A Comparison of the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets
With the New York Mets making an almost improbable appearance in the World Series this year after sweeping the Chicago Cubs (thank you from Pittsburgh Pirates’ fans for that!) in the NLCS, many people will wonder how they got to this point. The Washington Nationals were the favorite to win the NL East but a combination of poor play and injuries opened the door for the Mets to get to where they are today.
But the differences between the Mets and the Pirates are not as glaring as some may expect. Let’s do a comparison of what each team had for 2015 and which team has the edge heading into 2016.
The Mets and Pirates both had home grown players taking the field at first base in 2015. Lucas Duda was drafted by the Mets in 2007 and had one of the most important games of his career on Wednesday, knocking in five runs in the final game of the NLCS. The Pirates used Pedro Alvarez, a 2008 draftee, at first base for most of the season. Alvarez’s move across the diamond was made with hopes that he would see a decrease in errors, but the problems came along with the move. While the Mets have their first baseman for 2016 in Duda, the Pirates will most likely explore other options since Alvarez will see a pay increase through arbitration. Michael Morse was brought in by Pittsburgh at the deadline but shouldn’t be counted on as a full time player in 2016.
Edge: The Mets, only because of the uncertainty surrounding the Pirates’ first base situation.
Just like first base, the Pirates and Mets both used players they drafted and groomed at second base. The Mets have Daniel Murphy, who will be a free agent after the World Series and probably will command more money and years than he should after an unbelievable postseason. The Mets could extend him a quality offer, but Murphy would likely leave that on the table since he will have many suitors this winter. The Pirates on the other hand have the curious case of Neil Walker, a Pittsburgh guy with a bad back who the fans adore and, like Alvarez, will see a raise through arbitration if a move isn’t made before that. The Pirates are expected to make a decision between Walker and Alvarez, but ultimately could keep both and see how 2016 plays out. However, if the Pirates do decide to part ways with Walker, there are a number of internal options who can play second base.
Edge: The Pirates. Murphy will almost assuredly leave the Mets when the season is over and the Pirates can fill second base internally if they decide to move Walker.
Wilmer Flores showed that baseball players are human after all when he became visibly upset on the field when word came down that he had been traded right before the deadline. Thankfully for the Mets the trade did not go through and Flores was able to help them on their way to the World Series. For the Pirates, shortstop was split between Jordy Mercer and Jung Ho Kang. Mercer won the job out of spring training but was injured in late July. At that time Kang took over and would have held on to the starting job had he not got hurt in September. Mercer once again regained the starting job but will have pressure on him to perform well at the beginning of 2016 since Kang will be back at some point.
Edge: The Mets. Flores provided power and defense at shortstop while Mercer took a huge step back in 2015 and it is unknown how Kang will bounce back from the injury that will sideline him into early 2016.
While the Mets have David Wright manning the hot corner, his playing time in 2015 was limited due to injuries. He is also signed to a gigantic contract that will run into his late 30s. The Pirates on the other hand have Josh Harrison, who was rewarded with a modest contract at the beginning of the 2015 season. Like Wright, his 2015 campaign was short due to injury. Unlike Wright, Harrison’s injury was a freak occurrence resulting from a bad slide, not a chronically troublesome back. While Harrison was out, the Pirates acquired former Pirate Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez turned in a respectable job at the hot corner in his last season, but has stood firm in his decision to retire.
Edge: The Pirates, Harrison is younger and signed to a team friendly contract while the Mets are on the hook to play Wright and his bad back through 2020.
The Mets went out and acquired slugger Yoenis Cespedes for the stretch run and he paid off dividends. On each side of him were rookie Michael Conforto in left field and veteran Curtis Granderson in right. The Mets will do all they can to retain Cespedes, but it will not be a surprise if another team offers him more money and/or years. Juan Lagares will be an internal option for New York if Cespedes leaves.
The Pirates outfield is arguably the most athletic, fastest trio in the league. Flanked by Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, Andrew McCutchen once again put up an MVP caliber season in 2015. Marte and McCutchen are both signed to very team friendly deals that will keep them in Pittsburgh for the next few seasons and Polanco will be under team control during the same timeframe even if he doesn’t sign an extension.
Edge: The Pirates, easily. They have two guys playing corner infield positions who would be starting centerfielders on almost any other team. The probable loss of Cespedes hurts the Mets, too.
The Pirates and Mets both had starting catchers in 2015 that had a similar problem: they couldn’t stay healthy and stay on the field. Fortunately for the Pirates, Francisco Cervelli completed 2015 without a major injury sidelining him (outside of the occasional day off for bumps and bruises). Travis d’Arnaud missed time this year and last, but when he is on the field he shows why he is one of the top young catchers in the league. He’ll look to have a healthy 2016 while Cervelli will work to continue growing his relationship with the Pittsburgh pitchers. The Pirates also have Elias Diaz waiting in the wings who could see action next season.
Edge: The Mets, d’Arnaud plays well on both sides of the ball, but will need to stay healthy. Cervelli proved to be a valuable pickup for the Pirates and will hopefully continue to play well.
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The Mets will take a very young and very dominant starting rotation into the World Series. Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz make up one of the most impressive rotations in the league. The fact that they are all under team control for the foreseeable future is even more envious. The Mets also received a serviceable job from Bartolo Colon, who continues to defy age. The Pirates on the other hand had Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano as the most consistent pitchers in their rotation in 2015. A.J. Burnett pitched well but missed a lot of time due to injuries and the duo of Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke were essentially ticking time bombs every time they took the mound. At the deadline the Pirates acquired J.A. Happ who completely turned his season around and gave Pittsburgh a strong lefty option in the rotation. Happ will have his suitors this offseason when he tests the free agency waters, but the Pirates will no doubt make a push to bring him back. In the pipeline for the Pirates are Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, both who could be rotation options in 2016.
Edge: The Mets, but it’s close with the impending arrival of Glasnow and Taillon.
The Pirates finished 2015 with the best ERA for a bullpen in the National League while the Mets came in at seventh. Mark Melancon led all of baseball with 51 saves and Jeurys Familia collected 43. The Mets went out and acquired Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed to add some arms to the bullpen at the deadline while the Pirates brought in Joakim Soria and Joe Blanton. The Mets also had to deal with Jenrys Mejia being suspended twice due to violating the league’s drug policy. The Pirates had arguably the best bullpen in the game, but moving forward they will have some decisions to make. Both Soria and Antonio Bastardo will be free agents and Melancon may price himself out of Pittsburgh. If the Pirates decide to move Melancon, someone like Tony Watson could easily slide into the closer’s spot.
Edge: The Pirates, Neil Huntington has done a tremendous job assembling a bullpen each year, and heading into 2016 should be no different.
In conclusion, the Mets and the Pirates have taken a fairly similar approach to building their teams for 2015. While the Pirates may have had more wins than the Mets, this just shows how random the postseason can be. Both teams will have important decisions to make in the offseason. For the Mets, resigning Cespedes and a decision of making a qualifying offer to Murphy will be front and center since their starting rotation is already in terrific shape heading into 2016. For the Pirates, they will most likely need to explore first base options depending on their decision of what to do with Alvarez. They will make a push to resign Happ, but look for them to try to find other options for the rotation until Glasnow and/or Taillon are ready to contribute.
Next: Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Friday - a weak class of first baseman