clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Exploring the Mets’ potential playoff opponents in the first round

Who the Mets end up playing depends on if they win the division or settle for the Wild Card.

New York Mets v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

The Mets clinched a playoff spot last week with a Monday night win against the Brewers. It’ll be the team’s first trip to the postseason since earning a Wild Card berth in 2016—they were eventually eliminated by the Giants in the one-game Wild Card.

The Mets playing baseball beyond October 5 is just about the only thing we know right now. As of the publication of this post, the team is still fighting to fend off the Braves and win their first NL East crown since 2015. The Mets currently hold an 1.5 game lead over Atlanta and have a magic number of eight, meaning any combination of eight Mets wins and Braves losses will secure the division for New York. There also happens to be eight games remaining in the regular season.

With the Cardinals losing their game on Sunday and the Mets winning theirs, the winner of the NL East also secured the second spot in the National League. This is more critical this year than in past seasons due to the updated playoff format. MLB added a third Wild Card club this season, growing the number of playoff teams in each league to six. As a result, there will now be a three-game Wild Card round before the NLDS, as opposed to a one-game playoff between the two Wild Card teams. In past years, finishing as one of the top 2 division winners only guaranteed you home field in the NLDS, but this season, it guarantees you a bye week. Getting a top two spot will allow the NL East winner to rest their injured players and set up their rotation.

When the playoffs begin, the Mets will find themself in one of two spots: They will either be the NL East winner and the second seed, or they will be the top Wild Card team and the four seed. Right off the bat, let’s talk about the two teams the Mets will not play in any first-round pairing: The Dodgers and the Braves. They will only play top-seed Los Angeles in the NLCS if they win the NL East and advance beyond the NLDS, or in the NLDS if they end up in the Wild Card round and advance. They can only play Atlanta in the NLCS in any current scenario. For the purposes of this exercise, we will only examine the Mets’ first postseason opponent, so let’s explore the teams the Mets might play, and the paths to get there.

Path 1: Mets win the NL East

If the Mets win the division, they will get a bye and avoid an NL Wild Card round. That also means they can save Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer for Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS, while their opponent will have used their best bullets to get them to the NLDS. Because MLB is employing a bracket and not re-seeding, the NL East winner will be guaranteed to face the winner of the three vs. six match-up. This means that the Mets might face any of these teams:

Team 1: The Cardinals (3 seed)
Record: 89-65
Season Series: Mets won 5-2
Playoff History vs. Mets: Mets won 2000 NLCS 4-1, Mets lost 2006 NLCS 4-3

Of all the teams the Mets might play in the first round, St. Louis is the only one they’ve previously faced in the postseason. This would present an enticing opportunity for revenge—in the minds of Mets fans, more than the team itself—as the Cardinals handed the Mets one of the most painful postseason defeats in their 60-year history. Moreso, three members of that 2006 Cardinals team—Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Albert Pujols—still play for St. Louis (for comparison, Oliver Perez, the last active member of the 2006 Mets, retired earlier this season from MLB).

While Atlanta gets all the recognition as the hottest team in the NL, the Cardinals have been on a roll for much of the second half. On July 30, they were 53-48 and four games back of Milwaukee in the NL Central. Since then, they’ve gone 36-17 and built a 6.5 game lead, with a magic number of three. St. Louis has done it on the back of Paul Goldschmidt, who is the front-runner for NL MVP and in the top three in each Triple Crown category. Nolan Arenado hasn’t been too shabby, either, giving St. Louis a great corner infield combo. As a team, they are third in the NL in runs scored, wRC+, and OPS, while their rotation is seventh in ERA and their bullpen is fourth in ERA.

It will be brutal watching Wainwright and Molina pair up once again against the Mets in the playoffs, but the opportunity to defeat a team containing those two players does make this a really tantalizing match-up. Perhaps Francisco Lindor can get the GWRBI on a home run off Wainwright’s curveball, and Edwin Díaz can strike out Molina to end the series?

Cardinals Leaderboard

Player Category Stats Player Category Stats Player Category Stats
Player Category Stats Player Category Stats Player Category Stats
Paul Goldschmidt Home Runs 35 Miles Mikolas ERA 3.35 Ryan Helsley ERA 1.32
Paul Goldschmidt Runs 103 Adam Wainwright FIP 3.62 Ryan Helsley FIP 2.37
Paul Goldschmidt RBI 112 Miles Mikolas WHIP 1.04 Ryan Helsley WHIP 0.75
Paul Goldschmidt wRC+ 179 Miles Mikolas IP 193.1 Ryan Helsley IP 61.1
Paul Goldschmidt ISO .267 Adam Wainwright/Miles Mikolas W 11 Giovanny Gallegos/Ryan Helsley SV+HLD 25
Paul Goldschmidt Batting Average .317 Miles Mikolas K 144 Ryan Helsley K 89
Paul Goldschmidt OBP .404 Miles Mikolas K/9 6.7 Ryan Helsley K/9 13.08
Paul Goldschmidt SLG .484 Miles Mikolas BB/9 1.77 Giovanny Gallegos BB/9 2.08
Paul Goldschmidt OPS .988 Adam Wainwright HR/9 0.72 Andre Pallante HR/9 0.37
Nolan Arenado fWAR 7.1 Adam Wainwright fWAR 2.9 Ryan Helsley fWAR 1.9
*Qualified Hitters *Minimum 100.0 IP *minimum 40.0 IP

