Friday, October 9
6:30 pm PT on TBS
New York Mets (90-72) @Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70)
In the preseason, I compiled standings projections from eight sources: Clay Davenport, Sports Illustrated, Fangraphs, PECOTA, Bleacher Report, Rant Sports, The Sporting News, and Eastside Sports. The New York Mets are in the NL East and they were not expected to have a chance to win that division because the Washington Nationals were expected to be a powerhouse. The Mets weren’t even picked to finish in second place by the majority of those sources. Overall, these sources pegged the Mets to finish right at .500.
The Dodgers were the consensus favorites to win the NL West and looked to be a good 10 or 11 games better than the San Francisco Giants. They were projected to win 94 games and finished the year with 92.
Looking at run differential, these two teams are essentially equal, with the Mets at +70 and the Dodgers at +72. The Mets scored and allowed a few more runs but the overall total of net runs was nearly the same.
Based on their runs scored and runs allowed, both of these teams look like teams that would win around 89 games.
How They Got Here
It’s been almost a decade since the Mets made the playoffs. Back in 2006, they lost the National League Championship Series four games to three to the St. Louis Cardinals. They followed that season with good years in 2007 and 2008 but didn’t make the playoffs. Then they hit a down period that coincided in part with the Bernie Madoff scandal and hurt the team’s finances because their owners were heavy investors with Madoff. The Mets averaged just 76 wins per year over the six-year period from 2009 to 2014.
Coming into this season, the Mets had a good group of young pitchers in their organization but didn’t look to have the hitting to be a division-winning team. They had a good start, going 15-8 in April, but were mediocre in May, June, and July, going 38-42 over those three months. At the All-Star break, the Mets ranked 26th in baseball in offense, with a team batting line of .233/.298/.363 and were scoring an average of 3.5 runs per game. Then they acquired Yoenis Cespedes in a deadline deal and their hitting took off. In the second half of the season, the Mets were the second-best hitting team in baseball, hitting .257/.328/.443 and scoring 5.1 runs per game. In August, September, and October, the Mets went 37-22 and finished seven games ahead of the Nationals to easily win the NL East.
Since their 1988 World Series championship, the Dodgers have made the playoffs eight times without getting to the big game. They lost in the NLCS in 2013 and in the divisional round last year and were again expected to win the AL West with a high payroll and plenty of talent. They got off to a 13-8 start in April and went 16-12 in May before a 15-15 June got them to 44-35 heading into July. They were in first place but with a slim 1 ½ game lead over the rest of the division. As late as August 23, the Dodgers had just a 1 ½ game lead over the rival San Francisco Giants, but the teams went in opposite directions from that point forward. Over the last eight weeks of the season, the Dodgers went 25-14 while the Giants struggled to an 18-20 record. The Dodgers ended up winning the division by eight games.
Hitting, Pitching, Fielding Rankings
Rankings are based on Fangraphs statistical data. For offense, I used the metric wRC+, which means “weighted Runs Created Plus.” This looks at how a team’s offense compares to league average and takes ballpark effects into account. I used Fangraphs pitcher WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for starting pitchers and relief pitchers. The defensive rankings are based on Fangraphs’ metric for defense.
Both of these teams have very good starting pitchers. The high-profile starter on the Mets is Matt Harvey but Jacob deGrom had a better year. deGrom will be the team’s game one starter and it’s a well-deserved honor as he won 14 games with a 2.54 ERA (2.70 FIP) and 9.7 K/9. Because of his well-publicized pitch count limits, Harvey won’t be used until game three, which puts Noah Syndergaard in the slot for game two. Die hard baseball fans will hope that Bartolo Colon can make an appearance somewhere along the way because the rotund one is fun to watch.
The Dodgers have a top two in their starting rotation that can rival any team in baseball. Clayton Kershaw led all pitchers in baseball in WAR, with 8.6. He went 16-7 with a 2.13 ERA (1.99 FIP) and struck out 301 batters in 232 2/3 innings. Zack Greinke had more wins (19) and a better ERA (1.66) than Kershaw, but his peripherals were not as good (2.76 FIP, 8.1 K/9). Either of these pitchers would be a great choice to start the first game of the playoff series. The Dodgers are going with Kershaw in game one so he can come back on three day’s rest to pitch game four, if necessary.
I think the Dodgers will take game one behind Kershaw but game two could be interesting with Syndergaard facing Greinke. The Mets have the advantage in game three because Matt Harvey is superior to Brett Anderson. The Dodgers will likely bring back Kershaw for game four, with the Mets choosing between deGrom or, possibly, Steven Matz. I don’t see a start for Bartolo Colon, unfortunately. This should be a great series.
My Prediction: Dodgers over Mets, 3 games to 2