From the earliest days of spring training, the stories of the 2022 Yankees and 2022 Mets have been as intertwined in all sorts of ways. Prior to the season, they were as opposite as could be. The Mets had a very active winter, adding Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha, Chris Bassitt, and Adam Ottavino. The Yankees avoided the deep end of the free agent pool and instead sought to improve around the edges. The Mets hired a high-profile manager in Buck Schowalter. The Yankees kept Aaron Boone, a highly controversial decision, as many fans pined for the Yankees to rehire their old skipper.
Once the season began, the two teams appeared more similar than different. Both squads got out to hot starts, building big leads in their respective divisions over the first few months of the season — and, for a time, having the best record in their respective leads. Then, in the latter part of the summer, both saw their leads diminish. Although they avoided a disastrous month (unlike the Yankees), the Mets, however, were unable to maintain their grip on their division, ending in the same record as the Atlanta Braves and losing the tiebreaker.
Manager: Buck Schowalter
Top hitters: Francisco Lindor (6.8 fWAR)
Who exactly are the 2022 Mets? The longer I spent looking at their FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Statcast pages, the less certain of the answer I became. On paper, they have a dominant lineup, led by star shortstop Francisco Lindor (127 wRC+), 2022 NL batting champ Jeff McNeil (.326 AVG, 143 wRC+), and first baseman Pete Alonso (40 HR, 143 wRC+); not surprisingly, they helped the Mets finish third in the Senior Circuit with 4.77 runs/game and second in team OPS+ (113). Even as they were overtaken by the Braves, the lineup continued to do its thing. In September and October, they ranked second in both wRC+ and fWAR (127 and 7.7, respectively, each behind only Toronto). Lindor, McNeil, Alonso, Escobar, and Brandon Nimmo all had big months. The lineup certainly did not go cold.
And yet, the question remains, “Can they hit in October?” Teams tend to face better pitchers in the playoffs than in the regular season, and as we know, it’s easier to score with home runs off of good pitchers than it is to string multiple hits against them. In that department, the Mets have fallen short this season, ranking eighth in the National League with 171 home runs. While they were better down the stretch — their 39 home runs after September 1st ranked 4th in the NL — their offense lacks true power bats after Alonso and trade deadline acquisition Dan Vogelbach.
On the mound, it’s hard to find a team with a pitching staff with as much upside as the Mets. Max Scherzer, a future Hall of Famer, their expected Game 1 starter, and arguably the best pitcher of his generation, might not be the best starter on his own team; that honor goes to Jacob deGrom, who looked electric upon his return from the IL. If I was named the third starter, the Mets would still have a case for the best playoff rotation (I haven’t pitched since middle school more than a decade ago). Even so, Chris Bassitt would be a candidate to be the Game 1 starter on a few teams, and is easily the third best starter in this rotation.
And then, of course, there’s Edwin Diaz at the back end, who finally put together the sort of season that the Mets envisioned when trading for him years ago. There’s some questions in the middle innings — as we all know, Adam Ottavino can look just as lost in one outing as he looks electric in another — but it’s more than covered up by the deep rotation and Diaz.
All in all, should both the Yankees and Mets reach the World Series, it would look to be an epic Subway Series rematch between two really, really good teams. To get there, though, the Mets have a tough road. Despite finishing 22 games back in their division, the San Diego Padres are no joke, with a star-studded lineup and a trio of aces of their own. Should they win that series, they come face-to-face with a Los Angeles juggernaut that won 110 games and lead the league in pretty much every stat. If by some miracle they win that series, they would face the winner of the Atlanta Braves/Philadelphia Phillies/St. Louis Cardinals side of the bracket, which means they face the team that ran them down in the division, a team that overcame an awful start to find themselves in the playoffs, or a team led by veterans Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, and Adam Wainwright that contains more than a little St. Louis devil magic.
If they manage that, however, that pitching staff will make them one tough opponent in the World Series.