The New York Mets currently sit in first place in the National League East division. At first glance, this may surprise people considering the adversity the team has faced thus far in 2021.
No team has suffered more injuries and hardships so far this season than the Mets. Although injuries have been plentiful across the league, no team has suffered the number of injuries the Mets have. Following Pete Alonso and Tommy Hunter becoming the latest members on the IL, the Mets now have 18 members on the injured list, including more than half of their starters. As a result of the team’s horrible luck with injuries, they have been forced to trot out numerous prospects on a nightly basis, including Johneswy Fargas, Jake Hager, Khalil Lee, and Wilfredo Tovar.
The Mets are in first place in the National League East division, but for them to maintain their hold on the division, they will need to continue to perform well against their divisional opponents.
However, despite the number of injuries the team has faced, they remain ahead of their division opponents. One of the main reasons why the Mets have managed to stay afloat during this tumultuous time is that the team is continuing to take care of business against their division opponents. Consider their record against the division thus far through May 24:
Every team in Major League Baseball plays each of their four division opponents 19 times apiece over the course of the season for a total of 76 games. Because 76 games is nearly half of a team’s season, how a team performs against its division opponents often dictates where they end up in the final standings come October. For the National League East, this has held true for the past six seasons. Since 2014, the team that has performed the best in the division has won the National League East division.
What also makes the Mets’ start against its division opponents encouraging is that despite all of the adversity the team has faced, the Mets are seeing their opponents get off to inauspicious starts. At the beginning of the year, a reasonable expectation was that the National League East could shape up to be a four-team race, with every team except the Marlins holding compelling reasons why they could win the division.
FanGraphs forecasted that the Mets not only closed the gap the team had with the Braves, but that they may have exceeded it because of the team’s acquisitions of Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, and James McCann. Considering that Lindor and McCann are off to slow starts offensively and Carrasco has not thrown a pitch yet, the fact that the Mets remain in first place is nothing short of remarkable.
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For the Mets to continue to hang onto their division lead, they are going to have to take care of business against their division rivals like they have been. As long as they do that, they will be in a strong position to win the division for the first time since 2015.