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All hail the offseason champs: Phillies vs. Mets series preview

Sound and fury signifying a third place finish?

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets
David Peterson’s start against the Phillies didn’t go so well for him
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Armed with new owner Steve Cohen’s wallet, the Mets were determined to spend a ton of money this past offseason. And they certainly did spend, trading for and extending shortstop Francisco Lindor, signing catcher James McCann, as well as adding others like Kevin Pillar and Jonathan Villar. As a result, the projection systems LOVE the Mets and think they’re the favorite to win the National League East.

Those projection systems are forgetting a couple of important things:

  1. Things don’t often work out well for teams dubbed “offseason champions.” For whatever reason, it seems that more often than not, those flashy additions don’t make much - if any - positive impact in the standings. And sometimes, thanks to skewed team dynamics (i.e. the older players resent that the team paid these new guys and not them), they can end up making things worse.
  2. It’s the Mets. When was the last time they want on a spending spree and it actually worked out well for them?

When it comes down to it, the Mets didn’t even really nail the whole offseason champs thing. They were linked to just about every high profile free agent and trade target, and while the guys they got certainly aren’t bad, they’re also not J.T. Realmuto, George Springer, and Trevor Bauer.

And for some reason, everyone is glossing over the fact that Robinson Cano is suspended for the season. As if losing a second baseman who had an OPS of .896 last year is no great loss.

What happened last year?

Despite some good individual offensive performances, the Mets were not great at scoring runs, ranking a middling 7th in the National League in runs scored. Pitching wise, despite having one of the best starters in baseball anchoring the staff, they were only 12th in team ERA. The result was a 26-34 fourth place finish.

What about when they played the Phillies?

The Phillies and Mets played each other ten times, and the Phillies came away victorious in six of those games. Between the standings and head-to-head record, it isn’t tough to figure out which team was superior in 2020.

What have the Mets been up to in 2021?

I’m not sure, but it hasn’t been playing baseball. Thanks to the Nationals suffering a bit of a COVID outbreak, the Mets’ opening series was cancelled, so the Mets got to sit on their thumbs all weekend. Which means by my count, the Mets currently have three fewer wins than the Phillies.

A quick look at the Mets’ scheduled starters

Having not played any games this season, the Mets were able to set their rotation for this series to their liking. Choosing Jacob deGrom for the opener seems like a prudent choice until you recall that in his only start in Philadelphia last year, he gave up three runs in two innings.

Next comes Marcus Stroman, who hasn’t thrown a major league pitch since the 2019 season. Between the year off and the delayed start to the season, rust could be a real factor for him. The finale will be handled by David Peterson. He had a pretty good rookie season, but would you like to guess which team he was facing when he had his worst start of the season?

That’s right, it was the Phillies! Peterson’s lone start against them made deGrom’s two inning/three run outing look like a masterpiece.

The Phillies’ hitters might not have had a huge weekend against the Braves (they didn’t have to, considering the way their pitchers were dealing), but based on recent history, there’s reason to believe that could change this week.

A lot of money for a singles hitter

If the Mets were expecting Lindor to turn the tide against the Phillies, they might end up disappointed. In six career games against the Phillies, Lindor has as many extra base hits as I do. (In case you were wondering, I have never played a major league game.) If the big bat in their lineup is only going to manage a few sporadic singles, it doesn’t bode well for the Mets’ chances.

Relevant tweet

What to expect

Rather than give a prediction of wins and losses, I’ll give you a few things to look for in this series:

  • After waiting an extra four days to start the season, deGrom is going to come out hot, only to quickly burn himself out against the Phillies’ patient lineup. He’ll be out of the game before the seventh inning.
  • Lindor won’t have much of an impact, causing callers to New York’s sports radio to wonder if the Mets wasted their money on him.
  • Concerns about the slow start by the Phillies’ hitters will be eased in the third game of the series when Bryce Harper homers, and they score eight runs.

Closing thought which may or may not be relevant to the series

Do you think Mr. and Mrs. Met ended up together only because as giant baseball-headed creatures, there weren’t a lot of viable options for either of them? At some point, did they just say to themselves, “This is the best I’m ever going to do?”