For a few years now, baseball fans have looked longingly at the Mets, imagining what they could do if they ever managed to reach the playoffs. Until recently, this exercise seemed very hypothetical in nature, in large part due to the perceived strength of the division rival Nationals. However, after a roller coaster ride of a season, the Mets have reached the postseason for the first time since 2006 and are considered to be one of the most dangerous teams heading in the playoffs.
Due to the nature of baseball in October, a playoff team can rely heavily on its top three starting pitchers, and the Mets certainly have a formidable trio at the top of their rotation. As expected, the Mets have announced that their first three playoff games will be started, in order, by Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey.
Each of these pitchers is capable of dominating a lineup on any given night, and the format of the playoffs gives the Mets the opportunity to give a higher percentage of their total innings to these players. The Mets may also have rookie left-hander Steven Matz as an option to start a potential fourth game, assuming he doesn't experience any setbacks in his return from an injured back.
Given the quality of the Mets' rotation, it is easy to look past their suddenly dangerous offense. For much of the season, the Mets' offense was the laughingstock of baseball. Near the end of July, we saw plenty of tweets like this making fun of the Mets' seemingly historic level of offensive failure.
The Mets pitching --- really good. The Mets offense --- historically bad. pic.twitter.com/4jQlmDFHsS— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) July 22, 2015
The Mets offense has come a long way since late July, when they had John Mayberry and Eric Campbell hitting fourth and fifth in their lineup. In the second half of the season, the Mets lead all National League teams with a non-pitcher wRC+ of 121, six points better than the next best team. Deadline acquisition Yoenis Cespedes has been the biggest upgrade, posting a .287/.337/.604 batting line in 249 plate appearances since joining the Mets. In addition to providing elite offensive value, Cespedes has played the majority of his innings with the Mets in center field, allowing Terry Collins to keep Michael Conforto (134 wRC+) and Curtis Granderson (132 wRC+) in the lineup on an everyday basis.
The Mets have also gotten healthier over the last couple of months, with David Wright and Travis d'Arnaud returning from the DL to further improve the offense. Since returning from the DL in late August, David Wright has posted a .277/.381/.437 batting line (135 wRC+) in 149 plate appearances. While this batting line is partially boosted by a .345 BABIP, Wright has walked in 14.4 percent of his plate appearances over this stretch, proving that he can still reach base even when he isn't getting the most favorable batted ball luck. d'Arnaud has also provided an offensive spark since returning from the DL on July 31st. He has posted 127 wRC+ since that point, backed by a solid on-base skill (10.5 percent walk rate) and decent extra base pop (.208 ISO).
All in all, the Mets now have one of the best starting lineups in all of baseball. Of their eight starting position players, only Wilmer Flores (95 wRC+) is a below average hitter, with Daniel Murphy (110 wRC+) being the next worst. With their strong starting rotation, many believed that all the Mets needed was a competent offense to make the playoffs. Instead, they have put together one of the best offenses in all of baseball and do not appear to have any obvious weaknesses heading into the playoffs.
At 90-72, the Mets may not have the best win-loss record of the teams that made the playoffs. For much of the season, they looked nothing like a playoff team, as their pitching being the only thing keeping them afloat in a very weak division. Because of trade acquisitions and returns from injuries, though, the Mets are a vastly different team than they were just two and a half months ago.
An argument can be made that the Mets now have one of the strongest rosters going into the playoffs, which is all that matters at this point. Predicting the playoffs can be a very difficult task for a variety of reasons, but having the most talent can improve a team's odds slightly. The Mets have their best roster all season ready to go for the playoffs, and in their current format, they are likely better than the 90-win team they were throughout the regular season. While analysts will often talk about the importance of peaking at the right time, the Mets can say that they have the best talent at the right time, which gives them as good a chance as anyone to win the World Series.
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