The 2016 New York Mets had a unique season in the franchise’s history. After falling short in the previous year’s World Series, the Mets retooled their middle infield and bullpen with an expectation to return in 2016. Though falling short to Madison Bumgarner and the Giants, there is always wonder of what would have happened if the Mets made the NLDS.
Injuries were the theme of the 2016 Mets. Zack Wheeler was out for the entire season while recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Jacob deGrom, Josh Edgin, Hansel Robles started their seasons on the Injured List. Throughout the year, David Wright, Lucas Duda, Yoenis Cespedes, and the list goes on of other Mets who spent extended periods on the IL. To make matters worse, Michael Conforto and Matt Harvey performed nowhere near expectations. The most used lineup only made it to the field nine times all season.
Late But Key Pickups
Next ma up was the motto for these Mets. Jose Reyes, James Loney, and Seth Lugo were just a few essential parts that helped guide the Mets in the second half. On August 24, the Mets dropped to 63-63 on the season and one the outside looking in of the wild card race. It was on a night where Jacob deGrom was dreadful, and it was his second to last start before injuries ruined his season.
September was a crazy ride for the Mets. Their starting pitching at the beginning of the season was Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Bartolo Colon. By September, it was Syndergaard, Colon, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and the combination of Rafael Montero and Gabriel Ynoa.
This was way before Lugo and Gsellman were anywhere near household names. Lugo had a 6.50 ERA when he came up, and Gsellman started the year in double-A. Both pitched to a 2.67 and 2.42 ERA respectively and solidified the Mets rotation out of nowhere. Montero and Ynoa were no help to the rotation, but the Mets managed to go 18-10 over September/October to sneak into the postseason.
The efforts of Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Jerry Blevins, Hansel Robles, and Fernando Salas also go overlooked in giving the Mets a quality bullpen, especially when the short least the rookies in the rotation received. The health of Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera allowed the Mets to keep starters on the field despite losing others to injuries.
What the Playoffs Could Have Looked Like
If the Mets happened to get past Bumgarner things would have gotten very interesting from there. They would have faced a Cubs team which the Mets went 5-2 against and swept in the 2015 postseason. After Syndergaard threw a gem in the wild card game, it left the Mets with a rotation no one saw coming. 43-year old Bartolo Colon would have become the oldest pitcher ever to start game one of the postseason. Lugo or Gsellman would start game 2/4 with Syndergaard starting game 3. They would have faced the combination of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Kyle Hendricks.
The lineup would also be interesting with Granderson, Cespedes, and Cabrera as the regulars. The supporting cast would be the likes of T.J. Rivera, (slumping) Jay Bruce, James Loney, and Jose Reyes, who all were nowhere near the Opening Day roster. Rivera was the only one in Spring Training with the Mets. Rene Rivera and Travis d’Arnaud would be managing the catching duties.
Could They Beat the Cubs?
They lack of quality pitching behind Bumgarner is what did the Giants in. During a one-game playoff, you can ride his greatness to a win, but it was impossible to do to a team as strong as the cubs. That said, there is no reason to think the Mets could not have broken the Cubs hearts again and extended the curse for another year. Outside of Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs bullpen did not offer anything better than what the Mets had.
The Dodgers were very similar to what they beat in 2015, and their rotation was worse without Greinke. The biggest question would have been how the Mets could get by with the unproven Lugo and Gsellman. The games Colon and Syndergaard pitched would become must-win games just based on the uncertainty of the other half of the rotation.
Beat the Tribe?
Topping the Indians would have been a much tougher feat due to the entire roster matching up better than the Mets. Though like the 2019 World Series, the Astros seemed like the sure bet, but anything happens when you get to the World Series. Things have not been quite the same for the Mets since 2016. The Mets could have seriously changed the landscape of baseball should they have managed even one run off Bumgarner.