New York Mets: to compete, Mets need to beat NL East

The New York Mets are fresh off getting swept, at home, by division rival the Washington Nationals. This comes just a week after losing 2 out of three in Washington. On the other end of the spectrum, however, the Mets have dominated the rival Philadelphia Phillies including winning 12 straight at Citizens Bank Park dating back to last season.

So goes the story of the Mets in divisional play. It isn’t enough to beat up on the cellar dwelling Phillies. If the Mets want to be competitive they have to be able to beat the upper level teams, especially in their division. In this case that is the Nationals and the Atlanta Braves. The Nats have had the Mets’ number this season and the Braves are also above .500 against the Mets. The Mets have a total of 8 wins and 17 losses against the top two teams in the division. Add in the third place Miami Marlins and that becomes 16-22. A slight improvement but still not quite enough.

In this day and age in baseball, the easiest way to make the playoffs and succeed is to win the division. The only way to do that is win games. If the Mets fancy themselves contenders, they’ll have to do better than 2-10 against the Nats.

Yes I understand that some of that ground is made up with the 11-5 record against the Phillies. However, that is no longer an accomplishment. The Phillies, much like the Ottoman Empire in World War I, are pretty much aged out of making any significant difference. Because of this, they become the team that everyone should beat up on and as such shouldn’t be considered to be an all to impressive display.

The Marlins are an interesting case. They are somewhat inconsistent but appear to be on the doorstep of being threats in the division. In Mets/Marlins match ups the home team general has had the advantage and these two certainly have played games that have gone down to the wire. The Mets do hold the 8-5 advantage on this season but it feels like the Marlins give the Mets problems.

The Braves, despite being short on pitching this season, have still managed to put together good games as well as consistently producing “Met killers”. Freddie Freeman has emerged as Chipper Jones‘s replacement in that role and a somewhat streaky team seems to manage to put it together when the Mets come to town. However this is a case where the Mets have managed to keep themselves competitive and are only 6-7 against Atlanta in 2014.

The Nationals are the division powerhouses and possibly where the Mets want to be in a few years. Led by good starting pitching (Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann) and key young players (Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon) the Nationals have gotten out to a decently sized lead in the division and look poised to make a run to the playoffs. Additionally they have dominated the Mets winning 10 of 12 games in 2014 with a combination of pitching and home run hitting power.

In the near future pitching is going to become increasingly important. With the Nationals imposing starting five, the Marlins two top young arms (Jose Fernandez and Henderson Alvarez), the emergence of Julio Teheran and eventual returns of Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy for Atlanta, Cole Hamels‘ perennial Cy Young quality pitching and the Mets’ pantheon of young arms (Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero) division battles may become pitchers duels to be one by one big swing. If the Mets want to make the playoffs, those are the games they need to start winning.