Much like RuPaul, the Mets head into 2013 in transition. And much like RuPaul's Drag Race, much of 2013's spring has been spent trying to find a man who can plausibly imitate a
woman major league outfielder. With little actual drama, and a core of likeable, if mediocre players, 2013 figures to be one of the less entertaining seasons in Mets history, at least until Zack Wheeler comes up and wins his first 22 decisions. Sportswriters have seemed to notice this and articles around the Mets usually revolve around the core concepts of the Wilponzis, the "C" on David Wright's jersey, and the admittedly impressive beard of Justin Turner. However, the start of what many who did not pay attention to the Oakland Athletics or Baltimore Orioles last year believe is a lost season can be made much more exciting through a series of ridiculous prop bets and questions barely tangential to baseball.
With that in mind, I present to you the thinking man's preview to 2013 - where the punchline always involves something about Matt den Dekker striking out a lot.
Last year, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas combined to put up an incredible -0.5 fWAR, a fact made even more impressive when you consider Nickeas played the entirety of 2012 using a bat made out of hardened feces. Thole, who used a more conventional Wiffle Ball bat, upped his 2011 National League-leading passed balls total by 2 but still managed to lose out on the 2012 title to Wilin Rosario, who made up for this shortcoming by hitting 28 times as many home runs as Thole. Both catchers, along with Nickeas's Sterling award-winning hair and smile, were shipped to Toronto in the R.A. Dickey deal, and now figure to split time with J.P. Arencibia, whose den Dekker-esque K-rate ensures that we haven't quite seen the last of Thole.
The 2013 options of John Buck, Anthony Recker, Landon Powell, and the 24-year-old, absurdly ancient, one-time hot-shot prospect Travis D'Arnaud probably represent an upgrade over the Thole/Nickeas/Shoppach/Rob Johnson combination that graced the field in 2012 - however, there's reason to doubt that it will be a large upgrade. While Buck has always received solid marks for his defense from commentators, research into pitch framing shows him to be well-below average in that category, and UZR, which doesn't take into account pitch framing, had him as below average every season from 2007-2011 (although positive in 2012). In addition, the man hit .192 last season - yeah, with power and walks, but .192 is .192 and the 12.3% BB rate might be an aberration - he may have been picking up those walks due to getting into deep counts due to being unable to hit baseballs very well (a contact rate of 73.3%, as compared to the league average of 79.7%). That 12.3% BB also represents by far his career high. Either way, Buck's projected for a wOBA around .300, which doesn't sound good until you realize that Thole's wOBA was .257 last year. While it might be unreasonable to expect a large overall upgrade from the catching position at least until D'Arnaud gets called up, Buck does obviously have more power than Thole and probably won't have a .235 BABIP again, meaning his batting average will probably hop back over the Mendoza line. And for those who might regard that as a minor accomplishment, I will remind you that Nickeas and his feces bat hit .174/.242/.229 in 122 plate appearances last year.
On to the backups - Anthony Recker might yet be competent, and his strong minor league lines will have some clamoring for him to receive increased playing time, but his gaudy minor league numbers were in the context of the offense-happy Pacific Coast League (although Sacramento itself plays as a relatively neutral ballpark), and D'Arnaud likely won't be up until June so the Mets can avoid giving him an extra year of arbitration - and even when he comes up, scouts are divided on whether he can be an impact bat right away. Oh, and by the way, for those of you who for some reason want to cast doom and gloom over D'Arnaud? John Buck was at one point the 21st ranked prospect in the game by John Sickels, and while he's had a substantial major league career, most fans are probably looking for something more out of D'Arnaud.
Overall, the Mets position in regards to catching looks to be better than it did in 2012, with the potential for it to be much better if and when D'Arnaud arrives and/or if Buck can exceed the low expectations placed on him as someone who is essentially a warm body wearing the tools of ignorance. Again, stressing the fact that due to the reptilian nature of Josh Thole, the Mets actually had a cold body there for the majority of the last four years.
