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On a cold Tuesday night at Citi Field, the Mets -- with Max Scherzer pitching like a man possessed during his first home start since signing in New York -- played in front of a crowd that was the loudest and most raucous of the season.
That crowd, and every Mets fan watching from home and elsewhere, saw the Mets complete a doubleheader sweep of the San Francisco Giants after rallying from a 4-1 deficit in Game 1 and being led by Scherzer in Game 2.
While the Mets had raced off to a 7-3 start to the year, there was a feeling entering their series against the Giants that it would be their first true test. The way the Mets played (and won) reinforced what many (including this writer) already felt about the 2022 Mets: Something feels different than it did in recent seasons, and they have staying power.
I thought about writing this story yesterday before the doubleheader, but wanted to see how the Mets played against the Giants first. And what I saw made me even more confident in the premise of this story and the potential of this year's Mets team.
Before diving into things, let's get something out of the way...
Anything can happen in a 162-game season, and 12 games is a small sample size. But small sample sizes are all we have to go off right now. And in those 12 games, the Mets have had a chance to display all the reasons why the 2022 team feels different than perhaps any squad since the one that caught fire in the second half of the 2015 season on the way to the World Series.
The starting rotation is deep and talented
Without Jacob deGrom to start the season, all the Mets' rotation did was compile the best ERA over a 10-game start of any team since the earned run became an official stat in 1913.
And while the rotation will not pitch anywhere close to the ridiculous level it was at over the first week and a half, there is no reason to believe it won't continue to be an asset all season.
On April 6, with the deGrom injury still fresh, Scherzer battling a hamstring issue, and Taijuan Walker's status in doubt, I wrote an article explaining why the Mets shouldn't be panicking over the current state of the rotation.
That article was met with derision by some, who scoffed at the notion that the depth was improved much from 2021. But, as I explained in digital print and on Twitter, this year's Carlos Carrasco is not last year's. Tylor Megill, who has been tremendous so far, was an afterthought at this point last season. The 2021 Mets didn't have Scherzer or Chris Bassitt.
Even David Peterson, whose 2021 was derailed by injury, has been very good this season. And he'll likely be a depth option again by this time next week.
Then there's deGrom, who could soon be cleared to throw, paving the way for him to return perhaps at some point in June.
The offensive approach is different and effective
The Mets were overwhelmed by analytics at times last season, and looked discombobulated for most of the year. They missed hittable fastballs in fastball counts. They looked uncomfortable. They were often unable to cash runners in from third base with less than two outs.
That means they're showing more patience at the plate, but being aggressive when they have to. They've been calm in high-pressure situations. They've been fundamentally sound. And more often than not, they're not missing their pitches when they get them.
One example of their improved fundamentals? Jeff McNeil hitting the ball on the ground to the right side to move the eventual winning run from second base to third base in the 10th inning of Game 1 on Tuesday.
One example of their improved calmness? Francisco Lindor getting into an 0-2 hole with runners on first and third and one out in the 10th inning of Game 1, not trying to do too much, and lining the game-winning hit to center field with his right knee on the dirt.
In addition to their improved strategy at the plate and ability to cash runners in from third, the Mets look like a different team on the bases. They're stealing more, being aggressive on dirt balls, and taking extra bases any time the opportunity arises.
The bounce backs are happening
It is always dangerous to rely too much on the hope that certain players will bounce back after difficult seasons.
But when using a combination of data and logic while going through what went wrong for some of the Mets in 2021, it was a pretty safe bet that McNeil would again be the good hitter he was for the first three years of his career.
It was obvious that Lindor was a different player at the plate last season after June 2, and the advanced stats told a tale that suggested he would be very good in 2022 and beyond.
So far in 2022, McNeil looks like the cut and slash hitter he was from 2018 to 2020. More contact, less power, hitting the ball to all fields, in control at the plate.
Then there's Lindor, who has taken it up a few notches, hitting .310/.442/.619 with three homers, four doubles, and nine RBI over his first 12 games while coming up with huge hits in key spots.
Simply put, McNeil and Lindor have helped make the new-look lineup go.
There has also been an in-season bounce back for the bullpen, which looked like a potential issue early on (and still might need reinforcements), but has been buoyed by the emergence of Drew Smith, a rebound from Trevor May, and the usual dominance of Edwin Diaz.
The Buck Showalter effect and a stable front office
The impact of a field manager in the modern game might not be what it was 30 years ago or even 10 years ago, but the presence of Showalter in the dugout, in front of reporters twice every day, and in the clubhouse has been felt.
Whether it's being aware of an obscure rule to give the Mets an advantage on an appeal play, being in control and seemingly in lockstep with the front office on roster and rotation machinations, or bringing a daily dose of excitement and levity to each media session, Showalter has been terrific.
And with the addition of Showalter and Scherzer and others, there is a greater sense of accountability surrounding these Mets, with one example being Scherzer's goal to pitch deep into Game 2 on Tuesday in order to save the bullpen.
Then there's the front office, which has some stability now under Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson after the offseason hire of Billy Eppler, who is overseeing a staff of talented executives and an even more robust analytics team.
Under Eppler's stewardship, the Mets are in good hands following the firing of Jared Porter for misconduct before joining the team and choice to move on from Zack Scott after last season.
The Mets, whose farm system is much improved, should also have the ability to make key midseason additions to bolster the club if needed.
The Mets have been in this spot in recent seasons.
They raced out to an 11-1 start in 2018 before falling apart.
They were 10-6 in 2019 before struggling badly, rebounding, and coming up short in September.
They started last season 7-3 and were in first place for months before spiraling into oblivion.
This year's team just feels different. And as noted above, there are many reasons why.
There will be plenty of challenges ahead for the 2022 Mets, and things will happen that will test their resolve. But this group doesn't seem like one that will wilt. It seems like one that has all the ingredients to not only make it to the playoffs, but be a force once they get there, giving Mets fans at Citi Field the chance to again be raucous and loud and frenzied in October.