Rabu, 29 Februari 2012

Season Previews, Part Twelve: New York Mets

This comes from our pal Monsterdance over at the message boards:
New York Mets

2011 Record: 77-85
Pythag Record: 79-83
Games Out of First: 25.0

2011 Recap...

Not much was expected of the New York Mets in 2011. Not much is what we got from them. One of the biggest reasons for this was the team's health. Nobody played more than 126 games for the Mets in 2011. Jose Reyes actually put together one of the best seasons I've seen as a baseball fan, becoming the first Met to win the National League Batting Title (.337), but hamstring injuries limited him to the aforementioned team-leading 126 games.

The rest of the team were either rattled even more by injury, simply did not produce, or both. Some examples: Jason Bay started the season on the shelf with a rib strain. While he did return on April 21st and managed to play in 123 games, he was of little help, hitting just 12 homeruns and posting a 0.6 WAR in 509 plate appearances. Ike Davis, the Mets' young, up-and-coming power threat was excellent for a little over a month, pounding out 7 homeruns and a 1.3 WAR in just 149 plate appearances before a collision with David Wright saw him sustain an ankle injury that took him out for the rest of the season after only 36 games. Speaking of Wright, he had his own list of injuries, playing in only 102 games, collecting just 14 homeruns and posting a disappointing .254 batting average and a .345 OBP.

Top five position players by WAR:

Jose Reyes (5.8)
Carlos Beltran (3.4)
Daniel Murphy (1.9)
Ruben Tejada (1.6)
David Wright (1.4)

Top five pitchers by WAR:

R.A. Dickey (4.9)
Chris Capuano (1.7)
Dillon Gee (1.6)
Mike Pelfrey (1.4)
Jon Niese and K-Rod tied (1.3)

Offseason Overview:

As much of a downer as the 2011 Recap was, the Mets' offseason has actually pleasantly surprised me. No, they didn't make any big splashes, and yes, they did lose their superstar shortstop to free agency, but in the midst of ownership's legal turmoil they made multiple small moves that I believe have improved the team in an important way: they completely overhauled and reloaded their bullpen. In December, they signed both Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch to small, low-cost deals and acquired Ramon Ramirez as a secondary piece in a swap of center fielders with the Giants. The Mets didn't go hard after any starting pitchers because they are expecting Johan Santana back at some point, which should hugely benefit the rotation. I understand that Mets fans were probably hoping for a stronger offseason, but legal issues and searching for ownership partners because of those legal issues has put the future of the Mets up in the air.

Notable Additions:

OF Andres Torres
BP Frank Francisco
BP Jon Rauch
BP Ramon Ramirez
SS Ronny Cedeno

Notable Subtractions:

SS Jose Reyes
OF Angel Pagan
OF Willie Harris
OF Jason Pridie
SP Chris Capuano
BP Jason Isringhausen
BP Ryota Igarashi

Projected Lineup:

1. Andres Torres, CF (S)
2. Daniel Murphy, 2B (L)
3. David Wright, 3B (R)
4. Ike Davis, 1B (L)
5. Jason Bay, LF (R)
6. Lucas Duda, RF (L)
7. Josh Thole, C (L)
8. Ruben Tejeda, SS (R)
9. Pitcher

No Met hit more than 15 homeruns in 2011. That was a combination of the health issues I mentioned earlier and the fact that Citi Field is a very large ballpark with a very deep outfield. 2012 is a clean slate and everyone should be healthy, and furthermore, the Mets brass decided this winter to dramatically cut down Citi Field's outfield dimensions by adding new walls and seats in front of the existing walls. The lineup should benefit greatly from this, so hopefully Wright and Ike will be able to play full seasons and Bay will fix whatever's been wrong with him since he set up shop in the Big Apple.

Projected Rotation:

1. Johan Santana
2. Mike Pelfrey
3. R.A. Dickey
4. Jon Niese
5. Dillon Gee

There are talks of Johan missing some time at the beginning of the season, but hopefully it won't be too bad. I can't stress enough how important it is for the Mets to have Santana back at some point. He hasn't pitched for the Mets since September of 2010. His return would take a huge workload off of the rest of the pitching staff and improve both team and fan morale.