Questions for thought: When John Buck hits a home run, it's a "Buck Shot." When Anthony Recker hits one, he "Recked" it. Landon Powell could have either "Moon Landon," which sounds cool but doesn't actually mean anything, or "Powell," which is a caricatured Asian man saying the word "power." What is it when Travis D'Arnaud pulls a home run (as opposed, of course, to the Oppo Taco)? A rake fajita? A pulled pork sandwich? A turbo mojito? Suggestions welcome. Who hits more home runs this year, John Buck or Travis D'Arnaud? Who hits more, Buck and D'Arnaud or Arencibia and Thole? John Buck's got a reputation for being good with pitchers - do you think he could fix Victor Zambrano in 15 minutes? How about an hour? Do you think the Mets will trade Buck midseason? What sort of prospect could Buck conceivably be worth? Bill Dickey was a Hall of Fame catcher with a solid last name for the Yankees from 1928-1946. He died in 1993. What are the odds that zombie Bill Dickey would out-hit Mike Nickeas? What are the odds that Matt Harvey would outhit Nickeas? Remember when during the Dickey trade, we were all scared that the player going to Toronto we hadn't yet heard about in the deal would be someone like Wilmer Flores, and it turned out to be Mike Nickeas? Remember how happy you were? Remember the glorious smile that washed over your face, and remember the sighing chuckle of relief your body produced? Remember what it's like to be that happy, and go forth and watch the Mets season like that. Remember that we no longer have Mike Nickeas on our major league baseball team.
Ike Davis turned 26 years old on March 22. At age 26, one-time Shane Spencer Kevin Maas hit .220 with 23 home runs for the 1991 Yankees. How is this related? Well, the Mets are hoping that unlike Maas, Davis will be able to make consistent contact with fastballs, breaking balls, and changeups. Trends seem to indicate that he will. Ike's .246 BABIP was a .246 BABIP and should thus improve at least a little - even with his relatively infield-fly prone batted ball tendencies (11.8%) - due to a decent line-drive rate (21.1%). A combination of the ZIPS, Steamer, and Oliver projections have him hitting closer to .255 this year with similar power, and none of those projections know that over the first two months of the season, the real Ike was replaced by Billy Crystal in an incredibly well-made Ike Davis suit. While Crystal acquitted himself decently for a 65-year-old comedian, he did not perform as well as a major league baseball player is expected to. After the real Ike replaced Crystal sometime in early June, he smacked 27 homers and hit .256, leading some to believe that the projections are a bit bearish on the home runs and that Ike will have himself the breakout season everyone was thinking he would in 2011. With the ankle healed, the Kool-Aid drinkers have a reason to believe that the Valley Fever, which threatened to become Sally Fever (a crippling disease in which the sufferer experiences nausea, intense headaches, and a demotion to the South Atlantic League) in 2012, will become Rally Fever in 2013. Ike's backup this season will probably be Justin Turner, who we will discuss in the section on "second basemen."
Also, on a possibly-related-but-more-likely-just-the-same-last-name note, our Ike is actually the 2nd Ike Davis to play in the major leagues. The first received sporadic playing time with the 1919 Washington Senators and 1924 White Sox, but played a full season with the 1925 edition of the South Siders. The results were somewhat less than Ruthian, or even 21st century Ike Davis-ian, as the shortstop hit .240 with 0 home runs in 680 plate appearances, and was caught stealing 14 times against only 19 stolen bases. Unsurprisingly, bad Ike Davis and his 74 wRC+ never played another major league game.
Questions for thought: Would it really surprise you if Ike Davis hits 35 home runs this year? 40? 45? At what point do you think the number of home runs he hits turns from plausible to implausible? What about batting average? Will Ike ever hit as well as he did in 2011 before the ankle injury? Ike has never experienced a winning season in the major leagues. Is he then a LOSE METHOD player? Say Ike has a big season this year and Wilmer Flores lights up AAA and looks ready for the major leagues as a first baseman. Do you dangle Ike? Who do you figure will have a bigger season, Ike Davis or Freddie Freeman? According to recent reports from Andy Martino, the Mets intend to create a super-entity known as Ike David by combining the bat of David Wright, the glove of David Wright, the arm of David Wright, the speed of David Wright, the leadership of David Wright, the umpire-management skills of David Wright, the plate discipline of David Wright, the smile of David Wright, and the power of Ike Davis. If you could, would you fuse Ike's raw power on to David Wright, if it meant losing Ike Davis? Assume the Mets would then shift Lucas Duda to 1B and play some combo of Valdespin and Kirk in left. In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency for the first time with the slogan "I Like Ike." What many people do not know is that president Ike was actually born David Dwight Eisenhower. Could the infamous Ike David plan actually refer to a secret plot launched by the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s that is just now coming to fruition? Answer: no.
