this team progressing very far into the playoffs, even if a wild card spot is attained.
The likelihood is that even in a best-case scenario that includes winning the wild card game, it will be an NLDS against the Dodgers. And that would be the end of the road.
Mets fans didn’t expect to be so positive about their team’s chances by this time in the calendar, but the current winning streak and form have changed everything.
Although no one really believes that New York can go any further, there is a real belief that the wild card game can be reached. The tough end to the season will see about that, but I feel as though it could just about be achieved.
Anything can happen once we get to the playoffs, but I suspect that after all the excitement of getting to the wild card game, possibly against the Nationals, the Mets would then lose to bring an exhilarating season to an end.
Even when the wins are not coming, it is rarely boring with the Mets, and this season has had more than its fair share of excitement. It just looks as if we may have a little bit more before the end of August.