After acquiring a few All-Stars in the offseason, the Phillies seem poised to win the National League East in 2019. Since the other teams in the East have yet to concede to the Phillies’ greatness, it’s worth taking a look at each division rival and determine how much of a hindrance they’ll provide towards the Phillies’ playoff hopes.
2018 Record: 77-85, 4th place in National League East
What happened in 2018
Despite the presence of Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, the Mets weren’t a good team last year. They buried themselves with a 15-39 record across May and June, and even a strong September couldn’t allow them to finish the season with a winning record.
The annoying thing about the Mets was that they seemed determined to hand the division title to the Braves. Against Atlanta, the Mets were a feeble 6-13. Against the other three division teams, they were a combined 34-23.
A logical explanation to the turnaround
The obvious reason why the Mets finished strong and the Phillies...did not, is because of Asdrubal Cabrera. When Cabrera was on the Mets’ roster, they were awful. As soon as he was traded to Philadelphia, the Mets began to display basic competence, while the Phillies went into a tailspin.
In case you were curious, Cabrera signed with the Texas Rangers this past offseason, so you should feel pretty comfortable in betting against them making the playoffs.
What have they been up to?
They hired a new general manager in Brodie Van Wagenen, who made an early offseason splash in trading for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano. They also signed former Phillie Wilson Ramos, former closer Jeurys Familia, and former All-Star Carlos Gomez. They also signed free agent infielder Jed Lowrie. In 2018, Lowrie made his first All-Star appearance as he hit a career high 23 home runs at age 34, which doesn’t seem suspicious in the least.
You might look at these moves and wonder why the Mets weren’t in the thick of the pursuit for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. After reading the GM’s explanation, it still isn’t really clear. All I can say is that it’s a good thing for the Phillies that the Wilpon family continues to own the Mets.
Anything else happen?
Because free agency is officially dead, the Mets signed deGrom to an extension. It’s a good thing the Phillies have Bryce Harper for 13 years, because at this rate, this is the last time an All-Star caliber player reaches free agency before he turns 35.
In less positive news, the team managed to antagonize its players by scheduling a jaunt to Syracuse (I hear it’s lovely this time of year) before the season starts on Thursday. Naturally, the plane got stuck on the tarmac for over three hours, which assuredly did not raise the spirits of anyone involved.
The unworthy Thor
Considering their overall lack of success against the Mets in 2018, it’s strange that the Phillies fared well against starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard. The Mets righthander - nicknamed Thor due to his long, blond hair - had a strong season, putting up a 13-4 record with a 3.03 ERA, good for four wins above replacement.
In four starts against the Phillies, he was just 1-2 with a 5.75 ERA. Part of his struggles came from an inability to hold runners on, as the Phillies stole bases with abandon. If only the Phillies could have found a way to replicate that success against the likes of Jason Vargas.
Why the Phillies should beat them
The Mets have seemingly had the Phillies’ number for years now. This was understandable during the Phillies’ down years, but it’s tough to say that the Mets had a definitively better roster in 2018. With the Phillies boasting superior talent this season, it seems that some regression to the mean is in order, and the Phillies will once again become the dominant team in the rivalry.
Why the Phillies should be wary
Many a gambler has gone broke counting on regression to the mean. The Mets’ rotation looks strong, which means they’ll likely be in most of their games. If the Phillies find themselves in a close game against the Mets, will memories of all the awful losses of recent years start creeping into their heads?
Another reminder that the Mets are still paying Bobby Bonilla
They’re also paying Bernard Gilkey and Bret Saberhagen! And yes, I know that these deferred deals theoretically save the team money in the long run, but it’s not like the Mets were being super clever. They were just trying to save money after the owners were ripped off by Bernie Madoff.
But good news, Mets fans! With deGrom’s extension, this tweet is no longer accurate:
Players on Mets 2020 payroll:— Logan Barer (@LBarer32) March 23, 2019
- Bobby Bonilla: $1,193,248
- Bret Saberhagen: $250,000
Players NOT on Mets 2020 payroll:
- Jacob deGrom
The Mets will probably improve their performance against the Braves. However, they’re also likely to do worse against all the other division teams (besides the Marlins who barely qualify as a real team at this point). That will be good for another fourth place finish.