The great paradox of the 2013 New York Mets - not only do they have three second basemen on the Opening Day roster in Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, and Jordany Valdespin, they also have no second basemen on the Opening Day roster, because none of those players can actually play second base (Ronny Cedeno was pretty decent there in 2012). While Turner certainly doesn't look as clunky as Murphy on the field, defensive metrics have him pegged as consistently terrible, which is a shame because his bat isn't actually nearly as bad as some people believe. Then you've got Valdespin, whose power potential, speed, and athleticism give him a shot at being an above-average major league regular, but whose bat, defense, plate discipline, maturity, and ability to produce offspring are all in question. So, while the three of them could not play the game more differently and each bring a different offensive skillset to the table, the three have the same problem of being probably pretty good at hitting for a second baseman but probably pretty bad at fielding for a second baseman.
Murphy got the bulk of the playing time in 2012 at the keystone, setting a new Mets franchise record for doubles from a second baseman with 40. The rest of his offensive game took a step backwards from 2011, however, as he struck out more and hit for less home run power. More importantly, his UZR went from a shockingly above-average 3.8 in 2011 to a reassuringly abysmal -10.9 in 2012. At 28, the Irish Hammer is probably done improving tools-wise, so the best we can hope for is a high batting average combined with acceptable power along with 2011-tier defense. So yeah, hoping for 2011. Had he not gone down with the MCL injury that year, he'd have been pushing 4.5 fWAR assuming the same level production over the last two months of the season. That would be nice.
Justin Turner - now here's a guy who is essentially Daniel Murphy-lite. Unfortunately for his role as a bench player, he doesn't exhibit a platoon split and thus doesn't serve well as a righty off the bench. He is also not a credible shortstop or second baseman. Hopefully, the Mets wisen up and promote Zach Lutz or Josh Satin to be a reserve instead of Turner at some point, but hey, it's not like he's going to kill the team with his slightly below-average bat off the bench. If Turner's getting more than 200 PAs, it's probably not because Terry Collins is using him incorrectly, it's probably because multiple Mets have fallen apart and Terry Collins is forced to play him. Last season, Turner accrued 0.2 WAR in 185 PA. While that's obviously unacceptable, most projections think he'll improve his walk rate and be ever so slightly more valuable than that.
Now on to Valdespin. The now-25-year-old Dominican from San Pedro de Macoris provided several key pinch-hits in 2012, setting a new Mets franchise record for pinch-hit home runs, but overall provided replacement-level production, mostly thanks to a .282 OBP. His plate discipline has supposedly improved since then, and he looked like a different hitter in Spring Training, showing off both pop and the ability to take a pitch. While most people expect Valdespin to get the majority of his playing time in the outfield, the position is fairly new to him. In the minors, he played mostly 2B and SS, and was better at 2B due to a mediocre throwing arm. While mistake-prone, he has all the athleticism to play 2B and grades out well because of good quickness, and could be league-average in time. In the OF, his weak arm will continue to be an issue but, again, speed and athleticism could make him an above-average left fielder or an okay center fielder. Jordany will probably amass near-regular playing time near the end of the season, becoming a Wilpon's (a broke man's! get it?!) Ben Zobrist.
Questions for thought: Who gets more PAs in 2013 - Justin Turner or Jordany Valdespin? Who causes more clubhouse incidents? Say Justin Turner hits a walk-off home run. Who pies Justin Turner? Does Justin Turner pie himself? Collin Cowgill? How depressing would it be to pie yourself? Over/under on Daniel Murphy home runs? 6? 8? Imagine the following scene: Jordany Valdespin walking through the clubhouse blasting Pitbull, wearing a t-shirt and cap that both read "Jordany Valdeswag," and screaming "know your place, rook?" at David Wright. Is that scene implausible? Which is more likely - that Valdespin hits 30 homers, or that scene taking place? Daniel Murphy once claimed that he "bat third," and according to some lineup optimizations, Murphy hitting third with Wright hitting second would be a superior option. Am I the only one who, despite what the numbers might say, feel weird with that lineup arrangement? Must 2nd basemen hit 2nd? Daniel Murphy currently has 467 hits in a Mets uniform. Do you think he gets another 467? How about Valdespin - 467 hits for Jordany Valdespin in a Mets uniform? What are the odds on that? Last season, Brad Emaus hit .212/.297/.315 for Buffalo. Gosh, remember when he was the Opening Day second baseman for the Mets? Also, speaking of hitting second, in 2011 Willie Harris was the opening day left fielder and he hit second. Willie Harris!
