For the first half of the MLB season, it appeared that the New York’s Mets were undeniably going to win the NL East division. With a 10.5 game lead in June, the Mets sought to run away with the title. Now, in the final stretch of the regular season, the NL East race is tight and is anyone’s game. There are many factors that could decide the outcome, but let me explain why the Mets are still going to get the job done.
At the start of the year, the Mets were not the team that went on long winning streaks, but took care of business by winning almost every series. They were especially dominant against teams in their own division, playing very consistent baseball in the first half.
The Atlanta Braves, on the other hand, didn’t have the best start to 2022 after going 24-27 in their first 51 games. At this point, the Mets had a significant lead on the division with a record of 35-17 on June 1st. A key player that the Braves were missing was star centerfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., who suffered a torn ACL in July of 2021. Once he made his return on April 28, 2022, he was his normal self at the plate and on the field. Before Acuña’s return, there was a lack of production from the Braves outfielders and less depth in their pitching staff. Despite this, everything started picking up for Atlanta, resulting in Acuña and five other Braves players making the 2022 All-Star Roster.
As usual, the Braves’ lineup is filled with immense amounts of young talent and they have signed just about every star in their lineup to long term contracts. The team’s current rookies RHP Spencer Strider, OF Michael Harris and SS Vaughn Grissom have become breakout players and valuable parts of this year’s team. Many experts involved in baseball seem to think that this year’s NL Rookie of the Year award will land in Atlanta.
After winning the World Series last year, the Braves are looking to defend their crown. Even though they lost first-baseman Freddie Freeman to free agency, his replacement, Matt Olson, has been a steady, clutch player for the team.
Since the second half of the season, the Braves have become generally unbeatable. This led to them catching up with the Mets, brewing up a storm for the NL East race. Despite this, the Mets have stayed consistent and haven’t gone on many poor stretches, the exact reason why they will finish atop the division.
The competitiveness between the two squads has heated up ahead of the postseason as the race has gotten closer. In early August, the Braves played a five game series at Citi Field and lost four out of the five to the Mets. But, two weeks later, the Braves hosted New York at Truist Park and won three out of four games. The Mets versus the Braves have been one of the best rivalries to watch this season, as they’re always neck and neck, especially recently.
Although some might see this as the Mets’ collapse, they have yet to endure a losing month this season and have been near the top of all MLB’s leaderboards for statistics.
It’s also critical to note that Mets ace Jacob deGrom made his return in July after rehabbing from a stress reaction in scapula. This move added deGrom to the already strong Mets rotation which included Max Scherzer. Having deGrom and Scherzer in the same rotation is arguably the best 1-2 punch in this generation of pitchers. Behind them are other strong members of the pitching staff with RHPs Chris Bassit, Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco.
The Mets closer, Edwin Diaz is also having the most dominant season of his career and is considered one of the best closers in baseball. Not to mention, Diaz’s viral walk up song, “Narco” by Timmy Trumpet and Blasterjaxx has caught the attention of the entire league.
Topping off an already great year, Fransico Lindor will finish the season with a Mets franchise record of most RBIs by a shortstop. Jeff McNeil’s bat has been on fire all season, hitting over .300 with a high on-base percentage too. McNeil’s OPS+ sits over 130 making him one of the top hitters in the league.
A more underrated component of the Mets success so far is their knowledgeable manager Buck Showalter, who has led the team to play to their potential. Showalter has directed the team away from off-field distractions and has changed the mentality of the clubhouse with his detail-oriented methods.
When talking about the New York Mets, you cannot forget about their billionaire owner, Steve Cohen. In his two years in the Big Apple, Cohen has transformed the franchise and focused on bringing the best players to the clubhouse. In the past two off-seasons he has made two huge splashes with trading for 6-time all-star SS Francisco Lindor and signing 3-time Cy Young award winner, Max Scherzer. Cohen brought back an aspect of professionalism to the organization that has been lacking for years.
Cohen is building a team that is ready to win, and this year they have a real shot to bring a championship home to Queens for the first time since the 1986 Amazin’ Mets.
Since June 1, the Braves are 68-28 and the Mets are 59-38. The reigning World Series Champions have continued to show their winning abilities with their stellar performances in the second half. The Braves have put the ultimate pressure on New York by playing some of the best baseball in the league but through that, the Mets have been able to stay on top.
With about three weeks left in the regular season, the Braves are only a single game behind the first-place New York Mets. The Mets just clinched a post-season berth for the first time since 2016 with a win against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night.
The two squads start a three-game series on September 30th, which could be the biggest series of the season for both teams and has the potential to flip the standings. The Mets are a largely veteran filled team while the Braves consist of many young stars. Despite each team being built differently, they both share the same goal of winning and are equipped with all the necessary pieces to do so this year.
This battle could end up either way. Statistically, the Mets do have the advantage of having an easier schedule the rest of the way, but the Braves have been unstoppable these last couple months. In the end, the NL East title is still up for grabs and my pick is with the New York Mets.