A Remarkable 30 Days in Queens

On August 19th, the Mets lost 8-1 to the Giants, dropping to 60-62 on the season. The loss, coupled with a depleted roster — that was just about to get more depleted, as they would place Steven Matz back on the disabled list three days later — pushed their playoff odds to a season-low 6.6%. Here’s what has happened over the last month, in graph form.

chart-41

That is simply a remarkable image; the visualization of a team saving a nearly-lost season in very short order. Since that loss to the Giants, the Mets have gone 20-7, and have now taken the lead for the top spot in the NL Wild Card race. The defending NL Champs are now very likely to be back in the postseason, 30 days after they were just about to write their own eulogy. Let’s take a look at how they got here.

They’re Hitting Again

While the narrative around the Mets 2015 playoff run was that they were carried by incredible starting pitching, they were also a team that could really hit, especially after they acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline. Their 2015 second-half wRC+ of 114 was tied for third-best in baseball, and best in the National League by a pretty good margin. The team did have incredible starting pitching, of course, but they also could bludgeon their opponents; this was not a team that simply beat other teams 2-1.

That wasn’t true earlier this year. Injuries to Cespedes, Lucas Duda, and David Wright depleted the lineup, and Jay Bruce — brought in to give the team an offensive boost at the deadline — hasn’t hit at all. The offense was stuck in mediocrity, and so even with still-good starting pitching, the team wasn’t winning. But right after getting shutdown by Johnny Cueto, the offense started rolling.

The primary difference? Asdrubal Cabrera has found the fountain of youth. Over the last month, the Mets shortstop is hitting .362/.413/.702, giving the team a huge boost from an unexpected source. Cespedes has hit well since his return, and Curtis Granderson remains an underrated part of the team’s success, but Cabrera is the one who has picked up the most slack, covering for Neil Walker‘s injury and James Loney’s existence on the roster. With Loney, Bruce, and Travis d’Arnaud not hitting, the team needed to find offense from an unexpected source, and Cabrera has been the guy doing the most damage.

They’re Getting Out of Jams

During this 20-7 run, the Mets have gotten zero innings from Matt Harvey or Steven Matz, and just 9 2/3 ineffective innings from Jacob deGrom, who allowed eight runs in the two starts he made, with the team losing both games he started. This isn’t the same group that steamrolled through last October, but even without any contribution from those guys, the Mets have allowed the fewest runs in baseball. And the main reason? They’ve been fantastic at stranding runners.

The Mets have an 82% LOB% over the last month, easily the best in baseball. Their ability to get out of jams has been huge for them, and has saved them about 20 runs during the course of the last month. This isn’t the kind of thing you should expect to continue, of course, but we’re not really trying to figure out if this Mets team is a great one — it’s pretty clearly inferior to what they’d have if they were healthy — but simply diagnose how the Mets backups and fallback plans have managed to go on this kind of run. And runner stranding has had a lot to do with it.

Noah Syndergaard has been pitching like an ace, but he’s been doing that most of the year; the difference over the last month is that Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have managed to give the team 64 innings of work with a combined 2.39 ERA. They aren’t going to keep doing that, as Lugo and Gsellman are no Harvey, Matz, or deGrom, but they’ve done a good enough impression of them when they needed to get out of trouble lately.

The Bullpen Has Been Amazing

August wrote about Addison Reed this morning, and his revitalization has been a huge key to the team’s success, but it’s not just Reed and Jeurys Familia holding down leads; some less-heralded Mets relievers have been pretty great too.

You might not even know that Fernando Salas, Jerry Blevins, and Josh Smoker pitch for the Mets, much less are dominating of late. But they are. Here is what that trio has done over the last 30 days.

The Mets Other Dominating Relievers
Relievers IP BB% K% ERA- FIP- xFIP-
Jofery Blevsmokas 28 3% 39% 73 67 54

For those who prefer whole numbers to percentages, that group has 44/3 K/BB ratio in the last month, and one of those walks was intentional. Smoker and Salas have each given up a few homers, so they haven’t been quite as lights out as Reed and Familia, but they’ve given the bullpen needed depth, especially with the rotation being patched together.

Like with the strand rate, I wouldn’t suggest the Mets should plan on this trio pulling an Aroldis Chapman in October, even if they’ve pitched kind of like him lately. But it’s far more important to just get to October and then hope you can find some magic for a few weeks, and with a variety of relievers striking out everyone they face, the Mets have given themselves a real chance to do just that.

