The Mets began a seven-game road trip earlier this week, taking them through Los Angeles for four games against the Dodgers, then three against the D-backs in Arizona.
New York's previous 15 games were all against teams below .500, during which they won nine and lost six, including losing five in a row to the Nationals and Marlins.
"We feel like we're a better team than this," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said earlier this week before embarking on his west coast trip "We have to do better."
He's right. Nevertheless, his roster sits at .500, up from five under just nine days ago. Also, though they have bobbed around the even mark most of May, Callaway and the Mets remain just 2.5 games back of the Braves, who currently hold the final Wild Card spot...
With 108 games of the season yet to be played, the current Wild Card standings may seem irrelevant. That said, I'd rather be .500 and 2.5 games back than the previous five under .500, trailing several teams, and what would likely be six games back.
The division title should be every organization's goal in late May, early June because the one-game playoff is risky and not the best road to the Fall Classic.
In the seven seasons since establishing the one-game, play-in battle, just six of the 35 Wild Card teams have reached their league's Championship Series. And it has been four years since a Wild Card team reached the World Series.
However, as they say, "You have to be in it to win." And, while the thrill of a one-game Wild Card is stressful, it's also thrilling, dramatic and provides hope that a World Series is possible.
In 2018, the Cubs and Rockies squared off in the Wild Card game. On this date one year ago, the Rockies were 29-25 and leading their division, while the Cubs were 28-22, second in their division, and trailing the Braves and Phillies in the Wild Card standings.
The point is, things change.
For instance, also exactly one year ago, there were seven NL teams above .500, which is the mark usually used throughout the summer to gauge whether a team is in or out of the Wild Card race. These seven teams, which included the Mets, were all within seven games of the final spot. The Dodgers were seemingly out of it -- three under .500, nine games out of the Wild Card, and third place in their division.
By the end of the season, the two Wild Card teams (Cubs, Rockies) outpaced their competition by three games, while the struggling Dodgers got hot, won the NL West, and defeated the the Braves in the NLDS.
Again, things change...
The Mets were able to claw themselves back into this year's Wild Card conversation by playing well the past few weeks against teams below .500. They return later this week to Citi Field and face the still-weak Giants and Rockies. After that, though, they'll play 25 straight games against teams currently above .500 (or one under in the case of the Cardinals).
It's hard to believe, but the season will be close to 50 percent complete at that point. The All-Star break will be behind us and the trade deadline will be just two weeks away.
It's been just one week since I detailed how the odds were stacked against the Mets, who at the time were listed as having an 18.5 percent chance of getting to the postseason, according to FanGraphs.com. Today, after winning seven of their last 10 and grinding back to .500, FanGraphs puts their chance of reaching October at 31 percent.
According to Team Rankings and Power Ranking Gurus, both of which track the average difficulty of a team's remaining opponents, the Braves, Dodgers, Nationals, Phillies and D-backs have the easiest schedules of the eight current contending Wild Card teams between now and the final bell.
The Mets are middle of the pack at No. 8, while the Rockies, Pirates, Padres and Cubs have the easiest remaining schedules.
Similarly, out of the same eight teams, ESPN.com's Power Ranking Index lists the Brewers, Phillies, D-backs, Cardinals and Braves as the most powerful teams in the Wild Card race. The Mets are 11th out of the entire 15-team NL.
The deck is still stacked against them, and the above essentially predicts the Mets will be one of the many teams during the next few months that will flirt with a playoff spot. However, while they'll continue to bounce around .500, a small group of better and more prepared teams will pull ahead in the standings and leave everyone else drifting through September looking forward to 2020.
The Mets have the pitching, handful of relievers, and young hitters to buck this prediction to be one of the few teams to catch fire and push themselves to the finish line. It won't be easy. Players will need to elevate to at least their average season stats, return healthy from injury, and Brodie Van Wagenen will need to make an addition or two before the end of July.
If this happens, the Mets will run the full race, despite the current odds.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!