I remember Ruben Tejada hitting a home run in Spring Training 2012 and thinking - man, this guy could really hit 5 or 10 dingers this year and it wouldn't surprise me. Of course, he hit just a single homer, and that didn't surprise me, either. This Spring Training, he hit a home run off Stephen Strasburg, and here I am again thinking that Ruben could go and hit 5-10. I really hope he does, because his power's really the only tool that he can plausibly improve - except maybe plate discipline. A 4-point drop in BB% from 2011 to 2012 was more a result of moving from hitting in front of the pitcher to hitting in front of David Wright, and with a move back to the 8-hole in 2013, the mark should once again trend towards 8-9%. Overall, Ruben's offensive production should probably be better in 2013 than in 2012, because young players with 30.0% line drive rates tend to improve offensively.
I mean, the guy's practically a baby. He's younger than each of the following players: Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia, Robert Carson, Juan Lagares, Cory Vaughn, and Cory Mazzoni. He is only 2 years older than Cory in the House. He is a month-and-a-half older than his doppelganger Taylor Swift. As he gets stronger, his intelligence and solid tools should enable him to remain on shortstop while adding some crucial extra-base pop.
The Mets have decided to leave Omar Quintanilla off the 25-man-roster and to back Tejada up with Justin Turner, a move so incredibly goofy that it makes The Room seem like The Godfather. While that may be hyperbole, consider the fact that unlike in movies, the principle of so-bad-it's-good does not apply to baseball. Turner is an unmitigated disaster at short and hopefully Tejada stays healthy and plays a full season, as a quad injury prevented him from doing so in 2012. A healthy, productive Tejada, while a far cry from a healthy, productive Jose Reyes, should be just the kind of slightly-above-league-average player that the Mets would win more games with if they had more of them,
Questions for thought: Ruben Tejada is Panamanian. Which player would you rather have on the Mets in 2013 - Ruben Tejada or Mariano Rivera? Assume in this scenario that Tejada would return to Mets control in 2014, no matter which option you choose. Can you believe that at some point, Alex Cora and Luis Castillo took major league playing time away from Ruben? Ruben's had a tepid spring training, with only 4 hits in 50 at-bats. The good news? His BABIP this spring has been .073 and his approach at the plate looks fine. He'll be fine. Is Ruben Tejada the most boring 23-year-old shortstop with a 30% line-drive rate that history has ever produced? Perhaps he suffers from being in the shadow of Jose Reyes, but, even though I like Tejada, he's just - boring. He is no fun to watch. If he hit more home runs off of Stephen Strasburg, he would be more fun to watch. Who would win in an all-out cage match, two Ruben Tejadas or one Albert Pujols? Who would win in an all-out John Cage match? Who plays a better shortstop, Justin Turner or Justin Timberlake? Could Timberlake live up to his claim of being the "20/20 Experience" and hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in the major leagues? If not, how about Joey Fatone?
There are a couple of things that I am very thankful for in regards to David Wright. The first is that in 2012, David Wright was a very good hitter. The second is that, in 2012, David Wright was a very good fielder. The third is that David Wright remained healthy while he was a very good hitter and very good fielder. These three things had not acted in concert with each other since 2008, and Wright's return to being one of the top 10 players in baseball was frankly just a little bit shocking. Justly, the newly anointed captain received a deal that will keep him in a Met uniform until 2020, by which point either the Mets will sniff contention once or an alien race will have obliterated the Earth and harvested all human beings in a desperate search for biomass. Then, failing the latter, David Wright will be a part of a meaningful Mets team. This is another thing I am very thankful for. The man deserves to be part of at least a race for the god damned second wild card.
The things that worry me are that Wright is now 30 years old, his UZR last year felt a little flukey, and that his HR power is significantly down from its peak in 2007 and 2008. The thing that does not worry me is the fact that great players age well. David Wright is a great player.
