Despite sharing America's largest media market, the Yankees and Mets haven't always been on an even playing field. The boys from the Bronx have made the postseason the same number of times since 2005 that their counterparts in Flushing have in their entire 53-year history. Yet things seem to be swinging another way lately. The Mets strode into the first round of this year's Subway Series this weekend riding an eleven-game win streak and baseball's best record. You may not much care for the orange and blue, I know I don't, but there's a little more energy to New York baseball when both teams are in it to the end and Mets fans aren't trying to shift the focus to football by late July.
What would a team comprising the best players New York has to offer look like? Though position-by-position comparisons don't reveal much about teams' overall quality, it's been some time since the Mets have held their own in this sort of contest. Many of these match-ups are highly debatable as is the question of which team will end up having a better 2015.
Catcher - Brian McCann
It's unfortunate that Travis D'Arnaud broke his finger earlier this week. The 26-year old backstop was off to a hot start, like many of his teammates, hitting .317/.356/.537 with a 153 wRC+ in his first 45 plate appearances. After serving as trade fodder for the likes of Roy Halladay and R.A. Dickey, D'Arnaud established himself as a clear-cut MLB starting catcher last year, slugging 13 home runs in 108 games with a nice .174 ISO and a 103 wRC+.
Brian McCann's first year as a Yankee was a disappointment, and his second year hasn't been much better thus far, showing an OPS of just .640 through Thursday. McCann hasn't been the middle-of-the-order stalwart that the Yankees were hoping for when they signed him away from the Braves, but despite lesser offensive numbers, he's still an outstanding defender. 20 or more homers, seven straight seasons and counting and a 121 wRC+ as recently as 2013 earns him the benefit of the doubt.
First Base - Lucas Duda
Mark Teixeira's been doing exactly what he promised Yankee fans so far this season - taking walks and hitting dingers while removing the word "single" from his vocabulary. His eleven free passes are among the most in the AL, as are his seven home runs. His solitary one-base hit is...not.
There should be no complaints about a 1.006 OPS from Tex, but Duda gets the nod because he's been productive over a full season more recently. While Teixeira was vanishing in the second half of 2014, Duda was putting together a career year, belting 30 home runs and driving in 92 with a wRC+ of 136. Duda is hitting .333/.414/.500 through Friday, earning him the starting first base gig, despite Teixeira's superiority in the field.
Second Base - Daniel Murphy
Daniel Murphy is what most Yankee fans hope Rob Refsnyder will someday become - a passable defensive second baseman with an outstanding bat for a middle infield position. Though he's off to a rough BABIP-fail start in his walk year, 2014 was Murphy's fourth straight season with an OPS of .733 or better.
The Yankees' second base situation is still a work in progress. Stephen Drew's been sort of a pleasant surprise, doing his best Dave Kingman impression with four home runs and only four hits that haven't left the ballpark. Still, his gargantuan homer to fly ball rate tells us his current production is unlikely to continue.
Shortstop - Wilmer Flores
In contrast to the Yankees' decision on second base with Drew vs. Refsnyder, the Mets turned their shortstop position over this year to a questionably-gloved young hitter in Wilmer Flores over an offensively-challenged mainstay in Ruben Tejada. Flores had made three errors in 15 games so far, but he's made up for it with his bat, hitting .275/.315/.471.
One could argue that the best all-around shortstop in New York right now is playing second for the Yankees, but with a .774 minor league OPS in over 3,200 plate appearances, the 23-year-old Flores' hot start is probably not a fluke, and that wins him the job over Drew and Didi Gregorius. You have to feel for Gregorius as he attempts futilely to replace Derek Jeter, but the pitcher-level .504 OPS and abominable fielding he's shown this year keep him out of the conversation.
Third Base - David Wright
Wright was not a very good baseball player in 2014, when a league-average 100 wRC+ and a pedestrian 4.9 UZR/150 kept his overall value to 1.7 fWAR in 134 games. Chase Headley is two years younger and was the better third baseman last year, but we'll cede this one to history. Wright's been worth 4.5 wins or more six times in his career, compared with just once for Headley and his 134 career wRC+ trumps everything on Headley's resume outside of his outlier 2012.
While Headley's off to a sluggish .242/.306/.379 start this year, Wright looked like the 2012-13 version of himself before hitting the shelf with a hamstring strain last week, logging a .333/.371/.424 triple slash through his first 33 at-bats.
