A Remarkable 30 Days in Queens by Dave Cameron September 19, 2016 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. 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.