Asdrubal Cabrera slugging, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo stranding runners, and the triumvirate of Jofery Blevsmokas pitching well in the middle innings isn’t as sexy a story as Cespedes’ second half power surge and the team’s incredible rotation last year, but it’s been just as effective. With injuries taking out the Mets star players, the team needed the JV squad to pull them out of the pit, and that’s exactly what the team’s depth pieces have done. This Mets team isn’t as good as last year’s Mets team, but they’ve been good enough to put themselves back in a strong position to make it to October, and they get to finish with a couple of weeks against baseball’s worst opponents.

And if they get back to October, they still have Noah Syndergaard, and he can win games by himself. If he keeps getting help from this cast of depth pieces, the Mets could be a problem for the rest of the NL in October once again.





Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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JR and the Off-Balance Shots
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JR and the Off-Balance Shots

the way i know there is no justice and only darkness in life is when the nats beat the cubs and then a team like the indians or orioles to win the WS

and then their fans talk about all the suffering it took to get there

screamin_jay
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screamin_jay

the jim bowden era was just so bad though! way worse than this current stretch for the mets

JR and the Off-Balance Shots
Member
JR and the Off-Balance Shots

i mean, i broke it down this way

-prospects who have not busted
-trades that haven’t gone against them
-signings that went really bad
-players who they let go who got much better after leaving

it’s pretty ridiculous. now they’ve been absurdly healthy this season, murph is putting up monster numbers, and their old guys are starting to look rejuvenated. guys like ross/roark way overperforming. harper hasn’t been that good since april ended either. it’s annoying

screamin_jay
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screamin_jay

nats fans crucify med staff and cry about minor injuries while rooting for a team that has yet to actually lose an important player for substantial portion of a season when anything mattered to their fanbase, based on DC SPORTZ bogeyman and need to paint themselves as poor, long-suffering fans = ok
having concern over a pitcher’s injury/regression based on previous performance/injury history and franchise track record with injuries = totally unreasonable and akin to rooting for bad things to happen to perpetuate a shtick or just a symptom of obvious lunacy

ugotwilcoxed
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ugotwilcoxed

Dusty should play the backups every day. That was pathetic. Zero effort from the regulars right now. How is no one backing up Trea there?

ugotwilcoxed
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ugotwilcoxed

Just a cursed city. I don’t get it. It’s grossly unfair.

ugotwilcoxed
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ugotwilcoxed

I’ve never seen an uber prospect who looks nothing like his scouting report like Giolito. It’s baffling.

ugotwilcoxed
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ugotwilcoxed

Welp, Koda Glover got a playoff test there and failed miserably. Not good. No chance this bullpen can finish postseason games.

ugotwilcoxed
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ugotwilcoxed

And why the fuck is Melancon pitching AGAIN? In a tie game?! This game is gravy FFS! He’s pitching way too much. This must stop.

ugotwilcoxed
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ugotwilcoxed

For once, Ryan Zimmerman getting hurt would be welcome news. Really need an oblique strain soon.

tcc_dc
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tcc_dc

Mid June and it’s over…

Desmond – kill yourself

Zimm – I would tell you to kill yourself but you would probably hurt yourself in attempting to and be put on the 120 DL

Stras – man up you p@ssy

Ramos – even Terrance has stopped clapping for you

Matt Williams – nice motivator…how about you do something

74umgrad
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74umgrad

WTF? It’s been 12 years since that douche’s kid died? Give me a break.

tcc_dc
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tcc_dc

somebody please hurt Rodgers…front running crybaby

ugotwilcoxed
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ugotwilcoxed

Hey jay, I hope your pets get AIDS.

74umgrad
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74umgrad

I’d be curious to know the percentage of replay calls which have gone the Nats’ way this season. Can’t be high.

74umgrad
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74umgrad

Not sure I get all the angst over the PIrates. It seems clear that all they need do is replace Hurdle, go on a heater for the last 40 games, bring up a bunch of guys from Indianapolis for good measure, and beat Washington in the playoffs on the way to a World Series championship. Isn’t that how things work in Pittsburgh?

rufreshterps
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rufreshterps

RIP Cutch today

rufreshterps
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rufreshterps

OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. Butt Pirates

Jetsy Extrano
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Jetsy Extrano

Did this article get linked from Yahoo or something?

rufreshterps
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rufreshterps

lol espinosa is batting .146.

i hate being right

rufreshterps
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rufreshterps

Espinosa can take care of your 2B defensive woes…not really! But please take him!

HappyFunBall
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Member
HappyFunBall

This is very peculiar place for this sort of comment. Was this an article about the Nats and I misread it?