Bumped from FanPosts. --Eric
We have been laughed at - derided as a poorly-run franchise with overpaid, graying stars. Our franchise player, David Wright, is striking out a worrying amount of times. Jose Reyes is no longer the sparkplug he once was. Our outfield, save Angel Pagan, is declining at a rapid rate. And those are the stars. Our rotation is in shambles. Outside of nominal ace Mike Pelfrey, our top potential five are a mix of young, unproven players (Jon Niese, Dillon Gee), old and never great reclamation projects (Chris Capuano, Chris Young), and future 11-time Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey. The bullpen is a ragtag bunch of a girlfriend's-dad-beating closer, a 100 MPH flinging saint, and uhhhhh... this guy?
That being said, the Mets have a chance to contend this season.
With extremitude. More after the jump. Players in italics not likely to be on the Opening Day roster.
The expected lefty-righty platoon of Thole and Paulino should provide the Mets with at least average offensive and defensive catching for 2011. Considering that the average major league catcher batted .249/.319/.381, this shouldn't be too difficult to achieve. Thole has a career .309/.382/.409 line against right-handed pitchers, and while that's probably going to come down, even a 50 point dropoff in all three categories would mean that he's still an asset. Ronny Paulino has an even better line against lefties, but that's fueled by a .365 BABIP. Still, the Mets are going to be very solid at the catching position. Mike Nickeas offers replacement-level depth in the case that Thole gets hurt or Ronny eats some more "dietary pills" (aren't catchers SUPPOSED to be fat), but that's about it. He'll be Omir Santos, minus the epic t-shirt and slightly more epic homer off Jonathan Papelbon. Oh, and plus about 60 points of OBP.
Extreme Facts/Thinking Questions: Josh Thole was called "T-hole" by high school friends. Ronny Paulino is actually from the Dominican Republic, not the Jersey Shore. Greatest replacement player in Mets history: Mike Nickeas or Mike DiFelice? The Replacements or REM? Which band had the highest HOR (hits over replacement)?
Ike should start ~150 games this year, with a chance to improve on his already strong rookie year statistics. Although it appeared Ike was slowing down towards the end of 2010, he hit like crazy in September and thus perhaps gave Mets fans unreasonable expectations for 2011. Ike is slow and has an average 16.2% LD, which makes his .321 BABIP look a tad high. His fielding is extremely good already, and he's got a great arm for a first baseman. Another 3-4 WAR campaign for Davis would be good news for Mets fans, though it might be seen as a disappointment for those who expected Ike to hit .330/.430/.530 like he did in September of last year. In case of emergency, a generic right-handed bench player awaits.
Extreme Facts/Thinking Questions: Ike Davis has already put up 40% of his father's career WAR. In a 20-inning game, Ike can come in and chuck low-90s fastballs. Unlike Felipe Lopez, he will not be injured. Jeff Francoeur was the first player to pie Ike Davis... Was Dwight Eisenhower the greatest president of the 20th century? Has Ike Davis forced you to re-evaluate his presidency? Would you trade Ike Davis straight up for Daric Barton? Would you trade Ike Davis straight up for Richard Nixon? Who is Nick Evans??????
The underrated Emaus is my pick to start Opening Day, with Murphy being the top bat off the bench and a supersub at first, second, and potentially left and right. Emaus is from the same town as Derek Jeter and sadly does not have his starry brown eyes but probably has better range and on-base skills at this point. Second base will be a weak position for the Mets no matter how one slices it, however. If Turner or Murphy has a strong spring training, handing the opening day job to them would be the best idea. Murphy has the best hitting skills of the three and perhaps the most upside, while Turner plays a league-average second base at times, which is more than you could say of Murphy or Emaus. Since Emaus was taken in the Rule V draft, he'll likely be on the roster no matter what. Pluses for Turner and Emaus: they probably have the ability to play third, and giving Wright days off at this point in his career is probably a good idea.
