Heading into the 2021 season, the expectations for the New York Mets (18-13) might as well have been at an all-time high. With a new owner and franchise star in Steve Cohen and Francisco Lindor, respectively, the urgency to not only compete, but contend only increased in a market already antsy for a championship.
For the first month+, the Mets were just there. Heading into a May 5 doubleheader with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets were 11-12.
While they were only one game behind for the National League East lead, fans, media members and baseball pundits alike did not care – a .500 record or worse would simply not cut it. Not in a stacked division. Not in a league that has the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres (just to name a few) looking for a pennant title.
Whether the season is still in its early stages or not, the Mets have finally started to find a groove.
Since the start of May 5, the Mets have gone 7-1 (including seven in a row heading into May 14 action) and have created a 1.5-game cushion atop the NL East.
How has the turnaround occurred? Simple.
The Mets have simply started to play better.
In terms of offense, the Mets slashed .240/.324/.364 from Apr. 5 to May 3. Their .688 on-base plus slugging (OPS) ranked 17th among all 30 MLB teams. On the pitching side of the ball, New York’s collective starting ERA of 3.04 ranked fifth in all of baseball, while their collective 3.63 relief ERA ranked 13th.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see where the Mets faltered. While Lindor and Co. had the star power, their production with the bats simply did not hold up. Although first baseman Pete Alonso held up his end of the bargain with a .884 OPS, Jeff McNeil (.709) and Lindor (.494), among others, simply did not. When your star acquisition was colder than the arctic ice sheets, it should have come to no one’s surprise that the team’s 76 runs scored over the span ranked second-to-last in all of MLB (Detroit scored 68 runs).
If you cannot score, you simply cannot win. The Mets knew this all too well, as you could imagine.
Luckily for the team (and the fans), they have started to get the offense going. From May 5 onward, New York has scored 35 runs, tied for eighth-most in all of baseball. While the team’s .654 OPS is nowhere close to the upper echelon (20th), their pitching has helped pick up the slack – New York’s 2.06 starting ERA over the span ranks third, while their 1.64 bullpen ERA also ranks third.
While there are still many more games to be played this season, the Mets finally found a winning formula, and luckily for them, it is a simple one: do just enough on offense to make the elite pitching matter. If their stars on offense can do that, New York is golden. After all, Lindor’s .970 OPS over the stretch will help make that possible should he continue to produce this way as the season progresses.
New York’s expectations were as high as the New York City skyrises heading into the 2021 season. While April did not go the way the Mets envisioned, the past is the past. The present has been much kinder to them, and as a result, the winning has been much more frequent.
The Mets might have been just there, but now, they are nowhere close to that, and in a good way.
Living up to expectations will do that.