Saturday, March 30, 2013

Prediction Time

It's Opening Night eve day, or something. The first game is a little more than 48 hours away. How's that? And it's prediction time. I saw 8 Mets games in Spring Training in person, and watched and listened to parts of several others while I was at work (on weekdays) and home (weekends). So I have no idea what I'm talking about.

I posted this on facebook the other day (before news about Santana came out) - ...I want to go on the record and guess that the Mets will come away with 74 wins in 2013. I also clarified it a bit saying that if EVERYTHING breaks right for the Mets, 82 or 83 is going to happen. But I think they're already on the edge of not having EVERYTHING break right. And then we learned that Santana, our former ace, is likely done for the season, bringing an end to his Mets contract, but might also be done as a big league pitcher. I'm not going to get into that here, but it's an example of things not breaking right for the Mets.

So let me try to quantify my 74 win prediction. I am also going to attempt to understand who made the Mets roster, having seen a couple of tweets in the past couple days.

The infield is the most solid piece of the ballclub. Ike Davis at first has been there for a couple of years now, he seems to be healthy, and he can hit for power. Daniel Murphy might be the weakest link of the 4 at 2B. He finally got some big league exhibition game action late in the spring, so I wonder a bit if he's really ready to start the season on top of his game. And I still think he's learning how to play 2B, which makes him the weakest link of the 4 on the infield. Tejada is a solid player at short, especially once we get rid of the images of Jose Reyes out of our heads. And then there's Captain America at 3B. Wright's one that I worry about a bit, only because he was injured, and I get the sense that he's going to try to play through an injury in an effort to lead the club while possibly making things worse. I never followed up on this rumor, but I heard 3rd hand that he did that once already this spring when he went to join team USA and then had to miss the end of the WBC and almost missed the end of spring training. I question things in his head more than things in his game. Valdespin has earned a spot as a fill in and off the bench. I liked Zach Lutz playing at 3B while Wright was at the WBC and then out injured. I'm not as high on Justin Turner as most people seem to be.

Catching is a complete makeover. John Buck seems like a solid major league guy. From what I saw of Anthony Recker, he doesn't scare me. The Mets kept 2 other catchers around for most of the spring (d'Arnaud and Powell, who will be at AAA Las Vegas) which tells me that there's depth there. d'Arnaud would be the regular catcher if Buck were to be injured, and I think he's the real thing. I hope the Mets don't ruin him like they've ruined other prospects.

Outfield has been the butt of jokes during the offseason. You know - the Mets can solve their outfielder problems by moving the fences in at Citi Field again to Little League depth (and they won't need any outfielders). It looks like Marlon Byrd has won a job in the OF. I was an advocate of that after my first game in Port St. Lucie. Mike Baxter is a solid defensive player at the corners. Lucas Duda is a good DH (oh wait, we don't have that in the NL). I was also impressed by Colin Cowgill and it looks like he's won a job. I really really liked the defense of Matt den Dekker, but everyone kept saying that he isn't hitting, and now he's on the minor league DL with a broken wrist (which occurred trying to make a play). With Cowgill, Byrd, and Baxter covering CF and RF, I'm not worrying a lot. It's LF that is the biggest remaining hole. Duda just isn't the guy. Baxter could play it in some alignments, but the Mets seem to have a lineup vs. Lefties and a different one vs. Righties. Valdespin can fill a hole, but he's not an every day player either.

And on the mound. The Mets lost Santana, likely for the season, but it was starting to get to the point that we didn't even know what we'd get anyway. It's almost better to remove that uncertainty. Niese is the best of the remaining pitchers (that sounds bad - he earned that Opening Day start). I don't think he's going to be what Santana was in his best years, at least not in 2013 he won't, but he's going to be the best pitcher going into the season. Matt Harvey also impressed me, and it sounds like he will be the number 2 starter. We don't quite know as much what we're going to get from him, but I really like the potential. And I gave him a fist bump as he walked off the field after a start in Jupiter a couple of weeks ago. Dillon Gee coming back from an injury is the number 3 starter. I think he can be solid. The key for these 3 guys is to go deep into ballgames and give the bullpen a rest. Marcum seems to have earned a spot in the rotation (or a spot on the DL, we'll see), Jeremy Hefner can be a solid number 5 starter. But if something breaks wrong here, like one of these guys going down, and Marcum may start that way, I don't know if there's depth. They say Zack Wheeler has the stuff, but I've also heard that he won't be rushed up to the big leagues. I'd rather play towards the future than the present anyway (though it's somewhat surprising that Matt Harvey isn't going back down for a bit more seasoning).

The bullpen seems to be the biggest mystery about the 2013 Mets coming into Opening Day. I think that's because a lot of these guys are unknown to us. Bobby Parnell will be the closer while Frankie Francisco recovers from whatever it is that's kept him out this spring. I haven't liked a Mets closer in a long time. Parnell is no different. I saw guys like Edgin, Lyon, Rice, Atchison, Hawkins, Burke, and Familia during the spring. None of them really blew me away. But they might be the biggest key to the 2013 season. That bridge from what could be solid starting pitching to what people hope is a solid closer. They're also the guys to eat innings when the starters can't go 7. And if past history is any indication, that will happen a lot. But at the same time, I like that there has been almost a complete overhaul of the Mets bullpen from last year. Something new might be better than what we know and didn't really like.

Of course, none of us know if a freak or fluke injury could take down an important player during the season, or if someone just struggles. There could always be players on the New York-to-Las Vegas shuttle during the season to fill new holes. And maybe there's a trade to bring in a closer or a left fielder during the year. A lot of things could break one way or the other. A week ago, I really wasn't sure if Wright or Murphy would be ready for Opening Day, but it looks like they will be. But maybe Marcum won't be. Santana clearly won't be. And those little things can make a difference.

If they had everyone, including Santana and Francisco, maybe, just maybe, they could have won 82 or 83 games. If things really really break down during the year, they could even reach 100 losses. I think the answer will be in the middle - at 74 wins.

Let's Go Mets! And Happy Opening Day!

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