Significant Relievers/Reserve Players:

CL Frank Francisco
BP Jon Rauch
BP Ramon Ramirez
BP Bobby Parnell
BP Pedro Beato
INF Justin Turner
SS Ronny Cedeno
OF Scott Hairston

Roster Strengths:

Hmm... 'Mets' and 'Roster Strengths' aren't really peanut butter and jelly right now. Mike Pelfrey pitched fairly well in 2010 but took a huge step backwards in 2011. If he can turn things around then the rotation will fare much better. I'm interested to see what Wright and Ike can do with Citi Field's new dimensions.

Roster Weaknesses:

Extreme lack of positional depth. The Mets have nothing after their starters, and a couple of their starters should probably be backups. Guys like Josh Thole, Lucas Duda, Scott Hairston, and *Ronny Cedeno* will be asked to step up this season and I'm just not seeing it.

2012 Outlook:

This team needs Wright. From '05 to '08, Wright was a superstar. Some speculate that something changed in him in either '08 or '09. Some say that he doesn't have the same head on his shoulders. Some say that he hasn't really been 100% healthy even when he's playing...some have even opined that someone within the Mets organization messed up his swing at some point. Whatever it is, Wright needs to have a good season in 2012 or I firmly believe that the Mets will shop him at the deadline and fully rebuild. If he sticks around, then the youth around him will grow and some of the Mets' prospects could come up and make an impact. The Mets are sharing a division with the Phillies, the Braves, the greatly improved Nationals and the greatly improved Marlins, so I don't expect them to compete, but I expect to see a lot of growth this season.

Potential Breakout Player:

Dillon Gee: He showed a lot of promise last season, especially early on. He'll turn 26 a month into the season, so he's not too young. I'm not a fan of Wins for pitchers, but he notched eight wins in a row at one point last season, and I would say that this is fairly impressive for a guy pitching in his first full season for a team that was four games under .500. His overall numbers left a lot to be desired, and I don't expect him to become a superstar or anything like that, but I think he'll produce positive results.

Potential Bust:

Andres Torres: He just turned 34 last month and has only produced one good season. He's a good weapon to have on the basepaths (26/7 SB/CS in 2010 and 19/6 in 2011), but a .318 career OBP in 1,423 plate appearances is bad. He'll be by far the Mets' oldest starting position player and is going from one cavernous ballpark to another cavernous ballpark and will face better divisional competition.

Prospects who could contribute in 2012:

Matt Harvey (22): The 7th overall pick by the Mets in the 2010 draft, Harvey posted a 3.32 ERA in 26 minor league starts at A+ and AA ball in 2011, notching 135.2 innings pitched, 156 K's and a 1.268 WHIP. And he's already wowing people at Spring Training this year.

Jeurys Familia (22): This guy posted a 2.90 ERA and a 1.202 WHIP in 23 starts last season down in A+ and AA ball. I expect him to be called up at some point this year.

Reese Havens (25): It seems like this guy has been a top Mets prospect for a long time now. I've likened him to a Kelly Johnson Lite when he finally gets the call. I can see him topping out at about 20 homeruns and a .350 OBP when he gets to play a full season. Injury to either of the Mets' middle infielders this season should result in a call-up.


Projected Record: 78-84
Projected Finish: 5th place
Projected MVP: David Wright (4.4 WAR)

Final Thoughts:

It's all about the health of their stars. David Wright, Ike Davis and Jason Bay need to play, and Santana needs to come back while the Mets still have something to play for. If all of that happens, and a couple of the younger guys step up (think Murphy, Gee), I don't see the Mets competing, but they can be a very fun team this year. They're a team with a good mix of popular stars and young up-and-comers. They'll basically be playing in a new park, and they'll also travel down to Miami a few times, so I'm interested to see how they play both of those stadiums.

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