Team 2: The Phillies (6 seed)
Record: 83-69
Season Series: Mets won 14-5
Playoff History vs. Mets: None

The Phillies are currently holding on to the final playoff spot by the skin of their teeth. They also have room to move up to the fifth spot, though no matter what, they will be playing on the road. They currently find themselves 1.5 game back of San Diego. With their final series being against Astros, their playoff spot is far from guaranteed. If they do face the Mets in this scenario, they would need to also get through a very tough St. Louis squad to do it.

The Mets have easily handled Philadelphia this year, taking the season series 14-5, including winning seven of nine at Citi Field. The Mets also had one of their most memorable wins of the year against the Phillies when they came back with seven in the ninth back on May 5. Oh yeah, and they threw a no-hitter against them on April 29. However, they are still a dangerous team come playoff time, as they can throw Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler at you back-to-back, while Ranger Suarez and Kyle Gibson are also more than capable rotation pieces. They also have former Met Noah Syndergaard, who will be coming out of the pen for the Phillies.

They feature a really strong lineup with Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, and Kyle Schwarber, as well as Met killer Jean Segura. Right now, they find themselves fourth in the NL in OPS and fifth in the NL in runs and wRC+. On the pitching front, their starters are sixth in the league in ERA, which is their strength, while their bullpen is tenth in the league in ERA, representing one of their biggest weaknesses. They are also bad on defense (like, really bad). They find themselves second-to-last in the NL in OAA and third-from-the-bottom in DRS. But honestly, stats don’t even tell the full story.

Phillies Leaderboard

Player Category Stats Player Category Stats Player Category Stats
Player Category Stats Player Category Stats Player Category Stats
Kyle Schwarber Home Runs 42 Zack Wheeler ERA 2.98 Brad Hand ERA 2.8
Kyle Schwarber Runs 93 Aaron Nola FIP 2.64 Jose Alvarado FIP 2.07
Kyle Schwarber RBI 87 Aaron Nola WHIP 0.99 Seranthony Dominguez WHIP 1.04
JT Realmuto wRC+ 130 Aaron Nola IP 192.1 Nick Nelson IP 62.1
Kyle Schwarber ISO .274 Zack Wheeler W 11 Seranthony Dominguez SV+HLD 24
Alec Bohm Batting Average .291 Aaron Nola K 218 Jose Alvarado K 76
JT Realmuto OBP .345 Aaron Nola K/9 10.2 Jose Alvarado K/9 14.05
JT Realmuto SLG .482 Aaron Nola BB/9 1.36 Connor Brogdon BB/9 2.23
JT Realmuto OPS .827 Ranger Suarez HR/9 0.74 Nick Nelson HR/9 0.14
JT Realmuto fWAR 6.2 Aaron Nola fWAR 5.8 Jose Alvarado fWAR 1.5
*Qualified Hitters *Minimum 100.0 IP *minimum 40.0 IP

Team 3: The Brewers (6 seed)
Record: 82-71
Season Series: Mets won 4-2
Playoff History vs. Mets: None

Milwaukee has an uphill battle for a playoff spot. With their loss to the Reds yesterday, which ended their four-game winning streak, they now sit 1.5 games behind Philadelphia for the last playoff spot in the NL. As recently as July 30, they held a four-game lead in the NL Central division, but they have gone 25-27 since that point to not just fall out of the division lead, but out of a playoff spot altogether.

Milwaukee is a pretty solid offensive team, with the sixth-most runs scored in the NL, and the sixth-best wRC+ and OPS. Willy Adames has led the way for Milwaukee, with veterans like Christian Yellich and Andrew McCutchen contributing as well. Led by Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, their rotation has the ninth-best ERA in the NL. Their bullpen, meanwhile, has the seventh-best ERA in the NL, even after trading away Josh Hader, who has struggled in San Diego.

One reason for hope if you are a Brewers fan: Milwaukee plays their remaining eight games at American Family Field, where they are 42-30 this season (as opposed to 40-41 on the road). They will play the Cardinals next, followed by the Marlins and the Diamondbacks.

