The Mets have been a paper tiger. They were projected to win the division with 92ish wins in 2016, but only made the Lightning Round with 87 and were quickly eliminated. A projected 87-win team finished with 70 wins in 2017, underperformed an 84-win projection in 2018 (77 wins), won 86 with no playoffs in 2019 (projected for 84), fell flat on its face in 2020, and then did so over a full season in 2021 as well. 2022, though, has been different in a lot of ways, and one of them is that the Mets have the NL’s best record at 16-7. The Braves, at 10-13, are looking way up at their divisional rival — their six-game deficit in the division is their largest since, well... July 28, when they dropped a game to the Mets.
So, not all hope is lost, but the Braves also need to start playing way better. Or at least getting better results. To wit, coming into Sunday’s games, the Mets had a .332 team wOBA with a .326 team xwOBA... while the Braves had the league’s second-best xwOBA at .359, but just a .317 wOBA. The Mets continued to make a mockery of what we’ve come to think of as the natural order of baseball games (hit ball hard, in the air, out of the park = good), as they scored 10 runs without a homer while allowing four longballs and still cruising to a 10-6 win over Philadelphia. In fact, while the Mets are 19th in MLB in homers, they’ve gone 8-0 when outhomering their opponents, and a magical 4-3 when being outhomered. The former number isn’t surprising, the latter is kind of crazy. (By comparison, and as you might expect given their records, the Braves have gone 8-5 when outhomering their opponents, and 0-5 when being outhomered.) Maybe this will keep up. Maybe it won’t. The game is coming either way, and the Braves will need to figure out how to live in this environment if it’s gonna stick around.
Fortunately for Atlanta, they’ll at least have Max Fried on the hill for the series opener. The season’s been full of bright spots and black holes so far, and Fried’s mostly been the former, with a 76 ERA-/64 FIP-/74 xFIP-, and an xERA better than his ERA. Fried’s 0.8 fWAR currently ranks eighth in MLB, and after getting dinked and dunked on Opening Day, he’s smothered offenses since. Last time out, he allowed just a solo homer (4/0 K/BB ratio) to the Cubs in six frames, and it’ll be a big help if he can keep the Mets at bay. What would be less good is a reprise of some of the stuff Fried has dealt with against the Mets — last year the Braves lost two of the three games he started against them despite him holding them to a 2.50 ERA / 3.11 FIP / 3.14 xFIP, as the Braves scored one run each in two of those games. In the third game, though? They erupted for 20 runs, and that’d be fun to see tonight.
Still, the Braves might not have an easy time causing such an eruption given that the Mets will be throwing Chris Bassitt at them. Acquired from Oakland in the offseason, the 33-year-old Bassitt has a 62/88/90 line (xERA close to FIP), and has allowed zero runs in two starts, one run in a start, and five runs (despite a 6/1 K/BB ratio) in a start. In the past, Bassitt has been more of a contact manager who doesn’t walk anyone, but this year he’s upped his slider usage while decreasing how often he throws his sinker, and is running a decent strikeout rate as well. He pretty throws a five or six-pitch kitchen sink mix, with some funky breaking pitch movement, so the Braves might have their hands full. But they’ll need to figure it out to avoid an even bigger deficit in their record, the division, and so on.
Atlanta Braves @ New York Mets
Monday, May 2, 2022
7:10 pm EDT
Citi Field, Flushing, NY
TV: Bally Sports Southeast, MLB Network (out of market only)
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan
XM Radio: Online / Ch. 89