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Placing the Mets’ hot start in historical context

How does the team’s 14-6 record look compared to the best starts in club history?

MLB: New York Mets at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets won their sixth straight series this week against the Cardinals. This is the first time in 61 seasons that the Mets have won their first six series, and positions the 2022 club among the four best starts in franchise history. By straight record, this ties them with the 2018 club with 16-4 across their first 20 games.

Thus far, the 2022 Mets’ competition has been with teams with varying levels of success, both in the shortened season and in where they are projected to finish come the end of the season. The Giants are tops in terms of current success, as they are 13-5 thus far in this short season, as well as from the FanGraphs projections, who see them as a 89-73 team. The Phillies are projected to be the best of the bunch by PECOTA (84-78), just edging out the Cardinals (83-79). Both the Nationals and Diamondbacks are off to rough starts and are projected to be among the worst teams in baseball.

By the same projections, the Mets look strong, with PECOTA projecting a 93-69 season, with FanGraphs being slightly (read: one game) more optimistic, with the Mets finishing 94-68.

The 2018 Mets won their first four series and, in their first 20 games, faced two teams that would eventually win their divisions, the Brewers and the Braves, going a collective 3-3 against those teams. The Mets dominated the rest of their competition, taking 13 of 14 against the Cardinals, Phillies, Marlins, and Nationals. Of that bunch, only the Nats and Cardinals would finish the season with winning records, with the Mets finishing ahead of only the Marlins come October.

These two seasons look extremely similar through 20 games, but Mets fans would be horrified if this team sank to the depths of the first Mickey Callaway season, when the club finished in fourth place with a 77-85 record.

The second best start in franchise history comes from the 2015 National League championship team, who went 15-5 to start the season. This team only won their first series before suffering a series loss, but went toe-to-toe with their division rivals to a 13-3 record, along with a split of a short series with the crosstown Yankees. The Mets would go on to win 90 games in 2015, three more than their Bronx rivals, and seven more than Washington.

It should come as no surprise that the 1986 squad had the best start to their magical season, going 16-4. Due to lousy Smarch April weather, this club won their first game against the Pirates, but saw the rest of the series rained out, and followed that up with a series loss. This team faced two teams that did not make the playoffs in 1986, but would have in the Wild Card era in the second place Phillies and Reds, but also played the two worst teams in the National League in the Pirates and Braves, back when the Braves were in the NL West. The 108 win ‘86 Mets are the gold standard for Queens baseball, and the team that the 2022 club is, prematurely in this writer’s opinion, being compared to in the media after this hot start.

But a hot start doesn’t mean anything. Of the 12 best starts in baseball history, only 2 clubs won the World Series (the 1955 Dodgers and the 1984 Tigers, both 18-2 starters), with only 3 others (the 1946 Red Sox, the 1977 Dodgers, and the 2003 Yankees, all 17-3 teams) making the Series as well.

What the Mets have going for them is that they are doing this without the best pitcher on the planet, Jacob deGrom, as well as their fifth starter, Taijuan Walker, and without any offensive player on an incredible hot streak. Sure, the starting pitching will come back down to Earth a little bit, but with Walker bumping David Peterson from the rotation and Tylor Megill doing his best deGrom impression thus far in the season, their regression to the mean seems sustainable, and not catastrophic.

Offensively, this team looks deeper than the 2015 squad did at this point in that season, before the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, and Juan Uribe. And with an owner who is more willing to spend, the Mets seem poised to add players and fix problems at the deadline, just like that 2015 team did. Smart money is on the ‘22 team needing a bullpen facelift come the trading deadline.

So, while a hot start is fun and refreshing, it remains to be seen if the Mets can live up to the reputation put forward by two of their four World Series-appearing predecessors.