It’s November, and we’ve hit the unfortunate dead-time between the end of the World Series and the starting free agency in earnest. It’s a somber time for fans — there’s no baseball to watch, no breaking free agency deals to break down, and no blockbuster trades going down at late hours of the night. To fill the void baseball left behind, why not re-watch some of the most exciting Mets games of the season?
The methodology for deriving the most exciting games of the season is as follows: the odds of a team winning a game at any point can be derived from looking at which teams have won games from a given base state, out state, inning count, and run differential, a stat called “win probability”. The odds of a team winning a game are changed by each play and this difference from one win probability state to another is called “win probability added” or WPA. I went through each Mets win from 2018 and found the total amount of win probability added on both sides (the absolute value of WPA for each individual play), then divided that by the total number of plate appearances in each game. The games with the highest WPA+/PA were the most chaotic, back-and-forth games, and should, therefore, be among the most exciting to watch. Enjoy!
No. 5: Rays at Mets, July 6, 2018
Of all the Jacob deGrom starts, this might have been the deGrom-iest. deGrom threw eight innings and gave up just four hits and one ER, a home run to Willy Adames, en route to striking out eight. But the Mets were unable to give deGrom more than a run of support against the Rays, who bullpenned the entire game, until Jose Bautista struck with a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth. Impressively, the homer was the first walk-off of Bautista’s career – he had racked up 338 dingers before then, none of them game-winning.
No. 4: Mets at Braves, April 20, 2018
Both Sean Newcomb and Noah Syndergaard struggled during the game, each yielding three runs in six innings, but the Mets’ and Braves’ bullpens locked down the game from the sixth inning onward, keeping the score deadlocked at 3-3 through the twelfth. But run vulture Robert Gsellman helped his own cause with some aggressive baserunning, scoring from second on a shallow Yoenis Cespedes single. Cespedes later came around to score, and the Mets would hang on to knock off the Braves.
No. 3: Mets at Cardinals, April 24, 2018
A few days later on the same road trip, Jay Bruce had probably the best game of his season in an otherwise disappointing year. Both Luke Weaver and Zack Wheeler were knocked out early, and the onus again fell to the bullpen (featuring a cameo appearance by Matt Harvey). Down 5-4, Bruce hit a single in the eighth to move Todd Frazier to score position, where Frazier would later score on an Adrian Gonzalez sacrifice fly. In the 10th, Bruce was again the hero, hitting a solo shot to dead center that would prove to be the difference maker for the Mets.
No. 2: Mets at Nationals, September 20, 2018
A game between Max Scherzer and Jason Vargas should have ended up as a boring blowout in the Nationals’ favor on paper, but the reality was a shootout between both the Mets and Nationals – a game that would have been even more exciting had either team been playing for the postseason at this stage. Mad Max carved up Mets hitters, striking out 13 in seven innings, but gave up two home runs as Jason Vargas managed to keep the Mets ahead for much of the game. But Anthony Swarzak caved in during the eighth, allowing both Victor Robles and Trea Turner to reach: both would later score to tie up the game for the Nationals at 4-4. Both teams squandered run-scoring opportunities in extras, but the eventual hero was former National Jose Lobaton, whose pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the twelfth put the game away for the Mets.
No. 1: Mets at Nationals, April 8, 2018
Speaking of shootouts, how about a game started by Matt Harvey and Tanner Roark? Both struggled early and often, and Roark yielded a grand slam to Adrian Gonzalez of all people. But the real hero of this game was Seth Lugo, who came into the ninth, loaded the bases with only one out, and struck out back-to-back hitters to escape the jam en route to three scoreless innings. Yoenis Cespedes iced the game for the Mets in the 12th with a one-out single, and Jacob Rhame finished off the Nationals in the bottom of the inning to hand the Mets the W.