New York Mets
The Mets got off to such a hot start last season. Then everything slowly fell apart. The thing about the Mets is that they had one really, really bad month. A 5-21 record in June took a .500 team into a bottom feeder. The Mets played .500 ball in July and August before going 18-10 in September. They actually had a +52 run differential over the last two months of the season.
Add that to a team that made a bunch of upgrades and positive moves over the offseason and we could be looking at a really interesting team. In that month of June, the Mets were inexplicably swept at home by Baltimore, swept by the Cubs, swept by the Dodgers, swept in two-gamers by the Yankees and Braves, and lost series to the Pirates, Marlins, and Rockies. So, the schedule was a mixed bag, but the team was just brutal. The worst part is that only four of the losses were by one run.
That was an outlier, though, so we’ll have to see what the Mets do with a more balanced monthly record this season. Not being able to score at home was a problem. The Mets were outscored 310-274 at Citi Field, which, as you can see, is one of the game’s premier pitcher’s parks. The Mets actually outscored opponents by five runs on the road, but went 40-41. Offensively, this is a team held down by its park factor, which likely leads to some value on the road.
The Mets were 37-28 against teams with losing records, which is what happens when you have a really good rotation. On the flip side, they were 40-57 against teams .500 or better. The Mets were also 16-26 in one-run games, which will improve with Edwin Diaz.
This is a team that will pop up a lot this season in my picks and tips articles.
Money Line Spots
It can be a challenge to find spots with the Mets. Perception on this team is much higher going into this season. Furthermore, starting pitchers dictate the line and Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are two of the best. All value we had on Zack Wheeler last season is lost from how he performed. We’ll either have to lay some numbers with the Mets when these three are on the mound or look for spots for guys like Jason Vargas and Steven Matz.
Because the home field advantage for the pitchers is so well-known, lines for JDG, Thor, and Wheeler may be more approachable on the road, especially since the Mets may actually *gasp* give their pitchers some run support there.
I’ll mention Matz and Vargas in the players to watch section, but those may be the guys that we really want to key in on.
The Mets were just 18-24 against lefties last season and have a left-handed-heavy lineup once again. All of the bench options are right-handed, but there aren’t a lot of platoon-worthy bats there. I would think that lefties could pose a problem for the Mets again this season.
It will be interesting to see how the totals market shakes out for the Mets. The under was 46-34-1 at Citi Field last season with an average total of just 7.7 runs. Those games averaged just 7.2 runs per contest. Will the offensive upgrades factor into the totals lines at home? If so, then I think we still have under value at Citi Field. If they don’t, and we still see a lot of 7s and 7.5s, I’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.
The Mets were 82-72-8 to the under last season, but I would expect the offensive upgrades to show up on the road. As it is, the Mets scored almost five runs per game away from home last season. I think they could get over that mark this year. Remember that Yoenis Cespedes missed nearly all of last year and Michael Conforto was a bit of a mess for most of the year. While Cespedes is likely to miss most of this season, the Mets added Robinson Cano, have a healthy Conforto, and also have some more depth to the lineup with JD Davis and full-time Dominic Smith/Pete Alonso.
Individual Players to Watch
Steven Matz – Better health and Mickey Callaway fixed Zack Wheeler. Hopefully better health keeps Noah Syndergaard out there. Health has also been a question for Steven Matz. Callaway’s best attribute as a coach is to help maximize pitching talent. Matz has a lot of talent. He was one of the best prospects coming up through this system in an org that had those aforementioned guys.
Matz did see some big strikeout gains from 2017 to 2018. He gave up a few too many homers and walked too many guys, but he made 30 starts and worked 154 innings. Staying healthy was step one. After that, the coaching staff could get to work.
I talked about the Mets’ resurgence to finish strong in September. Matz finished strong. He posted a 2.44/3.77/3.50 pitcher slash over his final 44.1 innings with 51 strikeouts. Home runs were still an issue, which is weird because of his home park, but he increased his slider usage to increase that K rate. With a 3.97 ERA, a 4.62 FIP, and a 4.13 xFIP, I can’t see the market being in love with Matz, but I see a really good pitcher bubbling just below the surface.
Jason Vargas – Vargas only managed 92 innings over his 20 starts, which is concerning, but he, like Matz, finished the year on a high note. Over his final eight starts, Vargas worked 44.2 innings with a 41/10 K/BB ratio. He posted a 2.62 ERA with a 3.88 FIP and a 3.72 xFIP. If we take away his one bad outing against the Dodgers, things look even better.
Perhaps Vargas is a four-inning or five-and-fly guy to be piggybacked by Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo. Perhaps he just wasn’t healthy early in the year and the Mets were limiting his innings. Whatever the case, he had a 5.77 ERA and a 5.02 FIP last season, so he won’t be on the radars of too many bettors.