Breaking Down the Five New York Mets Wild Card Competitors
We are now at the All-Star break and it's time to take a look at how the Mets can make the playoffs.
Right now, they are four games behind the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East, but they're only one game behind in the NL Wild Card race.
It's probably the easier route to the playoffs for the Mets, especially seeing how the Braves are capable of playing over the weekend, and how deep their starting rotation is.
Looking at the Wild Card race, there are five teams other than the Mets who will be competing for the spot.
Which teams are a huge threat heading into August, and which are going to fade? Where do the Mets themselves stand in the race? Find out here in a six-team breakdown.
Colorado Rockies- 49-39 (tied for NL Wild Card lead)
Right now, the Colorado Rockies are tied for first in the NL Wild Card along with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It seems as if every year since their magical run to the World Series in 2007, the Rockies come charging when you least expect it.
Well, how can you not expect a team with a 15-game winner at the All-Star break to be in the running for a playoff spot?
On July 3, the Rockies were still playing slightly above-average baseball, really being surprisingly inconsistent.
Then, they made their run, winning six straight games, powered by an historic nine-run ninth inning against the Cardinals to win a game, 12-9, on July 6.
If you look at their roster, it's not loaded, but they have some big bats, including an emerging star in Carlos Gonzalez. They were my preseason favorite to win the NL Wild Card, and they have a strong shot.
Why the Rockies will win the Wild Card: The combination of Ubaldo Jimenez and Carlos Gonzalez will win them a lot of games down the stretch.
Why the Rockies won't win the Wild Card: Ubaldo Jimenez has 15 wins, the rest of the entire Rockies rotation has 15 wins.
Los Angeles Dodgers- 49-39 (tied for NL Wild Card lead)
For the Los Angeles Dodgers to even be in a running for a playoff spot right now, just shows you what kind of a manager Joe Torre is.
On April 29, the Dodgers hit rock bottom, falling to 8-14 on the season. They had just got swept by the Mets at Citi Field, including both ends of a doubleheader, and in that series looked awful.
There were actually rumblings on whether or not Torre would want to remain manager of a team playing such bad baseball.
They turned their entire season around with a nine-game winning streak from May 9-18, putting themselves right back in the thick of things.
Before breaking his finger, Andre Ethier was the hottest hitter on the planet, and is still hitting over .300.
Their starting rotation is a little weak with Vincente Padilla as their "ace," but they have some nice sticks in the lineup. Never underestimate a team with Joe Torre as their manager.
Why the Dodgers will win the Wild Card: Joe Torre is their manager, and he hasn't missed the playoffs since he started managing the Yankees. Their young core of Loney, Ethier, Kemp, and Martin should keep the team fresh throughout the pennant race.
Why the Dodgers won't win the Wild Card: Their schedule beginning on Thursday is extremely tough to get through: STL, SF, NYM, SD, SF, SD, PHI, ATL, COL, CIN. Their rotaion is a bit spotty.
Philadelphia Phillies- 47-40 (1.5 GB in NL Wild Card)
It has been a shockingly subpar season for the two-time defending National League champion Phillies.
They have been devastated by injuries, similar to the 2009 Mets, but even before those injuries came about, their players were underperforming.
Chase Utley, probably bothered by a bad hip, was really struggling, unlike the player that he is known to be. Early on, after signing a huge contract extension, Ryan Howard wasn't hitting may home runs.
At one point, the Phillies fell six games back in the NL East, and they probably won't win the division for a fourth straight year.
They have been sparked by the return of Jimmy Rollins, and they just completed a four-game sweep for the ages over the Reds, winning in walk-off fashion in extra-innings three straight games.
At the same time, they will be without Utley until September, and they have a lot of work to do.
Why the Phillies will win the Wild Card: The Phillies have always been a pesky team and have always come from behind (i.e. 2007 & 2008). With Howard's home run bat and Rollins' spark on top, they should have enough in them.
Why the Phillies won't win the Wild Card: They just have way too many injuries at key positions like second and third base. Their starting rotation isn't that great past Halladay and Hamels, with the likes of Blanton, Kendrick, and Moyer.
San Francisco Giants- 47-41 (2 GB in NL Wild Card)
The Giants are almost in the same position they were in last season, close to or on top of the Wild Card race, but not quite ready to make a huge jump.
The Giants have more than a few problems looking ahead. Yes, their starting rotation is one of the best in baseball, led by two-time defending Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum. But even for Lincecum, it has been somewhat of a down year by his standards--not that it has been bad--9-4, 3.16 ERA.
The real issue though for the Giants is what it has always been, the lack of a strong lineup. The Giants have always been looking for a huge bopper, and there are rumors they may go after Prince Fielder as we near the trading deadline.
Right now though as presently constituted, it's weak. They have one big bat and that's Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval though isn't even having a big year. They do have the catching phenom Buster Posey up now as well which will slightly help.
Why the Giants will win the Wild Card: They have a fantastic foursome in the starting rotation: Lincecum, Zito, Cain, and Sanchez.
Why the Giants won't win the Wild Card: Their offense as already mentioned is awful. Too many similarily light-hitters, and not enough pop.
St. Louis Cardinals- 47-41 (2 GB in NL Wild Card)
The Cardinals are only one game behind the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central, but they currently are a Wild Card competitor.
They are the last team in running for the spot, because after them are the Florida Marlins who are seven games behind.
The Cardinals are an interesting bunch. They, as we all know, are led by Albert Pujols. They are also led by a phenomenal top three in the starting rotation: Carpenter, Wainwright, and Garcia.
They were the runaway favorites to repeat as NL Central champions, but they haven't gone on a major tear yet.
NL Rookie of the Year candidate David Freese, and outfielder Ryan Ludwick are both currently on the disabled list, so they lose a little in the lineup. The Cardinals though should be in this race until the very end.
Why the Cardinals will win the Wild Card: They may have the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball in the starting rotation, along with a guy named Albert Pujols over at first base.
Why the Cardinals won't win the Wild Card: Other than Matt Holliday, they don't have enough protection in the lineup for Pujols. Their bullpen isn't terrific, and other teams have better all-around rosters.
New York Mets- 48-40 (1 GB in NL Wild Card)
It has been one of the weirdest seasons in Mets history. The Mets got off to a 3-7 start, and it looked as if they were on their way to 100 losses the way they were playing.
At 3-7 and almost hopeless, with whispers about a managerial firing, the Mets won a 20-inning game in St. Louis that kind of sparked a turnaround.
Shortly thereafter, the Mets put together an eight-game winning streak, pushing them into first place in the NL East.
Then once again, things turned ugly, as the Mets got swept a four-game series to the Marlins in Miami. The entire Mets front office flew down the next night to Atlanta to check on the team.
From May 22 through June 23, the Mets went on a 21-7 run, sparked by another eight-game winning streak, and they were the hottest team in baseball.
They just went 2-4 on their most recent home stand, finding themselves a game back in the NL Wild Card, but with reinforcements coming on Thursday.
They will get back Carlos Beltran, after missing the first 3.5 months due to knee surgery. They may also make a trade for a starting pitcher.
Why the Mets will win the Wild Card: They went 48-40 in the first half without Carlos Beltran, who is returning, and without two-fifths of their starting rotation: Maine and Perez. Their ace Johan Santana has found himself lately, and they're getting great pitching out of Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey.
Why the Mets won't win the Wild Card: The great story of 35-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey may fade out, and they may not get anything more out of the struggling Jason Bay. Their bullpen is still spotty and they must make a trade for a starting pitcher.