No seriously stop laughing, I’m not kidding stop it. At least hear me out first. The NL East is going through a power switch with the foreseeable exit of Bryce Harper, the Nationals are going to look to rebuild around Juan Soto, Victor Robles and the likes.
The Phillies have a average team that has a good pitching staff to save them from giving up 7 to 8 runs a game in that bandbox of a place they call Citizens Bank Ballpark.
The Marlins are going to just be the Marlins.
This now leaves the Atlanta Braves who has the best chance of repeating as division champs. The Braves have a good young core that swing the bats really well. The biggest question I have for the Braves is their pitching staff and do they have another quality starter after Mike Foltynewicz and Julio Teheran? Will Sean Newcomb be able to step up as a solid number 3 option and if so, I think you could easily switch out the Braves for the Mets in the top spot in the NL East.
This brings me to the New York Mets, a team that just 3 years ago competed in the World Series, losing in 5 games to the Kansas City Royals. The Mets have the pitching staff that can single handedly win them games. Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are the clear 1 and 2 in that rotation but Zack Wheeler posted an impressive 9-1 record with a 1.68 ERA in the second half of the season. This kind of productivity out of your starting pitchers led the Mets to a 19-11 record in their final 30 games of the season. The only teams better than that, the Rays, Dodgers, Astros and Brewers. To say the Mets ended last season on a positive is an understatement, they were one of the better teams in baseball for the last month and a half and are returning the same guys fully healthy.
It was no secret at the end of last season for the Mets, everyone came back from injury and the team started clicking again. Michael Conforto turned back into All-Star Michael Conforto after a rough first half of the season, Amed Rosario swung the bat much better as the season progressed, Jeff McNeil went from a no name prospect at the beginning of the season, to a dangerous .330 hitter, Brandon Nimmo, smiling as always, was an on base machine, and even Dominic Smith showed flashes of what he could become in the near future.
With a new General Manager in Brodie Van Wagenen, I would expect him to be pretty aggressive in his first off-season at the helm. In a New York sports market that demands success right away, Van Wagenen will deliver. With his sports agent background I think he will be able to talk his way through some of the meetings with players and show them the positives this team has to offer. Am I saying he will go out and get Machado. No. But I am saying seeing Daniel Murphy in Flushing again wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Also I could see him trying to strengthen that bullpen. With Jerry Blevins becoming a free agent, I don’t expect him to be resigned which leaves a left-handed hole in that bullpen. Enter Andrew Miller. Whether the Mets want to use him as a closer or as the 7th or 8th inning guy, it would not shock me to see the 6-foot-7 left hander in the blue and orange this year.
When it comes to playoff time, its been shown that time and time again, building your team around hitting the most home runs will not win you a championship. Take the Yankees, Dodgers or Athletics for example, those three teams led the MLB in home runs this season and were not able to win a championship. Why is this? Pitching in the playoffs will always dominate hitting. The Red Sox pitching staff of Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello gave the Yankees and Dodgers fits. They limited the “Baby Bombers” to just 3.5 runs per game in their 2018 ALDS series, kept the Astros bats at bay, giving up 3.9 runs per game in the ALCS, as well as holding the Dodgers to just 3.2 runs per game in their World Series matchup. As the league strays more and more to cater the hitter and offense, a team with an outstanding pitching staff that will limit offense has the upper hand. This falls exactly into the Mets strengths. With a team that is not built on the long ball as well the Mets have the players in their lineup that have gap to gap power to keep the ball in the yard, and still drive in runs, and the pitching staff to hold oppositions to a limited amount of runs.
If you get the Mets in a five or seven game series with any team in the major leagues, maybe besides Houston or Boston, I believe that without a doubt that pitching staff will be able to give the Mets a chance. With the National League East being very weak again this season, the Mets have the opportunity to grab that division or a Wild Card spot. And if the Mets just get a chance in the playoffs, with that pitching staff, watch out! Noise could be made in Flushing this season.