Extreme Facts/Thinking Questions: Brad Emaus has the least generic name out of the three leading second base candidates... and his name is Brad Emaus. Daniel Murphy shares a name with my ex-girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. Justin Turner might have the best chance of turning into an AA hero in the mold of Brian Stokes out of any player on the current Mets 40-man. In fact, any of the three could probably turn into a hero when the inevitable happens and the guy who wins the job on opening day sports a Frenchy-esque OBP after April. In which position will these hitters hit? Emaus is probably a decent #6 hitter given his OBP (though he'll probably hit seventh or eighth if he starts). Murphy is also probably a #6 hitter while Turner is pretty much guaranteed to hit 7th or 8th. In which spot would you hit Ruben Tejada? If Tejada was in the American League and CC Sabathia or Carlos Zambrano was pitching for your team, would you insert a DH for Tejada? Did I devote a single word to Luis Castillo in this mini-essay? At this point, would you trade Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez to the Knicks for Eddy Curry? Would Curry's status as the tallest player in baseball upset Chris Young?
Jose Reyes, Chin-Lung Hu
Jose Reyes still managed to be one of the better shortstops in the major leagues in 2010 despite a terrible OBP and an ill-advised stint batting 3rd (although if you believe the Book, he could probably hit 3rd in an optimized lineup if healthy). His defense, once an asset, has become pretty meh. However, his baserunning is still epic and the likely 1-2 combo of Reyes and Pagan will be the best baserunning combo in the league. Basically, we can't project Reyes very well at this point. A healthy, motivated Reyes could put up 5 WAR. He could also take a step backwards and continue regressing into 2005 form. We really don't know what we're getting with him. If he's healthy and plays well the 1st half of the season, the potential to turn him into a bunch of prospects is there. Reyes represents an upgrade at shortstop for 20 of the teams in the league, some of them contenders with strong farm systems. I really don't want to see Chin-Lung Hu play. He is just a really bad hitter. He'll probably make the opening day roster over Justin Turner, who's a better hitter. Having Hu play for your team means that you'll be a pinch-hitter down in the NL, which is a significant loss.
Extreme Facts/Thinking Questions: Jose Reyes is the all-time leader in triples and stolen bases by a Met. What are the odds that Reyes steals more than 600 bases in his career (he's at 331 now)? What are the odds that Reyes becomes a Hall of Famer? Reyes' most comparable hitter on Baseball-Reference is Ray Chapman. What are the odds that Reyes is killed by an errant Carl Mays fastball? What are the odds that he wears a Wright-style helmet to prevent this? How many Hu's on First jokes will we have to endure from GKR? Chin-Lung Hu joins Asa Brainard as one of the only players to be named after an internal organ. Perhaps more impressively, he is likely going to be the only major league player ever to be named after two body parts, unless you count Bill Hands.
David Wright, Brad Emaus, Zach Lutz
David Wright is an elite player, an all-star. He's not an MVP though, and he's supposed to be right in his peak. Increasingly, it's looking as if Wright's best years are behind him. Going into his age-28 season, Wright will probably take another step forward from the misery that was 2009 (HoJo isn't the hitting coach anymore). However, it's difficult to project more than 5 or so WAR from the face of the team, which is sad since I thought after 2008 he'd be consistently putting up Hall of Fame type seasons. Oh well. Wright is well on his way to becoming the best player in franchise history. Even if he has another 5-6 years of 2010-level production and then retires, he'll be the best. And we will think that he's a disappointment because he didn't make the Hall. Some encouraging signs for 2011: he appears to be working his ass off in early spring training and his defense is likely to improve from the abomination it was in 2010.
Extreme Facts/Thinking Questions: David Wright is, right now, among the top 50 third basemen ever, probably even higher than that. How high does he have the chance to climb? Will he be a top-10 third baseman by the time his career is over? Who will wind up as the best player of these three: Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, or David Wright? Will Keith ever stop analyzing David's swing? Why is David so streaky? Would you like more or less streakers at Citi Field? What should David Wright's at-bat music be? I recommend God Only Knows (what happened to my K rate) or White Riot by the Clash, since it has two words in the title alone that could be misheard as Wright. In 3 years, will Wright or Ike Davis be the face of the team? David Wright has the best season of any NL 3B in the 2000s. Does Zach Lutz have a chance at winning the bench 3B/pinch hitting job out of spring training?