Brewers Leaderboard

Player Category Stats Player Category Stats Player Category Stats
Player Category Stats Player Category Stats Player Category Stats
Rowdy Tellez Home Runs 33 Corbin Burnes ERA 3.11 Devin Williams ERA 1.72
Christian Yelich Runs 95 Brandon Woodruff FIP 3.21 Devin Williams FIP 1.89
Willy Adames RBI 96 Corbin Burnes WHIP 1 Devin Williams WHIP 0.92
Hunter Renfroe wRC+ 124 Corbin Burnes IP 191 Brent Suter IP 62.2
Rowdy Tellez ISO .242 Brandon Woodruff W 12 Devin Williams SV+HLD 39
Christian Yelich Batting Average .255 Corbin Burnes K 231 Devin Williams K 89
Christian Yelich OBP .356 Brandon Woodruff K/9 11.02 Devin Williams K/9 13.89
Hunter Renfroe SLG .494 Corbin Burnes BB/9 2.4 Hoby Milner BB/9 2.25
Hunter Renfroe OPS .810 Corbin Burnes/Brandon Woodruff HR/9 1.08 Devin Williams HR/9 0.31
Willy Adames fWAR 4.7 Corbin Burnes fWAR 4.1 Devin Williams fWAR 2.2
*Qualified Hitters *Minimum 100.0 IP *minimum 40.0 IP

Path 2: Mets lose NL East, settle for Wild Card

If the Braves overtake the Mets and win the NL East—the division will almost definitely be decided at Truist Park this weekend—the Mets will end up as the four seed and will play a three-game series on October 7, 8, and 9. While they will have home field in that round, their reward, should they advance, would be a date with baseball’s best team, the Dodgers, which would be in in Los Angeles. There are really only two potential teams they would play in this three-game series.

Team 1: The Padres (5 seed)
Record: 85-68
Season Series: Mets lost 4-2
Playoff History vs. Mets: None

The Mets had trouble with San Diego when they faced them this year, so this is a less-than-ideal match-up. The Padres currently hold an 1.5 game lead over Philadelphia for the fifth spot, but they do have three coming up with the Dodgers, which will present a big challenge for them.

If this playoff pairing were to materialize, it would be the first time the Mets see Juan Soto in a Padres uniform. Soto has not been the difference maker San Diego envisioned when they traded for him, hitting .235/.394/.396 with five homers, a 134 wRC+, and a 0.9 fWAR in 43 games as a Padre. However, he has wreaked havoc on the Mets, hitting .303/.420/.581 with 16 homers in 281 at-bats against them. Another thing that would make this match-up tough for New York: Yu Darvish, who is having a tremendous season for San Diego and also loves facing the Mets. He owns a 2.56 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 52 23 innings over eight starts against the Mets.

Still, for all intents and purposes, the Padres have underachieved this year. Missing Fernando Tatis Jr. for the full season doesn’t help, but given their roster, it feels like they should be better than they have been. They are seventh in the NL in wRC+ and ninth in runs and in OBP. They’re just as middling on the mound, as their rotation’s ERA is eighth in the NL. Their bullpen has been slightly better, posting the fifth-best ERA in the NL, although the addition of Josh Hader has not helped much there.

Padres Leaderboard

Player Category Stats Player Category Stats Player Category Stats
Player Category Stats Player Category Stats Player Category Stats
Manny Machado Home Runs 32 Joe Musgrove ERA 2.93 Robert Suarez ERA 2.27
Manny Machado Runs 100 Blake Snell FIP 2.8 Luis Garcia FIP 2.60
Manny Machado RBI 102 Yu Darvish WHIP 0.95 Nick Martinez WHIP 1.04
Manny Machado wRC+ 152 Yu Darvish IP 194.2 Nabil Crismatt IP 64.1
Manny Machado ISO .234 Yu Darvish W 16 Luis Garcia SV+HLD 22
Manny Machado Batting Average .298 Yu Darvish K 197 Luis Garcia K 68
Manny Machado OBP .366 Blake Snell K/9 12.02 Robert Suarez K/9 11.52
Manny Machado SLG .531 Yu Darvish BB/9 1.71 Nick Martinez BB/9 2.33
Manny Machado OPS .898 Blake Snell HR/9 0.77 Tim Hill HR/9 0.19
Manny Machado fWAR 7.4 Yu Darvish fWAR 4.2 Luis Garcia fWAR 1.6
*Qualified Hitters *Minimum 100.0 IP *minimum 40.0 IP

Team 2: The Phillies (5 seed)
Record: 83-69
Season Series: Mets won 14-5
Playoff History vs. Mets: None

The Mets could find themselves playing the Phillies even if they don’t win the division. This would entail Philadelphia climbing over San Diego while also fending off Milwaukee at the same time. The bottom of the NL Wild Card race is one of the most contentious races down the stretch.

We’re still about a week away from having a clearer picture of the Mets’ playoff future, but for now, it’s fun to speculate and think about who the Mets might face come October 7 or October 11. It beats the alternative of looking ahead to next season, because no matter what, the Mets will be playing postseason baseball.


Who do you want to see the Mets face in the first round of the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    St. Louis Cardinals
    (59 votes)
  • 32%
    Philadelphia Phillies
    (105 votes)
  • 10%
    Milwaukee Brewers
    (35 votes)
  • 4%
    San Diego Padres
    (13 votes)
  • 23%
    Don’t care, Mets are in the playoffs!
    (77 votes)
  • 10%
    (34 votes)
323 votes total Vote Now