The New York Mets might very well be the most underrated team in Major League Baseball headed into the 2024 season. The team made as much roster turnover in a single offseason as we've seen in team history, but not in the most obvious ways.
After a season where the Mets grossly underachieved on a record payroll, there are plenty of reasons to think the Mets are primed to bounce back in 2024. Preseason PECOTA projections have the Mets making the playoffs with around 84 wins, and they could be looking at some of the same factors as we are, in how the Mets can be a solid team.
1) Edwin Diaz, baseball's best closer, is back.
Mets fans knew the entire outlook on the 2023 season altered significantly the moment Edwin Diaz hurt his knee in the World Baseball Classic. Diaz had just signed the first $100 million contract for a reliever in baseball history, and for good reason, as he is the best closer in the game coming off a season for the ages. I, for one, dearly missed his entrance to the sounds of Timmy Trumpet.
Two years ago, Diaz masked so many deficiencies in the Mets bullpen, a problem that Billy Eppler didn't address enough in New York (or during his GM stint with the Los Angeles Angels). The Mets went 89-0 when leading after eight innings in 2022 thanks to Diaz. Last year, that mark was 64-2. It was still very good, but you didn't feel like the game was over when David Robertson was called on to make saves. Robertson turned out great in those (he netted the Mets two of their team's top 30 prospects in Marco Vargas and Ronald Hernandez in a trade last summer).
So many games were lost in 2023 because the bullpen was a weak point with this team. Without Diaz, the Mets' reliever ERA jumped from 3.55 in 2022 to 4.48 in 2023. Additionally, from 2022 to 2023, walks per nine innings jumped from 3.1 to 4.0, strikeouts per nine dipped from 10.4 to 9.2, and WHIP increased from 1.218 to 1.336.
Having Diaz back in the bullpen changes everything for the Mets. It allows the team to shorten games, put pressure on other teams to score before Diaz comes into save situations, and it lets the other relievers pitch in situations they were supposed to pitch at in the first place.