Is this what a playoff team looks like? Not much power, even less speed, bench players in the starting lineup? Fans of the 31-27 Mets—and fans of teams with similar records—need to remind themselves that yes, this is exactly what many eventual playoff teams look like. It’s sometimes hard to believe.
If you root for the Cardinals (19 games over .500), Astros, or Twins (both 10 games over), you’re watching a team perform at a very high level. If you like the Brewers (17 games under .500), Phillies (14 games), or Athletics (13 games), the season is probably doomed. But a little more than a third of the way through the season, most other teams look fairly similar.
Take the Mets. They seem like a mediocre, inconsistent team. Since their 11-game win streak put them at 13-3, they’ve gone 18-24. They’re 8-1 against the lowly Phillies and 23-26 against everyone else. But a .534 winning percentage is often good enough in baseball. Since the playoff field expanded to five teams from each league in 2012, four teams have had at least that winning percentage and not made the playoffs. For what it’s worth, all were in the American League. Baseball is a sport where even the best teams of all time lose 30 percent of their games. A 5-4 road trip doesn’t seem like much, but a 5-4 record in every nine-game chunk gets you to 90 wins.
Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs both predict the Mets will finish with 84 or 85 wins and give them about a 45 percent chance of making the playoffs. Teams like the Angels, Rays, Tigers, Giants, and Pirates are in a similar spot, depending on which projections you look at.
It’s easy to watch your favorite team every night and dwell on the frequent losses. Take a deep breath and remember that baseball is not a sport meant to be dominated. Your team may seem “just OK,” but that might be good enough.