Questions for thought: When David was struggling offensively, his main problem seemed to be swinging strikes. Wright's swinging strike rate in 2012 was his lowest since 2008. Going forward, do you expect to see a higher-average, less-power David Wright? Will David Wright age like Derek Jeter - meaning a graceful, slow decline marked by an increased focus on singles hitting and playing bad defense - or will he age like George Brett - meaning an increased focus on home run hitting, playing first base, and getting injured? Say you're starting a team from scratch. Do you pick Derek Jeter or George Brett? Who would you rather have on your team, David Wright or Joe Mauer? How great is it that in this questions for thought section, I'm talking about Derek Jeter, George Brett, and Joe Mauer instead of Alex Cora and Brad Emaus?
By now, you've heard everything there is to hear about just how bad the Mets outfield is. Therefore, this preview will be a little bit different. Instead of a 2012 recap, vague platitudes on how the position could be better in 2013, and tryhard jokes in the form of questions, I present you with betting odds on which Mets outfielder will be best in the upcoming season.
Collin Cowgill (2-1): Speed, amazingly alliterative name, plate discipline all pluses. Terry Collins seems to like him, ensuring playing time. Bigger plus. He hits righty and throws lefty, like Rickey Henderson. Maybe not a plus, but at least neat. Minus? The dude self-describes as a "grinder," leaving himself wide-open to the attack of a resuscitated Fire Joe Morgan. Still, Cowgill's the only one of the three starting outfielders on the Mets who lacks a CC Sabathia-sized hole in his game, and thus provides a decent bet to give the Mets decent production.
Jordany Valdespin (4-1): Valdespin's Twitter contains a Spanish phrase - "Lo mas hermoso es ser humilde apesar de tenerlo todo en la vida" - that translates to "The most beautiful thing is to be humble in spite of having everything in life." Unfortunately for Jordany, "everything" includes "guaranteed major league playing time." This would explain why his humility grades out as a 25.
Lucas Duda (4-1): Players, by fWAR, worth more than Lucas Duda in 2012: Jason Bay, Jeff Francouer, Chone Figgins, Delmon Young, Xavier Nady, Omar Vizquel, Mike Nickeas, Satchel Paige, and Terry Collins. Players more irrationally loved by Eno Sarris: none of them.
Mike Baxter (5-1): Terry Collins realizes that Marlon Byrd is terrible and instead turns to Mike Baxter, who, having run out of no-hitters to save, puts up completely league-average numbers and surprises everyone who didn't realize that Baxter's numbers throughout his career have indicated the potential to put up league-average numbers.
Marlon Byrd (7-1): After running out of cool names in my copy of Pokemon Yellow, I was forced to bestow the nickname "Byrd" on my Spearow. That Spearow eventually evolved into a Fearow and became one of my most valuable Pokemon, even taking out Gary's Venusaur. In conclusion, Marlon Byrd is a 35-year-old who put up a .216 wOBA while juicing last year, and also has probably never been a Fearow capable of defeating Gary's Venusaur. He might play acceptable defense, though.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis (9-1): Come on, does anyone seriously believe that Kirk Nieuwenhuis will be the best outfielder on the Mets in 2013? Even Kirk's mom is a den Dekker fan.
Matt den Dekker: (12-1): In a moment of hilarious self-deprecation, den Dekker legally changes his name to den Dekkker because he strikes out so much. This name change is embraced by misguided hate groups, who soon flock to Citi Field. The Wilpons welcome this new development with open arms and force Terry Collins to hit den Dekkker leadoff every game, upon which he shows just enough power and speed to be a viable major leaguer.
Juan Lagares (85-1): At this point, would you really be surprised if Lagares is a more valuable contributor to the 2013 Mets than Nieuwenhuis? The grass is always greener in Binghamton, I suppose, but this is still a solid bet and if these odds were more than a complete fabrication I might place a couple bucks down on this one, and advise you all to do the same.
AJ Pollock (150-1): In this scenario, the Mets satisfy Kevin Towers' insatiable lust for shortstops by trading Wilfredo Tovar for Diamondbacks outfielder AJ Pollock, and he produces okay, and he is the best outfielder on the Mets.
Bobby Bonilla (260-1): Bonilla is suddenly struck with the urge to play baseball again, and after the Mets sign him to a minor league contract, he gets called up during an interleague series with the Yankees. Bonilla hits 5 homers in 2 games and claims "I'll show you, the Bronx!" and after that plays like you'd expect Bobby Bonilla to play. Despite a mediocre three months after the glorious Yankees series, he still qualifies as the best Mets outfielder.