Bay is going to have a better season in 2011 than he did in 2010, if not because he's actually better but because he'll likely play more games. As much of a disappointment as Bay was in 2010, he still put up 1.4 WAR in less than 100 games, which in a full season would be like 2.5 WAR, which isn't quite worth his price tag but very decent. His batted-ball data actually got better from 2009 to 2010. The main problem is that his HR/FB% experienced a ridiculous decline. If Bay rebounds to hit 20 homers, drives in 90, and keeps up his OBP enough, most people will look at it as a fantastic season from an albatross-like player. I wouldn't be surprised, though - it's just an example of a profoundly unlucky hitter bouncing back with normal luck. Scott Hairston - I don't think much of Scott Hairston as anything but a pinch-hitter, and I'd rather have a young guy playing out there as Bay's replacement - Nick Evans or somebody like that. Lucas Duda is pretty much the same player as Zach Lutz. I'd like to see what Lutz can do at the major league level after Duda failed in his brief audition.
Extreme Facts/Thinking Questions: Jason Bay's full name is Jason Raymond Bay, which means that his nickname could potentially be J-Ray Bay. This similarity to the official SBNation Devil Rays blog is noted. Is Jason Bay a future Devil Ray? Jason Bay is from British Columbia. The Bay-esque Matt Stairs is from Canada as well. Larry Walker is another great British Columbian player. Do all good players from British Columbia have last names that double as common nouns? Jason Bay and Oliver Perez were traded to the Pirates for Brian Giles. At this point, would you rather have what's remaining on Bay's contract or what's remaining on Perez's contract? Who is more likely to pitch an inning without a walk or hits batsman, Ollie or Bay? Who is more likely to pitch for the Mets next season? Should the Mets steer clear of signing North American players who are not from the United States?
Should be Angel Pagan, will be Carlos Beltran
Carlos Beltran is playing this season on fairly healthy knees. He still had just below-average defense last year despite playing on terrible ones. At the very worst, he'll give us league-average production, and he still has star potential. So many people are willing to write Carlos Beltran off as a terrible contract and/or a faded former star. They are incredibly dumb. Beltran's contract is one of the greatest of all time. Of all time. Seriously, it's among the top-10 free agent contracts ever. Omar, for all his flaws, might have pulled off his greatest victory with this signing. A 3 WAR season from Beltran isn't too hard to imagine, and he still has a lot of upside. With all the players that are likely to improve from 2010 (Reyes, Wright, Bay, and Beltran), at least one or two has a shot at a legitimately outstanding season. Even the players that aren't likely to improve based purely on stats (Thole, Davis) are young and healthy enough. The only player that doesn't profile to improve is Angel Pagan, and he's a very, very good player who could slip a bit and still produce a lot. What I'm trying to say here is that the hitting core of the Mets should be above-average at every position besides second base, and even that might approach the average. Sure, the Mets have problems in every other respect of the game, but a healthy offense perhaps led by Beltran is incredibly feasible.
Extreme Facts/Thinking Questions: In a fight, who would win - Carlos Beltran or Tony Bernazard? Both are dangerous with their shirts off. Is Carlos Beltran the greatest Carlos to play the game? His main competition is his former teammate Carlos Delgado. Carlos Beltran will join the 300/300 club with 20 homers and 11 stolen bases this season. At this point in his career, is he more likely to hit the 20 dingers or swipe the 11 bags? Carlos had a 1.054 OPS in the 2006 NLCS. This is more than 300 points below his postseason average. If Andre Dawson can get himself elected to the Hall of Fame, Carlos Beltran should be in there too. Carlos Beltran is among the 4 best position players in team history already, probably the 3rd best. What does this say about the quality of the Mets position players over the years? What does this say about Carlos Beltran? What does this say about Mike Lupica? If Mike Lupica was suddenly hit in the head with a cartoonish sledgehammer, would his IQ improve?
