Mets and Yankees are off to opposite starts
With baseball season fully underway, early storylines occasionally tell the story of how the rest of the season will develop for a team. The storylines in New York have been fairly surprising, with the Mets and Yankees both performing differently than expected by most critics.
The Yankees, on one hand, were not necessarily expected to compete in a division in which three out of five teams made the playoffs, yet they are currently 11-7, holding onto second place in the AL East between the 12-5 Baltimore Orioles and 11-8 Boston Red Sox. The Mets, on the other hand, got off to an extremely strong start out of the gate, but lost eight out of nine games, losing three series, each to the Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies, on their way to an 8-11 record.
Many would dismiss these headlines as overly dramatic pessimism. With over 140 games left for each club to play, it is far too early to make concrete judgements on the team’s success or failure. Yet, for a team that entered the season as NL Pennant favorites and even sure-fire World Series contenders, the devil is in the details.
The Mets won the National League East in 2015 because they took advantage of a weak division. The club finished 47-29 against its division, cruising to a division win and playoff appearance. This season, the Mets will have played 32 games against the NL East before playing a team not from their division.
As per history, they were expected to take care of business in this stretch, doing just that, as they started 7-3 with series wins over the Braves, Marlins and Phillies.
The Mets’ series against the Marlins seemed to derail the hot-streak. “The Amazin’s” won a 16-inning marathon against the Marlins. However, they exhausted their bullpen, which would come back to haunt them later in the series. The team has long thrived from exceptional starting pitching, just to lose games late because of bullpen mistakes in relief situations. The bullpen management issues fall on manager Terry Collins, who has overused relievers such as Fernando Salas to the point of exhaustion. Wishfully, the bullpen will benefit from the return of closer Jeurys Familia, who returned for the series against the Nationals after serving a 15-game suspension.
However, the bullpen is not the team’s only problem, as they have struggled to record hits throughout this slump. The injuries to catcher Travis d’Arnaud, superstar outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and first baseman Lucas Duda have left glaring holes in the starting lineup. Those three have hit well all season and their losses have definitely left a mark. The healthy veterans on the team have also greatly struggled. Jose Reyes, the 2011 NL Batting Champion, has a measly .104 batting average at this point in the season, and Curtis Granderson has posted a .149 average.
The brightest spots on the team are outfielder Michael Conforto and first baseman Jay Bruce. Conforto, coming off a fantastic showing in the 2015 playoffs, has a batting average of .361 along with four home runs. Bruce, the Cincinnati Reds product who had a dismal 2015 campaign in New York, is batting .271 with a team-leading six home runs to boot. The starting pitching rotation has been fantastic and will only develop more after the return of Steven Matz later in the season.
The Mets have many aspects to their game performing at a top level. If the bullpen continues to struggle, the injuries continue to mount and the bats stay dead, it could lead to a very disappointing season.
On the other side of town, the Yankees have been a much different story, and it has worked out in their favor. The team was not expected to be as competitive as it has been this season, especially after the departures of veterans such as Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. The Yanks have exceeded all expectation thus far this season, as they jumped out to an 11-7 start.
After a 2-4 start, the team was able to rattle off a streak of eight straight wins. Its story so far has been its impressive bats, especially those of Aaron Judge and budding second baseman Starlin Castro. Judge, the team’s resident 6-foot-7-inch rookie from Fresno State, has exploded onto the scene with six home runs, along with a .279 batting average. Castro has been just as impressive, hitting four homers with a .357 batting average to boot. Recall last season, Castro jumped out to just as impressive a start and naturally calmed down at the end of the season. However, the team has shown it can compete despite its youth and looks to continue to stay hot through the coming months.
During the first month of the MLB season, it has been a tale of two teams in New York. However, this should all be taken with a grain of salt, as it is only the first month of a long season.
Although April baseball is a time of many way-too-early overreactions, the games still do count and can prove to be a pivotal chapter in what each team hopes will be a fairytale season.