A look at the New York Mets
The New York Mets have not been kind to baseball bettors this season. They've produced losses of (-$365) based on $100 per-game betting increments. On the field, the defending National League pennant winners are 37-32 and have slipped 4½ games back of the Washington Nationals in the NL East. There are injury problems, most notably David Wright likely being lost for the year. In the rotation, Matt Harvey's early season struggles got national attention. It's time to take serious stock of the Mets.
It would be a stretch to say Las Vegas has lost confidence in the Mets - they're still 5-2 to win the NL East and 16-1 to win the World Series - but it is fair to say that the betting markets are at least shaken up a bit. Those World Series odds are not only below the NL's Big Three - Cubs, Nationals & Giants - but below four other American League teams (Rangers, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays). For a team in a major market fresh off a big October run last year, that's at least sign of a flagging confidence.
That makes now a good time to remember that the Mets have a number of assets going forward. That dynamic young pitching that took the postseason by storm is still going strong. Noah Syndergaard is pitching like an ace, 7-2 with a 1.91 ERA in 14 starts. Jacob de Grom and Steven Matz each have sub-3.00 ERAs. And don't look now, but Harvey is starting to come on, with a 2.07 ERA in his last four starts.
When you can pitch like that you're well-positioned to survive the long summer and to thrive in the postseason. The issue for the Mets is going to be finding enough offense. While Yoenis Cespedes is having another terrific year and making an MVP case for himself with a .354 on-base percentage and .576 slugging percentage, he's not getting a lot of help.
Injuries are one factor - Wright had a .350 OBP at the time of his injury. Lucas Duda at first base has been gone since late May and his power is something New York needs. At the very least, Duda will be back and if he can slug .431, as he was at the time of the injury, it would be a big lift to an offense that currently ranks 13th in the 15-team National League in runs scored.
The Mets also need Michael Conforto to grow into a major-league hitter quickly. Conforto was called up last season and in 56 games was instrumental to the stretch drive. He finished with an on-base percentage of .335 and a slugging percentage of .506. He got the everyday leftfield job this year with great expectations, but so far he's struggling to deliver.
The numbers have dipped to a .298 OBP and .443 slugging. If you're a Mets fan, it's not that big of a deal - he's 23-years-old and he'll grow into a better producer. If you're handicapping the Mets, you have to ask if that growth is imminent or will take place next year.
Improvement from Conforto is the best hope the Mets have to lift their offense, short of a deal to get a third baseman in. Neil Walker is having a decent year, slugging .469 and it's not reasonable to expect much more. Its possible Curtis Granderson could do more than his current .313 OBP/.452 slugging - he did last season. But Granderson has also been up-and-down for several years and is now 35-years-old.
That makes us hesitant to invest in the Mets on the futures market, at least right now. They can certainly make the playoffs as a wild-card and with that pitching, they can go a long way. But as long as they stay chasing the Nationals, the odds are not likely to change much and the same price might be available much closer to October. We need to see improvement from the offense before buying anytime before.