Wednesday, March 30, 2011

83 Wins

83 games is all I think the New York Mets will win this year. It is an improvement from last season. Furthermore, I think the Mets will fool us into thinking they are in contention for the NL Wild Card but ultimately, they won't appear in the postseason.

Let's look at what they're retaining from last year. Well, the team colors are still the same. No changes there. The orange and blue accounts for about 20 wins right there. But seriously. Josh Thole, Ike Davis, David Wright, and Jose Reyes are back playing on the infield dirt. I think they make up most of the core of the ballclub, and I have no worries about them. Jason Bay will eventually be back in left field, and Angel Pagan is back in center field. Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, and Jon Niese are back in the starting rotation. Bobby Parnell and Francisco Rodriquez are back in the bullpen. These guys here are pretty solid, but it's not the entire club.

The problem is, at least for the position players, I didn't list 8 of them, and there are a few holes. Carlos Beltran is listed as the right fielder, having moved over from center field very early in Spring Training. But that's only on paper. Personally, I didn't think Carlos Beltran would start the season on the active roster, and I give him a 50/50 shot to even play 100 games. He's also not in the long term plans for the Mets. This is a place where the Mets need to consider the right fielder of the future (beyond Beltran) at a point now, and platoon him with Beltran when such a time comes. I'm just not sure who that actually is. In the old days, the GM would just buy a young right fielder to fill this whole, but this is a new era in the Mets and they're going to grow a new Right Fielder instead. And now Bay is injured. Oy Bay!

There is also a hole at second base. I can't remember the last time there was a real permanent second baseman on the Mets. I guess Castillo when he first came aboard. But they were smart in dumping Luis Castillo this year (so were the Phillies). He also wasn't in the Mets' long term plans, and the way I saw it, the Mets would have a competition to start at second base this year, and if Castillo had won the job, they'd really have to do it again next year. Castillo wasn't standing out in the competition for the job this year, and I know he had some issues, and it was right to cut him. In theory, whoever won this job (Brad Eamus) should be the guy long term. Let's see how he plays.

To me, it seemed like very quietly, both the bench and bullpen were overhauled. I knew changes were made, but I don't think I realized it until I got down to Port St. Lucie myself how many little and quiet changes were made. Time will tell if the bench is improved, and the same with the bullpen. I happen to think that both are better than they were last year. With no offense intended toward the players, I see the bench being stronger if those assigned to the bench are kept out of the starting lineup on a regular basis. What I mean by that is that if Daniel Murphy has to make a lot of starts at 1B or 2B, it hurts the club. If Willie Harris or Scott Hairston have to make a lot of starts in the outfield, it weakens the dynamic of the bench. Harris and Hairston both deserved to make the club, and they're part of what makes it a good bench. But when the bench is called on to fill holes too often, it spells trouble.

In the bullpen, well, the Mets overworked their bullpen for many many years, so it's only natural to say that an almost 100% overhaul will yield a better product. Competition for spots during Spring Training also didn't hurt - it showed that there is some actual talent in the bullpen. I should also mention the two new arms in the starting rotation, both of whom impressed me in some of the starts I witnessed in person while I was down in Florida. Chris Capuano has a great pickoff move, and Chris Young has an interesting hook to his delivery hiding the ball behind his back (something I noticed on about the first or second pitch I saw in my first game this year).

I should mention about the roster selections a few things. I think Nick Evans deserved to make the club, and maybe it should have been at the expense of Daniel Murphy, who seems to be a klutz in the field. I like the selection of Blaine Boyer over Manny Acosta and Jason Isringhausen, and I like that Izzy hasn't left the club (yet), but Boyer earned it. And I like Mike Nickeas as the backup catcher over Ronnie Paulino. Hopefully all of Paulino's health issues can be resolved quickly, and I realize there was a reason why he was signed, but I like Nickeas on the club a little better.

Now to 83 wins. Why that number? With all of the improvements I've spoken of, why not improve last season's win total even more? Well, in my curve of improvement in wins, (or, if you dare to think about it, going the other direction), there is a bit of a plateau around a .500 record. Going from 69 wins to 79 wins isn't the same as 79 wins to 89 wins because 89 wins is serious playoff contention, and that's quite an improvement for a club that was below .500 the year before. I don't think the Mets made that much of an improvement from 79 wins, but they are a plus-.500 club, so 83 it is.

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