Monday afternoon was just perfect at Citi Field, but now the Mets have to go through through the unseemly business of playing another real game. This time, they won’t have Johan Santana to usher them through.
Tonight’s pitcher is John Maine, who is a No. 4 or No. 5 starter on most teams but is a No. 2 on this one. A lineup with Alex Cora, Mike Jacobs, and Gary Matthews Jr. is cute and funny when Johan is on the mound, but something less than that when it’s anyone else. The Mets are biding their time and trying to keep their heads above water until the cavalry arrives — Jose Reyes should be first, this Saturday, it looks like — and the notion of hanging on for dear life reminded us of what U.S.S. Mariner’s Dave Cameron last year called “wins in the bank.”
Writing about the Mariners, Cameron noted that Seattle’s 7–2 start actually meant more than fans might think it did.
Whether the M’s deserve to be 7–2 right now or not, the fact is that those wins don’t get taken off the board. They’re in the bank, and they aren’t going anywhere. Because of that, even if you haven’t changed your opinion one iota about the strength of the roster (and honestly, you shouldn’t have changed it much — nine games is too small of a sample to mean much), you need to add three wins to whatever you thought the team’s final record was going to be. Math requires you to. …
You though they were a 78 win team on Opening Day? That would be a .481 winning percentage. If they play .481 ball over the rest of the season, they’ll win 74 more games. 74 + 7 = 81. You can do this for basically any expected record. Almost everyone should just add three wins to their expected record to find their new expected record. If you were really high on this team and thought they would win 90, you only add two wins (.555 * 153 = 85 + 7 = 92).
That is all to say: When you think of what the Mets’ winning percentage might be with Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Daniel Murphy in the lineup — and we think they’d be an 84-win team — each of these wins they pull off above that projection, before those guys return, is “in the bank.” So these wins, if they can get them, are free money: They’re low-risk, high-upside. Yes, it’s just the second game of the year, but these games can set a foundation for later: They can be the overperformance the Mets will need to contend or at least respectably show.
It’s John Maine versus Ricky Nolasco. The Mets probably shouldn’t be favored. But they rarely are now, and that’s exactly why a win now means more than it would later.