Fifteen years. That's how long it's been since the New York Mets were able to edge out the New York Yankees in the win column during regular season play. Not that it mattered come World Series time that postseason, as the Yankees bested the Mets in the World Series four games to one. Still, it was a special time to be a Met fan prior to that beat down. It's not often the Mets have actually finished a season with more wins then their Bronx counterparts. In fact, they've only bested the Yankees in this fashion 13 times over the last 52 years the two teams have shared New York and only tied once, back in 2006.
The state of both teams' rosters going into the 2015 season should give Mets fans hope that their team is headed towards a winning season and that the Yankees may come up short. The Mets, after all, have a bright future of contention ahead of them, thanks to a young and talented pitching rotation and promising players like Travis d'Arnaud and Juan Lagares. The Yankees, however, will enter 2015 with a slew of aging players with massive, unmovable contracts that make it difficult to build a lineup or pitching rotation without dealing away prospects. The Yankees' 84 victories in 2014 were their fewest over a full season since 1992 and, thus far, they haven't made any improvements to their roster that would help them improve that win total. In fact, they look worse in some ways than they did last season.
The Yankees' pitching staff, for one, looks worse than the one they had at the end of the season. Hiroki Kuroda's announcement that he wouldn't re-sign with the team and instead go home to play in Japan was certainly a blow. The 39-year-old Kuroda, in spite of his age, was a consistently effective starter for the Yanks, averaging a 3.44 ERA over 207 IP during his three seasons with the team. Brandon McCarthy departing for the Los Angeles Dodgers is another blow given that he became the Yankees' de facto ace down the stretch after Masahiro Tanaka got hurt. Both pitchers would have been helpful to a pitching staff that now has a couple of large question marks starting in their place.
The Mets, in stark contrast, have a built an impressive young starting rotation that will only be better next season with the return of Matt Harvey. Also unlike the Yankees, their rotation has no real uncertain pieces. The Yankees are pinning a lot of their hopes on Michael Pineda staying healthy, Nathan Eovaldi adjusting well to American League lineups, and CC Sabathia having a huge comeback season. The Mets' only real pitching issue for next season is managing Harvey's innings and pitch counts smartly and knowing when to shut him down. That, and figuring out who will be the team's number five starter among Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee, and Rafael Montero. But that's what pitching depth will do for your chances of success. The Mets have it and the Yankees don't.
Here's a few other things the Mets have that the Yankees don't:
Why do the Mets have an edge at first base? It's because Lucas Duda's career is on the way up and Mark Teixeira's is on the way down. Duda's offensive ability clearly out shined Teixeira's last season as he bested his Yankee counterpart in multiple offensive categories. The 35-year-old Teixeira has clearly lost a step and no longer resembles the man who averaged 37 home runs and 114 RBI through his first three seasons with the Yankees. Part of this is health; Teixeira hasn't played a full season since 2011 thanks to crippling injuries that have forced him out of the lineup for weeks at a time. But even when healthy last season, the results weren't great: 22 home runs, 62 RBI, and a depressing .216/.313/.398 batting line. Duda, on the other hand, is 28 years old, in his prime years, and coming off a season where he finished third in the NL in home runs with 30. While Yankees fans are hoping for a comeback season from Teixeira in 2015, clearly the advantage stands with Duda and the Mets at the moment.
The Yankees, as of right now, do not have a second baseman. While making a trade or signing someone are still very much possibilities, it should be obvious that whoever the Yankees do end up putting at second will be inferior to Daniel Murphy. Murphy, while a disaster defensively, has earned his reputation as an solid hitter at a position where any type of offense is considered a plus. Since taking over as the Mets full-time second basemen in 2012, Murphy owns a 7.1 fWAR which is good for sixth among all NL second basemen during that period. He's averaged nine home runs, 38 doubles, 175 base hits, and a .288/.327/.407/.734 batting line over the last three seasons. And he's entering the final year of his contract and playing for a new one that will likely earn him around $10 million per year if he plays well. Murphy's future isn't set with the Mets and expecting a trade around midseason would be wise for fans, but he is still the superior option to anything the Yankees will have come Opening Day.
David Wright and Chase Headley are about even in terms of ability at this point in their careers. Case in point: their bWAR is almost identical since 2009, 3.9 to 3.5 in favor of Wright. The advantage should go to Wright, however, mainly on the point of consistency. Wright may be on the down slope of his career, but Headley, with the exception of his breakout 2012 performance, has never appeared to be anything more than a mediocre offensive presence/excellent defender. Headley's a good player but the possibility of another breakout season from him is less probable than Wright merely shaking off his rough 2014 and playing better in 2015.
Give the advantage to the Yankees at shortstop, their bullpen, overall team defense, and a slight edge at catcher. The outfield positions seem about even between both teams in terms of talent and production. The Mets have the advantage in two other critical components, though: overall team youth and organizational depth. The Yankees, as previously mentioned, are being bogged down by a great deal of veteran players. It's in comparison with the Mets, however, where they really look old. The Mets' overall age of their players last season was 28.4 years old while the Yankees was 32.9. While replacing 40-year-old Derek Jeter with 24-year-old Didi Gregorious at shortstop will help with that average slightly, gaining Alex Rodriguez back won't. Older players are more susceptible to injuries, and this is where organizational depth becomes important.
The Mets have built an impressive farm system with a number of major-league ready players like Noah Syndergaard, Dilson Herrera, and Kevin Plawecki all available at a moment's notice. The Yankees have no such reinforcements. Their top prospect is pitcher Luis Severino, according to Baseball America, and he'll likely start the season in Double-A. Oufielder Aaron Judge and shortstop Jorge Mateo are also likely going to be, at least, two years away from joining the big club in the Bronx. The Yankees have a capable bench of veteran players like Garrett Jones and Chris Young who can step in in case of an injury, but obviously it's preferable to have someone with younger legs.
While the Mets now appear to be entering their first period of contention since 2008, the Yankees seem to have fallen farther and farther back from the playoff race over the last two seasons. The Yankees didn't even have business winning as many games as they did in 2014, seeing as they actually gave up more runs than they scored over the course of the season. The Mets, on the other hand, scored 629 runs and allowed only 618, but still somehow finished with a losing record at 79-83. Is it possible that some lucky breaks or unlucky breaks may reverse the fortunes of both teams next season? The Mets have the advantage of youth, depth, and oodles of pitching talent. Their team appears hungry to take the next step forward and, helpfully, the Yankees appear ready to take another step backward.
Back in 1984, the New York Mets won 90 games, the first of what was a string of winning seasons until 1991. During that period, the city was painted over from blue and white to blue and orange. It appears the Mets are ready to do again what they did twenty years ago and put together winning seasons. And it seems that the first of those winning seasons will be this year. They have the necessary pieces to contend and, more importantly, it seems that those pieces can win more games than the Yankees.