2021 MLB Division Odds: What Happened To The Mets, Red Sox?
Pictures by Getty Images. Pictured (left): Dominic Smith. Pictured (right): Nathan Eovaldi.
In about a week and a half, the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox have gone from firm favorites to win their divisions to relative long shots.
The Mets were as many as four games up in the National League East as recently as July 31 — the MLB trade deadline.
That day, they acquired Javier Baez, got a little better and things were looking up. But, the Phillies and Braves made bolder moves that day in acquisitions that revamped Philadelphia’s pitching staff and Atlanta’s outfield, respectively.
Then, news that Jacob deGrom would miss time until at least September — if not, for the rest of the season — put a cork on what should’ve been a relatively joyous day in Queens.
And since that day, New York has lost seven of nine and has slipped into third place in the NL East — a stretch that included an embarrassing sweep to the Phillies.
Division Odds Movement
The Mets’ odds to win the division before deadline day were -270 at FanDuel. The Phillies were +400 and 4.5 games back while the Braves were +600 and four games behind.
Now, entering play on Thursday, New York is a +290 underdog to take their first NL East crown since 2015. The Phillies and Braves — both currently tied for first — are +120 and +140, respectively.
The same line movements have taken place at BetMGM, where the Mets’ odds sit at +310 after having been as short as -300 as recently as July 31. The Phillies are +100 and the Braves +150 to win the division at the sportsbook.
There remains one Mets holdout among the major American sportsbooks. New York is only +175 to win the division at DraftKings and has the same odds as the Phillies and Braves do as of Thursday morning.
After a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals on Thursday, the Mets face a daunting 13-game gauntlet against the San Francisco Giants — who have MLB’s best record — and Los Angeles Dodgers.
FanGraphs gives the Mets a 22.5% chance to win the division — down from nearly 70% at the deadline just two weeks ago.
A similar collapse has been brewing a few hundred miles up the I-95. The Red Sox were as many as five games up on the Tampa Bay Rays last month with a nearly 50% chance to win the division, according to FanGraphs.
Boston enters play on Thursday four games behind the Rays while desperately clinging onto the second wild card spot. FanGraphs has dropped the Red Sox’s chances to win the AL East to under 29%.
Unlike the Mets, the Red Sox have a manageable schedule to close out the year. But, so does Tampa.
Boston’s odds to win the division have fallen from -125 to +450 at FanDuel, -125 to +425 at BetMGM and from -145 to +350 at DraftKings.
What the Hell Has Happened to Both Teams?
The Red Sox’s makeshift rotation has regressed heavily toward the mean, with starters like Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards and Nick Pivetta failing to maintain the production they were able to churn out earlier in the season.
Richards has thrown for a 7.15 ERA over his last 10 starts compared to his 3.18 ERA prior.
Over that same time frame, Pivetta has thrown for an even 5.00 ERA while he had a respectable 3.78 ERA prior. Eovaldi, too, has seen his ERA increase across his last 10 starts.
It doesn’t help that their starting pitching woes have coincided with a bullpen demise, too.
Closer Matt Barnes has given up seven runs over his last two innings pitched across four appearances. He was the losing pitcher in three of those four appearances.
Garrett Whitlock and Josh Taylor have struggled with fatigue in recent outings while relievers like Adam Ottavino and Phillips Valdez have flamed out after serviceable starts to the season.
For Boston, it might end up being about the moves they didn’t make. Instead of going all-in on bringing back their former World Series-winning closer Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox decided to play it safe and nab Hansel Robles, who has been incredibly shaky over his first four appearances in a Red Sox uniform. Not that Robles was very good to begin with.
Granted, it does make sense that, with this roster, Boston’s brass didn’t feel as if there was enough potential for a deep postseason run — enough to burn future assets on one, old reliever. But some reinforcements for this depleted pitching staff could have easily swung several of these August games.
Chris Sale is set to return on Saturday, which may help buoy a rotation in shambles, but it’ll take the likes of Eovaldi, Pivetta and Richards to return to May form for this team to regain ground in the division.
When you hammered Mets ML pic.twitter.com/BqXDIhbuUj
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) August 7, 2021
With the Mets, there are issues everywhere.
Their offense has been absolutely terrible — but it has been for months now. Before the Mets’ eight-run explosion against the Nationals on Wednesday, they had failed to put up more than five runs in a single game for over three weeks.
New York leads the National League in runners left in scoring position per game with about three.
Pete Alonso is hitting a paltry .172/.294/.328 with just under a strikeout per game since late July. Baez has hit .171/.216/.343 since joining the Mets and averages more than a strikeout per game. Dominic Smith has slashed just .282/.286/.333 over that same timeframe. James McCann? .080/.115/.240. The list goes on and on.
Even their most consistent hitter over this terrible stretch, Brandon Nimmo, has slashed just .241/.371/.310 with no extra base hits. Their best on-paper hitter during this timeframe has been J.D. Davis (.273/.400/.364) but that’s only over five starts.
And new $300 million man Francisco Lindor still has a few more weeks to go before he returns from his strained oblique, but he was only slashing .228/.326/.376 before the injury, anyway.
On the hill, the Mets have seen the collective trio of deGrom, Taijuan Walker and Marcus Stroman regress substantially.
DeGrom is obviously exempt from regression discussions but hasn’t pitched since July 7. He’s very clearly still the best pitcher in baseball when he’s healthy, but if he’s out for the rest of this season, Walker and Stroman will have to pull a lot more weight than they have been in order to lug the Mets across the finish line.
Walker has seen his ERA balloon from 2.50 to 3.89 after a series of shaky starts.
Stroman, too, has seen his ERA increase by more than half a run over the same timeframe. He’s had a 3.89 ERA over his last eight outings but had a 2.35 ERA in the 15 starts beforehand.
Tylor MeGill has put up a serviceable 3.20 ERA over his first nine career outings, but it remains to be seen whether he can consistently put out quality starts. Carlos Carrasco just returned from the IL and has looked okay, but his consistency is also uncertain. He gave up four runs in just one inning pitched during Tuesday’s suspended game against the Nationals.
Another uncertainty is whether Noah Syndergaard even returns this season, and if so, in what form.
Meanwhile, the bullpen has probably been their best unit as of late, though even “best” is relative for New York right now. While Edwin Diaz has finally settled down and shown solid glimpses of the closer he was in 2019, he did still blow a game against the Phillies last week. Still, it’s been the only time out of his last seven appearances that he’s allowed a run.
Jeurys Familia, too, has been a liability and was the culprit of a meltdown in Miami last week.
To be fair, Drew Smith, Trevor May, Seth Lugo, Miguel Castro and others have been very serviceable. But the pen needs its top-end talent to matchup.
Overall, both sides of the ball aren’t coalescing in Queens.
Whether the season is salvageable is so tragically dependent on 1.) key players returning from injury on-time and in-form, 2.) positive regression from the rotation and 3.) hitting runners in from scoring position.
Without those three factors, it’s going to be incredibly tough for the Mets to pull this playoffs thing off, especially with their hectic schedule down the stretch. The Mets needed, like, 84 wins this season to limp into a coin-flip, five-game NLDS and they may very well still screw that up.