Omir Santos (300-1): Why not Omir Santos? Dude had lightning bolts coming out of his body. Portends big-time power.
Barry Bonds (350-1): Sandy Alderson: Hey, DePo, isn't it crazy that we're starting a washed-up PED user in right field? Paul DePodesta: It doesn't matter that he's a washed-up PED user, it matters that he's Marlon Byrd. If he was Barry Bonds, we'd be having a different conversation. Both laugh.
Suddenly, their eyes meet and they realize. They sign Barry Bonds. Bonds walks 243 times and leads the Mets to the NL East title.
The Mets head into 2013 having lost no one of any great import from their 2012 rotation, with only a gimmick pitcher departing to Toronto for prospects not even close to Mike Olt in value and a washed-up soft-tossing lefty suffering some sort of injury or something. Wait - no! I forgot! The Mets no longer employ Chris Young or Miguel Batista and are replacing those goons with Shaun Marcum and Zack Wheeler! There's a literal mountain of production gone! Seriously, full seasons from Harvey and Gee will help replace Dickey's production and Marcum, assuming health, should be better than Chris Young. Niese will be Niese, and overall the rotation probably figures to produce a similar amount of value in 2013 as it did in 2012.
Shaun Marcum hasn't exactly created excitement among the Mets fanbase, and it's not hard to see why, as he's basically a short, somewhat less injury-prone version of Chris Young. Unlike Young, however, Marcum is a legitimate #3 when healthy, putting up at least 3 WAR in his last two full seasons. Also unlike Young, Marcum's secondary stuff is legitimately strong, especially a lefty-killing sinking changeup. At the very least, Marcum should be more interesting to watch than Young, and far less painful to watch than Miguel Batista.
Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Shaun Marcum, and Dillon Gee are perhaps the most-underrated front four in major league baseball, and with Zack Wheeler waiting in AAA Las Vegas, the Mets have the makings of a young, cheap rotation with considerable upside. By 2014, the Mets starting staff, which hasn't been young and talented since the mid-1980s, could have undergone a radical transformation to just that. And while the present doesn't look quite as promising as the future, with Jeremy Hefner set to occupy the fifth starter role, just remember we could always be the Minnesota Twins, who are currently rolling out the devastating 1-2 punch of Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey and following that up with the dazzling Kevin Correia.
Dillon Gee's beard also underwent a radical transformation, from borderline Satanic to quite classy. Whether this will have any impact on his xFIP is unknown, but some contacts have told me that the previous beard weighed 6 pounds and caused his head to drag sharply downwards on every pitch. With the beard gone, one scout says, Gee could easily win 15 games.
Questions for thought: Who has a better season in 2013 - Jon Niese or Matt Harvey? How about 2014? In 2014, who has a better season - Niese, Harvey, or Zack Wheeler? Is Dillon Gee still a member of the Mets rotation in 2015? Don't you realize that the constant "nothing but a Gee thang" puns are just as bad as "more Cowgill?" Okay. I take that back. They're not as bad. Do you think the Mets have a top-8 starting rotation in the NL this year? How about next year? While Dillon Gee's name always comes up in reference to that one Dre song, I think more immediately of the Crows song that got covered on The Beach Boys' Smile. Also, that one Girls' Generation track. Do you think Dillon Gee has what it takes to become a K-pop star? How about Rafael Montero? What are the odds that Montero is a September call-up this year? 20%? 30%? Which out-of-nowhere scrub starts a game for the 2013 Mets? It probably won't be Jose Lima or Geremi Gonzalez. Could we see a Dave Williams redux? Is Jorge Sosa still in baseball? How about Brad Penny? As a side bonus, Penny could drag along Alyssa Milano or Eliza Dushku or whoever he's dating now to serve as the new BABIP fairy.
