It is still way too early to panic. Only ten games have been played so far. With a 4-6 record and sloppy play on the field, it is understandable that the fan base is beginning to grow apathetic once again. But a 4-6 record is not the end of the world…or is it?
First off, the 2011 Mets are in some good company. Atlanta, the darlings of the sports writers this spring, have also gotten off to a 4-6 start. The Braves lost to the Phillies last night, shutout by Cole Hammels who the Mets beat handily just last week. St. Louis, perennial contenders, have also begun to a 4-6 tune. And the world champions themselves, the San Francisco Giants, find themselves at 4-6 as they look at the standings in this morning’s paper.
However, what has me concerned is not the record as much as it is what I see on the field, especially from the bullpen. But, since everyone will be writing about that, I thought I would take a different tack and look at how Mets teams of the past fared when winning four of their first ten games.
The 2011 Mets become the fifteenth club in team history to start out at 4-6 after 10 games. Unfortunately there is more bad news than good.
The first time it happened was in 1965. After a 4-6 start, that Mets team went on to a 50-112 record. As you might have guessed, that was bad enough to end in 10th place just 47 games back. The next three Mets squads, through 1968, also started the season at 4-6. The fate of those teams were not much better ending their seasons in 9th, 10th, and 9th respectively.
The next time the Mets went 4-6 in the first ten games was in 1975. And for the first time, the Mets actually finished a season over .500 (82-80) after a 4-6 start . That was good enough for a third place finish (six teams in two divisions at the time) and 10.5 games back.
In total, the Mets finished above .500 after a 4-6 start just four out of 14 times. The most successful being in 2000 when the Mets won their last National League pennant with a regular season record of 94-68. The following year, ’01, the Mets also started 4-6 but stumbled most of the season coming on strong toward the end to finish at 82-80. And in 1990, the Mets ended the season twenty games over .500 at 91-71 after a 4-6 start but failed to make the playoffs.
Therefore the other ten times the Mets started a season at 4-6, they ended in total oblivion. This is not good for this season in terms of the odds. But again, it’s the way the Mets are playing that has me more concerned than their record.
How did the Mets do after ten games in the years they made the playoffs you ask? Well there is one example where you might find some hope.
During the miracle year of 1969, the Mets actually started worse. After ten games, the 69ers were 3-7. In ’73 when the Mets came within one game of winning a world series, they started out at 6-4. But that’s a bit misleading because for most of that season, the Mets wallowed in the basement before making a mad push to the pennant in a very mediocre division.
The ’86 Mets were 7-3 in the midst of an eleven game winning streak during their first ten. In ’88, they also started out 7-3.
The Mets would not return to the playoffs until 1999 when they also compiled a 7-3 record after the first ten. And in 2006, the last time the Mets went to the post season, that club started the season well with an 8-2 mark, the best in Mets history tied with the ’85 and ’72 clubs.
And the worst ten game start in Mets history goes to… none other than the illustrious club of 1962. That team started the season with a nine game losing streak before winning the first game in Mets history to go 1-9 after ten games.
So for the most part, getting off to a 4-6 start is not good. The Mets got to the playoffs only twice when starting out at 4-6 or worse. I think it is safe to say that for the most part, good teams start out good and bad teams do not. But of course there are always exceptions and it is a long season. But clearly, if the Mets do not figure out a way to straighten out their bullpen and get some clutch hitting, this 4-6 start season will likely end up on the wrong side of the ledger.