Potential NLDS Opponent Preview: New York Mets
It’s been lurking in the shadows cast by the light of 103 wins, and now the salt rubbed in last season’s wounds may have been used to seed the clouds looming in the distance. But can the Mets once again rain on the Cubs’ reign or will their depleted rotation fall victim to the bats they held at bay in the 2015 NLCS?
My enduring memories of that inglorious bastard of a sweep are of watching Game 1 in a bar on Waikiki and having some drunken moron toast me with a tip of his yard glass and cries of “Goat!” and “Bartman!” Because looks can’t actually kill, he was able to stumble off to annoy the hell out of some other unsuspecting tourists. That was still better than Game 4, which I endured while getting a tattoo that was less painful than the abomination of a game going on in front of me.
Whether it’s the recent history or my general disdain for all athletic teams hailing from the greater New York metropolitan area, or maybe just the spirit of Ron Santo coming through, I don’t care for the Mets. Because of that, and because the toll injuries have taken on them this season, I don’t believe I’m well qualified to tell you what to expect from this Mets team. That’s why I reached out to Mike Gianella, one of only a Donald Trump-sized handful of people willing and able to make worse puns than me.
When he’s not bust forcing people to chide him for his witty (used loosely) satire, Gianella does a little writing for Baseball Prospectus. He’s also *suppresses gorge* a Mets fan who happens to be a relatively decent follow and not an entirely awful person (so far as I can tell from our 140-character interactions). And, unlike the other dozen or so people I asked, he was actually willing to help me out there.
Why the Cubs should be scared of the Mets
Much has been made of the Mets taking advantage of a soft schedule down the stretch to make the playoffs, but a 27-13 record in the last 40 games speaks to a team firing on all cylinders, regardless of the opponent. If you think this is cherry-picking, fair enough, but the Mets were 30-30 in 2016 against teams with winning records (compared to the Cubs’ 31-25 mark). There is a clear gap on paper between the Mets and the Cubs, but the Mets can hang with any opponent.
New York were second in the National League with 218 home runs (Cardinals, 225) and can turn around a game with one swing of the bat. Although injuries decimated the rotation, mid-season replacements Seth Lugo (2.68 ERA) and Robert Gsellman (2.63 ERA) held their own, and have the possible advantage against the Cubs in that Chicago hasn’t faced either one. In the bullpen, the Mets backend combo of Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia is as good as any one-two relief tandem. If the Mets can get to the seventh inning with a lead, it puts any opponent at a disadvantage, even the Cubs.
The Mets will need a fair share of luck to beat an opponent as strong as the Cubs are, but they do have some of the elements you look for in a short series.
Why the Mets should be scared of the Cubs
Forget about the recent history of 100+ win teams losing in the playoffs. The Cubs are one of the most talented, deep, and fundamentally sound squads baseball has seen in at least 15 years. They are superior to the Mets in on-the- field talent and have the benefit of entering the postseason with a healthy complement of players. The Cubs defensive advantage is well documented but it is particularly obvious against a team like the Mets, who are average at best at every position and have lost games with both mental and physical errors throughout the season.
The Mets rotation could keep up with the Cubs starting four, but Noah Syndergaard is the only New York starter who has an advantage in any given matchup, and he will only get one turn in this series. The Cubs lineup has a way of grinding opponents down by taking a lot of pitches and penetrating an opponent’s bullpen early. A team running James Loney, Rene Rivera, and T.J. Rivera out there in the playoffs is more likely than not to see the clock strike midnight sooner rather than later.
The main reason the Mets should be scared of the Cubs is that Chicago is bleeping great and should inspire “fear” in any opponent.