The Mets are off to yet another hot start this year, staked to a multi-game division lead in late May as the rest of the division fails to find a groove. This is a familiar place to be for the Mets, who were in the same place this time last year.
In 2021, amid a slew of injuries, the team managed to keep their head above water into the late summer. After a 17-9 May, the team would play at or above .500 in both June and July. However, in August they were faced with a test, a thirteen-game gauntlet versus the Giants and Dodgers, both of whom would eventually win over one hundred games that year. That challenge proved to be too much for team, who would win just two of those games, completely falling out of the National League East race in the process.
For the 2022 team, the test will come much earlier in the season. Beginning June 2nd, the Mets will begin a 24-game stretch including series against the Dodgers, Padres, Brewers, Angels, and Astros. Outside of seven games against the Marlins, each of these teams currently ranks among the top 10 best in the league. On top of this, most or all of these games must be played without the team’s Cy Young duo of Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, both currently on the shelf with injuries.
Even with a 7.5-game division lead, the Mets cannot afford their typical June swoon that fans have become accustomed to. Especially given the Braves’ second-half run last year, they cannot afford to give significant ground and let Atlanta back in the picture. At worst, fans should hope for the team to play .500 baseball over this stretch. This would place the team at a 41-29 record, and in good position moving towards the All-Star break and the trade deadline. In addition, the Braves would have to go on a 19-5 run or better to catch the Mets by the end of the month. This is especially unlikely considering that even with an easy schedule for much of the month, the club run into the Giants and Dodgers in the final weeks of the month.
2021 All Over Again?
Despite the rampant comparisons to the 2021 team, it is not exactly a fair one. By this time last year, the team had about half the current division lead, at just four games, and had already lost key cogs Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Jeff McNeil to injuries. The signs of disaster were already there, given that even with a respectable record, the 2021 team was 2-10 against teams above .500. For comparison, the 2022 team is 13-7 against such teams, already winning the season series against both the Cardinals and Giants.
Following a rough June, the 2022 Mets will have a much easier schedule in the second half of the year. They team has yet to play a single game against the bottom tier of the NL Central, including the Cubs, Pirates, and Reds. With any luck, the team will head towards this part of the schedule with a decent division lead still intact.
Further, the new playoff format should help out as well. With the new collective bargaining agreement, each league will now send six teams to October instead of the previous five. In addition, the three-game first round should eliminate some of the peril of the one-game wild card. Even if the team flounders in June, it would be a shock to find the team out of the playoff race come September. All in all, June will be the toughest month of the season for this team, but a decent performance will go a long way to solidifying a hot start into a strong year.
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