Left Field - Brett Gardner
Many questioned the Mets decision last November to surrender their first round pick to sign 36-year-old Michael Cuddyer, but reports are he's been a positive presence in their clubhouse. After bludgeoning NL West pitching in an injury-shortened 2014 campaign in Colorado, the longtime Minnesota Twin has hit .254/.333/.390 over his first 59 at-bats this year.
Up in the Bronx, though, Brett Gardner's been doing Brett Gardner things. He has a .396 OBP and five steals through Friday's action. That, along with vastly superior outfield range and copious grit and gut make him a rather obvious choice.
Center Field - Jacoby Ellsbury
Ever since I watched him make a couple of eye-popping catches in center at the one game at CitiField I've been to over the past two years, I've been a fan of Juan Lagares. He's 26 though - not so much a prospect anymore - and so far his hitting hasn't surpassed league-average. Lagares' 4.0 fWAR 2014 came despite just a 101 wRC+, stymied by a miniature 4.4% walk rate that fueled the Mets' decision to keep him near the bottom of their order. He hasn't exactly shot out of the blocks this year, at 254/.271/.269.
Ellsbury hasn't hit for any power yet, with only three extra base hits to his name in 68 at-bats through Friday's win. Nevertheless, he's done his job at the top of the lineup with nine walks, four steals and a .385 OBP. The extent to which Gardner and Ellsbury have gotten on base is a big reason why Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have combined for 28 RBI.
Right Field - Chris Young. Seriously. Chris Young.
Met fans are still wondering who it is that's been posing as Young - and batting .310/.381/.611 since joining the Yankees in August of last year. The guy they knew had an 80 OPS+ in 88 games over the first four months of 2014 and got himself released.
This position is less about Young's prowess in pinstripes, though, and more about the ineffectiveness of his competition. After posting a -0.7 fWAR a year ago, it's been more of the same for Carlos Beltran who's hit 173/.241/.288 through the first two plus weeks of the season. Curtis Granderson's been the latest in a long line of ill-advised Met signings who've worked out as they should have. Like Jason Bay before him, Granderson's someone who needs to hit home runs to be successful while playing in a ballpark that's exceedingly difficult to hit home runs in. Grandy hasn't been particularly good since the first half of 2012. While he's done well getting on base this year with 14 walks so far, he had only two extra base hits in 54 at bats.
Designated Hitter - Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod seems like the winner by default as the only regular DH in town, but we can consider players who were beat out for other jobs for this spot as well. There's no way to know how Rodriguez will hold up over a full season, or whether he can maintain continued success at age-39 after a year away from the game, but a .982 OPS through his first 16 games gets him the gig over his closest competitors, Teixeira and Cuddyer.
Starting pitcher - Matt Harvey
With all due respect to Chicago and Los Angeles, who have some formidable arms of their own, New York is as flush with pitching right now as any city on the planet. If we're looking to win one game it's tough to pick against Masahiro Tanaka, who has allowed just one run on five hits while striking out 14 in his last 13.1 innings, or Michael Pineda, whose strikeout-to-walk totals since last year are 86 to 9, or the National League's reigning Rookie of the Year, Jacob deGrom, who has resumed said awesomeness with a 2.96 ERA through his first 24.1 innings in 2015, despite his shelling at the hands of the Yankees last night.
But it's Harvey who ultimately gets the edge. Returning from Tommy John surgery, which prematurely ended a 6.5 fWAR 2013 campaign, Harvey has a 12.00 K/9 rate a 0.50 BB/9 rate through his first three starts. At 26, he's got a 2.33 FIP in 39 career starts, and scarily enough if you're not a Met fan, his stock is only trending upward. If we're looking for a starting five, it would be Harvey, Tanaka, DeGrom and Pineda, followed by the ever-present Bartolo Colon.
Closer - Andrew Miller
The Yankees may not have a closer, but they do have a guy who's pitched in every save opportunity and been perfect so far, with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP to go with 15 strikeouts in 7.1 innings. It's tough to see David Robertson in a White Sox uniform looking just as dominant as ever (his FIP is a negative number...someone explain to me how that works), but so far the Yankees' decision to save $10 million by signing Miller instead is looking like a reasonable one. Miller's early success comes on the heels of a 2014 campaign where he struck out 103 in 62.1 frames.
The Mets have what looks like a good young closer of their own in Jeurys Familia, but he's yet to achieve the level of success that we've seen from Miller or Dellin Betances.