Should be Carlos Beltran, will be Angel Pagan
Let's just step back and appreciate Angel Pagan for a second. The man will turn 30 next season (although it's technically his age-29 season). Up until 2010, his career had been filled with half-seasons and injuries. He had a reputation for making boneheaded plays on the bases and in the field. Despite this, he turned out to be a pretty damned good player, one of the top-10 in the National League and one of the best glove men and baserunners in the game. This guy was acquired for a big pile of nothing from the Cubs, too. No matter who fills center and right field, Omar Minaya can look upon what he's done for those two positions with pride. Unless, of course, Pagan gets hurt and Fernando "I could have been traded for someone really good at some point" Martinez plays right in his absence. Then, Minaya will look upon right and weep. Pagan won't be as good in 2011 as he was in 2010 - that's okay, he'll be a near-elite player and a large contributor to a Mets playoff run anyway.
Extreme Facts/Thinking Questions: Angel Pagan has one of the best names in baseball. Angel Pagan is nicknamed Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse was one of the leaders at the Battle of Little Bighorn, in which Sitting Bull defeated George Custer. George Custer's second in command was named Marcus Reno. Reno was the birthplace of John Gamble (an apt surname if there ever was one). Gamble played with Lerrin LeGrow, who played with Steve Stone. Pagan's town is named after the Stones River. Mind blown? Is Angel Pagan the best player on the Mets? Which Mets outfielder will be the most valuable?
Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey, Jon Niese, Chris Capuano, Dillon Gee/Chris Young (both will likely make the team, one will pitch in long relief), Oliver Perez, Johan Santana
So Mike Pelfrey's Mike Pelfrey. We know what he's going to give us - I'm expecting an ERA somewhere around 4 with some nice eaten innings. And while Dillon Gee is still young and unproven, I'm expecting an ERA somewhere around 5 with some nice eaten innings. The wild cards are the other 4 candidates - Dickey the Penetrating, Niese the Young, Chris Young the Large, and Chris Capuano the Oft-Injured (let's hope that Alderson has the good sense not to start Jenrry the Unready). Dickey has the best chance to be great - Beyond the Box Score has a terrific series of articles on knuckleballers that basically proclaimed Dickey as the best in the business today. His success looks to be fairly repeatable and no one will be surprised if Dickey winds up as the ace of the Mets. Jon Niese struggled in the late going after he should have been shut down. However, a strong K rate and a good FIP (4.10) make Niese the most likely member of the 2010 rotation to break out. Fangraphs projects a 3.3 WAR and 183 innings from the lefty - that's probably a little optimistic, but not out of reach. Even before the return of Santana, the Mets top 3 should be decent. They're no Halladay, Hamels, and Lee (Oswalt?), but three 3 WAR guys at the top of the rotation is better than some people get. My prediction is that the Mets will have a hard time defining just who their ace is. Collins seems to think Pelfrey is the ace, but realistically any one of these three could wind up being the best pitcher. The problem is all are probably more #3 types on a good team or #2 on a bad team than #1 types. But they're not really the problem with the rotation. No, the problem is the back end. Chris Young is that in name only - he's 32 and with an extensive injury history, likely to get broken easily and without good stuff anymore. He probably fits in better in long relief at this point, but he'll be the frontrunner for the #5 slot. Capuano is a little better than Young. His stats in 2010 were promising and if he could repeat those over a full season, he would make a solid #4. If Young and Capuano go down, though (which one of them WILL), there's going to be no one to replace them (LOLlie is not an option). The Mets have very little starting pitching depth and might be tempted to put Jennry in the rotation again. If Santana progresses well, he will be able to replace one of them by mid-summer. Honestly, I don't see this rotation put together putting up much more than 10 WAR, which probably isn't enough to contend. To win, the Mets are going to have to outslug the other team, and pray for the swift and healthy return of Johan Santana.
