One year after some of their players were mocking their own fans amid a frustrating season, the New York Mets are going to ride their good vibes this season all the way to the playoffs.
The Mets clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2016 after Monday's 7-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers:
Since taking over as owner of the Mets in November 2020, Steve Cohen has made his mission clear.
"If I don’t win a World Series in the next three to five years—I’d like to make it sooner—I would consider that slightly disappointing," he told reporters at his introductory press conference.
The 66-year-old has since put his money where his mouth was two years ago.
The Mets traded for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland in January 2021. Lindor subsequently signed the richest contract in franchise history (10 years, $341 million).
Injuries and poor performances led the Mets to a disappointing 77-85 finish in 2021, and Cohen and new general manager Billy Eppler went to work last offseason to reshape the roster again.
The Mets spent $254.5 million to sign Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Cahna and Eduardo Escobar in free agency. Scherzer's three-year, $130.1 million made him the highest-paid player in MLB by average annual salary ($43.3 million).
New York also took advantage of the Oakland Athletics' fire sale to acquire Chris Bassitt for the rotation.
Only the Los Angeles Dodgers ($265.2 million) have a higher payroll than the Mets' $262.1 million this season.
Those offseason signings, combined with return-to-form performances by Lindor, Edwin Diaz and the midseason return of Jacob deGrom from injury, have propelled the Mets to one of the best regular seasons in franchise history.
Their .631 winning percentage would be the second-best in franchise history. The 1986 team went 108-54 (.667) and went on to win the World Series.
Things haven't gone exactly according to script in Queens. Scherzer missed seven weeks early in the season with a strained oblique. Carrasco and Escobar also spent time on the injured list. J.D. Davis had a disappointing season before being traded to the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 2.
Unlike in previous years, when it seemed like things would snowball as soon as one thing went wrong, the Mets have been able to keep playing at a consistently high level this season no matter what.
Per FanGraphs' wins above replacement, the Mets rank fifth in pitching (19.6) and sixth in hitting (27.6). The only other team that ranks in the top five in both categories are the Dodgers.
Looking ahead to the postseason, New York has arguably the best 1-2 punch in the starting rotation. Scherzer is apparently an ageless wonder, as he entered Monday's start with a 2.26 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 153 strikeouts in 127.2 innings as a 38-year-old.
His latest outing was one of his best to date, as he delivered six perfect innings, while striking out nine. He was pulled after 68 pitches, as it was his first start since coming off the injured list.
The sample size for deGrom isn't large, but he has looked fantastic since making his season debut on Aug. 2. The two-time NL Cy Young winner has a 2.32 ERA with 86 strikeouts and 29 hits allowed in 54.1 innings.
Diaz has been absolutely lights out at the end of games. The two-time All-Star averages nearly two strikeouts per inning (107 in 56.2 innings) and didn't allow a run in 25 appearances from June 22-Aug. 31.
Despite having Pete Alonso, one of the best power hitters in baseball, in the middle of their lineup, the Mets aren't a power-hitting team overall. They rank tied for 15th in MLB in homers (152) but make up for it by making a lot of contact and getting on base.
New York's 1,112 strikeouts are the fourth-fewest in MLB, and it ranks second with a .331 on-base percentage. The depth of quality hitters in the lineup has the ability to wear down opposing pitchers quickly, especially in a playoff game where managers have quick hooks with their starters.
The Dodgers are still the class of the NL, and the Braves are better on paper than the team that won the World Series last year, but this Mets squad has all the ingredients to make a deep postseason run.