While the rotation will look different in 2013, the bullpen will look even more different. Gone are Jon Rauch, Ramon and Elvin Ramirez, Manny Acosta, Miguel Batista, and, until further notice, Frank Francisco. In accordance with the whitewashing policies of the Alderson regime, the Mets have brought in mostly white guys to fill in - Scott Atchison, who didn't land a solid major league job until 34, Scott Rice, who at 31 will finally appear in his first major league game, and sidearming Greg Burke, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009. Then you've got LaTroy Hawkins, who has been a good middle reliever for the past 13 seasons, and you've got Brandon Lyon, who carries the #provencloser tag. After getting stung by rich/multi-year deals to relievers, Sandy Alderson has wisely chosen to cobble his bullpen together from total dreck. Atchison, Burke, Lyon, and Hawkins should form an extremely cheap, reasonably productive pen, and if a couple of them don't quite perform up to expectations, then they're at the very least not appreciably worse than the core combo of Franky Frank, Rauch, and Ramon Ramirez were in 2012. Meanwhile, Scott Rice has looked like an extremely effective LOOGY in Spring Training, and he's limited lefties to a .183 batting average over the past 3 seasons. The 2013 additions to bullpen won't be spectacular - it's too old, and too unproven - but if there's any justice in this world one of these pitchers will be decent and we can deal him for a C+ prospect at the deadline.
And then you've got the holdovers - Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, and Bobby Parnell. Edgin's already a good LOOGY, with a mid-90s fastball and hard slider, but his ability to become more than that hinges on his changeup - even a mediocre changeup would go a long way and help establish him as a more reliable set-up option. Familia's proclivity to walking batters means that as of right now, he's not an incredibly attractive option, but his moving fastball alone will generate the requisite strikeouts. Should Familia pitch well in the first month of the season, I would expect him to be up in the major leagues for good as the Mets have already committed to using him as a reliever going forward. I still think that Familia could benefit from additional seasoning in the minors - a strong second pitch isn't just vital for a starter, it's vital for an impact reliever, which Familia certainly has the talent to be.
Parnell, on the other hand, is the first impact reliever the Mets have developed (and stuck with, Heath Bell and Joe Smith don't count) since - well - Aaron Heilman. Thanks to a knuckle curve he learned from Jason Isringhausen, Parnell now has three plus pitches, one of which (the four-seam fastball) travels over 100 MPH and the other two of which (the two-seam and the aforementioned knucklecurve) are arguably harder to hit. While the knock on Parnell is that he doesn't have the true closer mentality, one might note that Parnell actually had a higher strikeout rate and lower walk and home-run rate in save situations. While it might actually be in the Mets best interest to deviate from baseball convention and use their best relief pitcher in the most impact situations (in other words: not when you're up three runs in the 9th inning), I fully expect Parnell to go out and dominate in the closer role in 2012, never relinquishing the role to Franky Frank.
Questions for thought: Does Frank Francisco ever save another game for the Mets? Who finishes 2013 with more saves, Francisco or Jeurys Familia? Which current Mets starter profiles best in the bullpen? Which Mets pitching prospects do you think eventually wind up in the bullpen? Bonus points if you say Fulmer or Syndergaard then explain why. Do you think it's ever justified to draft a college reliever in the first 3 rounds? Is the skillset of a reliever markedly different than that of a starting pitcher? Is the only difference that a starter has to throw one more good pitch than a reliever? The Mets have had a terrible bullpen since 2006. Why? Have the Mets just been unlucky? Bad relivers? Bad results? Bad usage? Even Guillermo Mota was effective for 4 years after melting down twice a week in 2007. The Mets have had a collective -10.37 WPA from 2007 to 2012, by far the worst in baseball, and 5 wins worse than the "second-place" Mariners. At some point, our crappy waiver-wire adds and minor league free agents have to be as good as their crappy waiver-wire adds and minor league free agents, right? Anyway, relievers hitting. Who could forget Dae-Sung Koo's double off Randy Johnson in 2005? Do you remember that he also scored from 2nd on a bunt on that play, essentially beating Jorge Posada in a footrace? Which current Mets reliever is the best hitter? Could any of them strike out less often than Matt den Dekker? If you type "Robert Carson" into the search bar in Wikipedia, you are presented with Robert Carson the numismatist. He was a leading expert on Roman coins, and was employed as Keeper of Coins and Medals at the British Museum from 1978 to 1983. When you languish in obscurity behind Robert Carson the numismatist, who was a leading expert on Roman coins, and who was notably employed as Keeper of Coins and Medals at the British Museum from 1978 to 1983, you might want to make the effort to learn a decent second pitch and become an established major league baseball player.