Extreme Facts/Thinking Questions: Will Johan Santana even make it to 200 career wins (he has 133 now)? Do you think the Mets infield defense will be good enough to prop up Mike Pelfrey and turn him into a pretty good pitcher? Who will be better in 2011, R.A. Dickey or Roy Halladay? If you answered Halladay, are you [bleep]in kidding me? Chris Capuano went to Duke, Chris Young went to Princeton. Will Mike Pelfrey tire of their intellectual discussions? Will Oliver Perez pitch a single inning for the Mets in 2011? Will Oliver Perez throw a pitch over 85 miles per hour in spring training? Oliver Perez is comically bad. Would you sign Carlos Beltran to his deal if it meant you had to sign Ollie to his deal as well? Did you know: if Oliver Perez puts up 8 WAR this season his contract still will not be worth it? Will Jennry Meija be a part of the rotation by year's end? John Maine's career is hanging by a thread at this point. Will he throw a major league pitch again? Why did Livan Hernandez pitch well for the Nationals last year but not for us? Hate him, hate him, hate him.
This bullpen is going to be bad, even though K-Rod's trends weren't terrible last year, and Bobby Parnell is absolutely a future shutdown reliever in the future. The Mets really only have one goal here - to stop K-Rod's vest from vesting. They can do any number of things - hope he implodes once or twice and install Parnell as a closer, install Parnell as closer based on his fastball, use a "closer by committee" scenario in which Tim Byrdak is brought in to face every lefthanded hitter, or have D.J. Carrasco finish every possible game that isn't a 1-run scenario. K-Rod is a very good reliever, one of the best in the game. But he's not worth $17.5 million, not by a long shot. Not when Parnell is waiting in the wings. Outside of Frankie, Parnell, and Carrasco, the bullpen is going to be replacement-level. Misch is a decent (read: 4.50 ERA) long reliever at best, Buchholz would be good if he changed his first name to Clay and suddenly gained all of his namesake's talent, Byrdak is 39 and only good against lefies, and Manny Acosta's AA nickname is the Acostalypse. Of these guys, Acosta is probably the best. I wouldn't guarantee spots in the 'pen to anyone but Rodriguez and Parnell, though. I'd like to see how the competition shapes up for the 4 bullpen "positions"
7th inning man: Acosta, Carrasco, Buchholz, Beato
Mop-up: Acosta, Carrasco, Buchholz, Beato, Igarashi
Long-relief: Misch, Gee, Young
LOOGY: Byrdak, Tankersley, Fossum, O'Connor, Perez?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!??
God, I miss when Hisanori Takahashi could do all these things and start too. This bullpen should be juuust above replacement level.
Extreme Facts/Thinking Questions: The Phillies had a reality TV series for their bullpen. Should we have one for ours? Titles: Pitchin' Poorly, Mota's Operandi (2007 edition)? LOOGY Wars could be the title of the most anticipated competition. Bobby Parnell throws as hard as Stephen Strasburg. Too bad he doesn't have Strasburg's other stuff. If Bobby Parnell's grandma fought Betty White, who would win? Is D.J. Carrasco better than DJ AM? Is Ryota Igarashi a better pitcher than Tsuyoshi Shinjo? Is the entire Mets bullpen put together as fat as Dennys Reyes? Who is faster - Dennys Reyes times 3 or Jose Reyes? The Mets 'pen last year actually wasn't all that bad. Too bad Pedro Feliciano is gone and the 54 amazing innings contributed by Elmer Dessens are not going to be replaced (especially not by Elmer Dessens). On the plus side, Fernando Nieve will not be pitching for the 2011 Mets. Remember that start against the Brewers? It was Perez-esque in terms of baditude. Speaking of baditude, has anyone heard the Weezer album Raditude? It's about 1,000,000 times worse than the Blue Album.
The Mets are really not a bad team. I predict around 85 wins with an outside shot at the wild card. Unlike last year's team, this is going to be primarily a hitting team with a weak rotation and bullpen. Sure, this might be a transition year, but this is going to be a fun, young team to watch and at least one player is going to have a breakout or outstanding season. This is as opposed to the machine-like Phillies, who are old, lame, vastly overpaid, annoying, all four, or Roy Halladay, who's pretty cool.
Also, R.A. Dickey for Cy Young '11, President '12. He will become the first sitting president to win an MVP and a Cy Young in the same season (Martin Van Buren slugged his way to the 1838 MVP).