Every year, we have teams like the Astros and Mets who start the season hot when no one expects them too. Either they fizzle out, returning to their low level play, or we see World Series runs like the Kansas City Royals just last season. Now for both the Astros and Mets, they surprisingly lead their divisions. The Astros are the first team in the American League to get to 20 wins and the Mets are just one win behind with 19. Let’s take a look at both of the teams and their seasons and see who is more likely to have the longer run, and if either of these teams have what it takes to be like the Royals of last season.
The Houston “Home Run Hitting” Astros are legit when it comes to their bats. They rank second in all of baseball with 45 home runs hit to date, only trailing the Dodgers, who’s payroll is $209 billion more then them. With a limited payroll like this, the Astros need everyone to contribute, which is what they have going right now. The team leader in home runs, 3B Luis Valbuena, is on pace to have a career season. He currently has seven homeruns, needing only nine more to reach a career high. Although Valbuena leads in homeruns, Jose Altuve is the star of this lineup. The 25-year-old is starting to develop as one of the more consistent players in the league. Last season he played 158 out of the 162 games and still finished with a .341 average, which won him the MLB batting title. It sure doesn’t look like a fluke either; Altuve is batting .349 this year and is showing no signs of slowing down. Along with the hits, he steals bases (11 SB) and plays a strong second base. With a clear leader in Altuve, and power hitters in the middle of the lineup like Valbuena and newly acquired power hitter Evan Gettis, this line up is not friendly to opposing pitchers.
The Mets on the other hand, are a completely different animal. The team is ranked 26th in homeruns, and the team’s leader in home runs, Michael Cuddyer, has only three. To add to the struggles at the plate, the Mets rank 24th in team average and 29th in team hits. How do the Mets score runs? Well, they actually don’t. The team relies heavily on their strong pitching staff, only scoring the necessary amount of runs to win the game, making every game close. But hey, a win is a win when all is said and done. Although scoring is an issue, the Mets have strong bats in their line up that could heat up along with weather. As mentioned above, last year’s Home Run Derby contestant Michael Cuddyer is someone the Mets picked up in the offseason, and isn’t hitting the ball like they anticipated. Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy are also good hitters that have started the season struggling. All-Star David Wright went down in the very beginning of the season with a hamstring injury, and has even suffered a set back recently in the recovery process. As long as the Mets continue to win games, Wright’s injury and the lack of runs won’t be an issue. But can they win games continuing to struggle at the plate like they have?
Coming into the season, if you asked me to name a member of the Astros pitching staff, the only name that would have come to my head would have been Nolan Ryan. Sadly, he is long past his hard throwing years. The point is, the Astros pitching staff is made up of a bunch of well, nobody’s! Yet, they are holding their own in an offensive heavy American League. They even rank third in opponent batting average so far this year. Staff ace Dallas Keuchel is pitching like a different man from previous seasons. He’s started the season 4–0 in 7 starts with a crazy 1.39 ERA. After having terrible seasons in 2012 and 2013, 2014 was a little better for Keuchel, but not nearly this good. It is possible that he is progressing into an ace, but only time will tell. Another 4–0 starter is Collin McHugh, who continues to give strong outings and hope to the organization. The other three continue to eat innings for the squad and set the offense up in a good position to win ball games. With a moderate bullpen and starters, it is hard to expect any more from this group of guys. The staff isn’t built for the playoffs, with no ace (yet), but the guys keep eating innings and winning ball games, so what the hell!
To answer the question, how are the Mets winning games, I present to you one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. Out of the five pitchers, none have an ERA above 4, and if you take number 5 starter Dillon Gee out of the mix, no pitcher has an ERA above 3. That is just the start of the incredible statistics this Mets staff has to offer. The team has allowed the least amount of walks in baseball, and the second lowest ERA in the league. You have the young stud Matt Harvey coming off of Tommy John surgery picking up right where he left of before the surgery, and the ageless wonder Bartolo Colon still pitching like he is in his prime. Both have 5 wins so far this year and continue to amaze. Amazingly enough, the 3rd pitcher in the staff is Jacob DeGrom, who is still impressing people left and right even after earning himself the NL Rookie of the Year last year. The Mets may not be able to hit the ball, but they sure can keep opposing teams of the scoreboard. There is no easy way out on this staff, which is built for playoff baseball.
To round-up everything, both teams have shocked the world with their performances to date. Yet, it is still too early to make any conclusions about either team. It is safe to say that the Mets can pitch, and the Astros can hit. For these teams, it’ll be about its supporting casts. If the Mets can find a way to start hitting the ball, and the Astros can get as much out of the pitching staff they have in place, both teams can make a push for the playoffs. It is interesting to look at these two teams in comparison who both have similar records. Both are known for their underachieving ways in the past decade, but have looked to grow young talent, which is finally coming to fruition. One has started hot with pitching, and the other with hitting. It’ll be fun to follow which team falters first, or which team clinches the playoffs.