Can the surprising Mets stay ahead of the disappointing Marlins?
But the difference between them hasn't actually been that great.
In the standings, the Mets currently hold a 3.5 game lead, with a 13-11 mark to Miami's 9-14.
Breaking their performance down by Pythagorean record, which estimates a team's likely record based on runs scored and runs allowed, which tends to be a better predictor of future performance, neither team has been particularly good. (10-14, versus 10-13.)
If both teams continue to perform at their currrent level, the Mets will meet preseason expectations, while Miami, a fashionable preseason pick to win the National League East, will greatly disappoint.
But there's reason to believe Miami will get better.
No one can reasonably expect their offensive players to keep struggling like they have. Just two Miami hitters have an OPS+ of greater than 91, which is well below league average offensively. And the gaps between likely production and expected production are stark. Giancarlo Stanton projected to post an OPS+ of 140, as per ZIPS. He's at 80. Jose Reyes projected at 119. He's at 71. Gaby Sanchez projected at 109. He's at 50, and to put that in perspective, even Ike Davis's horrific start has Davis at 54. And so it goes throughout the lineup.
The Mets, by contrast, have greatly outperformed their ZIPS projections throughout the lineup, with Davis the notable significant exception. David Wright projected as the best hitter in the New York lineup, and he's been exactly that. But ZIPS had him at 116. Thus far, he's been at an otherworldly 201. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, projected at an OPS+ of 90, is at 132. Josh Thole, projected at 93, checks in at 131. And so it goes, with only Daniel Murphy, other than Davis, hitting below his projected level, and in Murphy's case, not very far below: 108 projected, 101 so far.
The pitching on both ends has been about as projected. And if the hitting stays where it is, both teams will win about 70 games. But either the projections were way off, player after player, or the Mets offense isn't this good, and the Marlins offense is about to pick up.