Enough comparisons to last year. What I'm looking to do right now, is try and project where the Amazin's end up. Using Math!
The Mets have 59 games left. The winning percentage of their opponents in those remaining games is .491, which is slightly above the Mets' current percentage of .485. This is a little misleading, however. 28 of their remaining games come against teams over .500, who share a winning percentage of .568. The other 31 come against teams below .500, who share a winning percentage of .414.
Those are magic numbers: 31 and 28. A 31-28 record down the stretch yields an 81-81 record, which the Mets haven't achieved since 2008, when they went 89-73.
It can't be that simple though. Certainly, the Mets aren't going to win every game against the inferior competition, and lose every game against a winning team. So how likely *is* 31-28 from here?
Thanks to Baseball-Reference, I was able to get a breakdown of not only the Mets remaining schedule, but the number of remaining games against each, and how they've fared so far against each team. I broke all this down into this table:
Looking at this, we see that this (simple) model projects the Mets to go .... 30.638-28.362 from here! In a sense, it's fair and reasonable to say the Mets will finish very close to .500 this year. But that's also a rather simple way to look at it.
In my opinion, 31-28 represents neither the best nor worst case scenario, but a fair middle ground. Arguments can be made in either direction.
THREE REASONS WHY THE METS WILL FINISH ABOVE .500
The Phillies have traded away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.
The Marlins have traded away Gaby Sanchez, Omar Infante, Hanley Ramirez, and Anibal Sanchez (among others).
These two teams have arguably gotten worse since they've last played the Mets, and they represent 18 of the Mets remaining games. Based solely on their current head-to-head records, they project to go 12-6 in those games. Given the above changes, outpacing that projection isn't unreasonable.
The model above suggests that, because the Mets were swept in Houston, they won't win another game. I'm not a betting man, but if I were I would think it fair to say the Mets will take at least one of three.
Of the sub-.500 teams the Mets play going forward, only one (Miami) is within eight games of .500. After that, it's Milwaukee (-10), Philadelphia (-12), San Diego (-16), Colorado (-26), and Houston (-34). All of these teams have significant issues, and represent a prime opportunity for the Mets to fatten their record.
They also have left room for improvement against some opponents. The Mets have gone 4-17 against Cincinnati and Washington this year, and with 9 games remaining can look to improve upon that. If they even go a paltry 3-6 in those games, it represents a net gain against the projection.
The opportunity for internal improvement. It's no secret that the bullpen has been, well, terrible. But there are some bright spots - Josh Edgin has pitched great, giving up only a single earned run since his ML debut, and sporting a gaudy 16.2 K/9. Jon Rauch has quietly been solid, with a 1.32 ERA in his last 18 appearances (2ER/13.2IP). He struggled between mid-May and early June, but he has a 2.17 ERA otherwise to go along with his career best 1.062 WHIP.
On offense, Ike Davis' consistent resurgence has turned first base into a position of strength. His 20 home runs lead all players from the position, and his ability to hit somewhat competently against lefties has allowed additional flexibility for Terry Collins. Similarly, the improvement of players like Andres Torres and the out-of-nowhere-mashing of Scott Hairston both bode well for this team.
THREE REASONS WHY THE METS WON'T FINISH ABOVE .500
Their pitching. The bullpen has struggled. And struggled. And struggled. They could improve as the season wears on, but it's unlikely that they will make significant strides. The starting pitching has also been shaky lately, and plenty of uncertainty surrounds the vacancies left by Dillon Gee and Johan Santana. Can the Mets win with Hefner filling in? Is Matt Harvey as good as he looked? The jury is out right now, but these are questions that need answers soon, before it's too late.
The rest of the offense. The Mets are getting almost nothing from their outfield, outside Scott Hairston. Jason Bay is still lost, Andres Torres' OBP is high, but his .320 SLG undoes the bulk of that. Mike Baxter's return offers a glimmer of hope and solidifies a potential platoon in left field, but that leaves the Mets with, at most, 1.5 effective outfielders at any moment. The infield (Davis/Murphy/Wright/Tejada) has been collectively solid of late, but it's going to continue to hurt the Mets when 5-9 in the batting order are dragging.
Emotions. The Mets' last homestand saw the wheels fall off the wagon, and then the wagon combusted, and then the ashes threw a hanging curveball to Matt Kemp. The Mets have been, by most admissions, playing better than their talent would suggest. When their long-touted locker room chemistry began to lull, things just got worse. Pedro Beato's demotion is a step in the right direction, but after three terrible weeks it leaves one to wonder if they can regain the feel-good vibe from the spring.
The Mets had a .544 winning percentage in April, May, and June. They're .292 going into their last game in July. The level of competition going forward suggests that they could go either way. If they play the way they have so far this season, .500 is attainable. If they catch a few breaks, they could end up better than that.