The 2012 MLB season is upon us with spring training underway and opening day less than a month away. Every team has reason to be excited because they all are equals as of right now. Each team has a clean slate and expectations that they could be the team this year to take the title of World Series champions. Unfortunately, 29 teams will go home empty-handed.
I’m a huge Mets fan, that’s no secret. I grew up watching the Mets in the early 90’s when they were terrible, make a run in the early 2000’s, then watch them collapse in the late 2000’s. This season I’m sure I will be disappointed once again and will find myself shying away from watching games in September because quite frankly I hate watching my team lose, but after years of witnessing this you build some thick skin. Last year with the arrival of Terry Collins and his message to Mets fans and the organization that he will make sure that the team does not become complacent and they will hustle on every play whether they are up 10 or down 10, I was excited we had a coach to light a fire under our players and get them to play to their full abilities. Jerry Manuel never really had the pulse of the team and rarely pushed the right buttons to get them to perform. Terry Collins was a man of his word and in my opinion was one of the most underrated managers in the game last year. How can I say that about a team that finished 77-85? A team that had the 19th best record in all of baseball? Terry Collins finished 8th for the Manager of the Year. He managed a team that did not feature its best pitcher in Johan Santana. He started the season off at 5-13 and managed his team to .500 record as late as August 8th. I know mediocrity should not be something to celebrate, but the team dealt with so many injuries and was written off before the season started that you have to be somewhat shocked at their performance. Key injuries to star players like David Wright and Jose Reyes as well as DL stints by other players like Daniel Murphy hindered the club. A season without first baseman Ike Davis and Johan Santana and the eventual trade of Carlos Beltran did not help either. Health was one big issue the Mets had last year. Quite frankly they had a few more issues than that but we’ll get into that later.
The 2012 season for the Mets has already had headlining issues. Many Mets fans such as myself are still in disbelief that we let one of our franchise players, Jose Reyes, leave without even trying to retain him. The state of the Wilpon’s financial situation has been closely watched. After Judge Jed S. Rakoff ruled that Fred Wilpon pay up to $83.3 million to the victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Both sides are set to go to trial on March 19 for a possible ruling of an additional $303 million that trustee Irving Picard is requesting. The verdict will be an interesting one and one that Mets fans will want to know the details of. Mark Cuban anyone?
There are so many questions that Mets fans have to wonder heading into this season. How will the new field dimension play to the Mets offense? Will David Wright and Jason Bay bounce back after a woeful 2011? How will the Mets handle the loss of Jose Reyes? Will Ike Davis be healthy? If he is will he stay at the pace he was early last year? Will Lucas Duda have a break out year? Will the bullpen meet the expectations of Sandy Alderson? Will Johan Santana be Johan Santana? How good will the pitching staff be? These are all valid questions. A LOT of questions. Possibly too many to answer and any team with that many questions can’t be favored to have a great season. There are some reasons to believe that the Mets can excel this year even after all the question marks surrounding them.
I just want to say that they deserve more credit than the expected 60-70 wins that I am hearing many experts make. Last year the Mets Pythagorean W-L record was 79-83, which is the estimate of games won and lost based on runs scored and runs given up. This record relates to how lucky or unlucky a team was and the Mets fared relatively well in the luck department being they only finished 2 games under that number. Did I just say Mets had some luck last year? Couldn’t be. They had zero luck when it came to health.
The new dimensions at Citi Field will get rid of the Mo’s Zone which I never understood why they implemented in the first place. The high outfield walls in left field will be lowered to 8 feet and moved in slightly. Sandy Alderson is taking a page out of the field changes made to Comerica park where they moved their left field fence in from 395 feet to 370 feet, a huge difference that goes from warning track power to going…going…gone. How the new dimensions will play to the Mets offense particularly Wright and Bay to left field and Davis and Duda to right field will be looked at early and often. Lucas Duda has been talked about at the Digital Domain Park, the Mets Spring Training Facility, as he has been said to be showing some power to right field. I look forward to seeing him hit a few home runs at Citi Field and project him to hit somewhere near 2o long balls this season.
The loss of Jose Reyes hurts, but I think it only hurts in a morale stand point. Reyes is an explosive player, no doubt about it. He’s electric. He’s one the most exciting players to watch in the game just ask Alex Rodriguez. I’m just as offended as Reyes is that the Mets did not give him a formal offer. I have reason to believe that Reyes wanted to stay in New York even if it was for a few million less than other ball clubs offered him. The 6 years $106 million that Reyes accepted from the Marlins was not going to be matched by the cash strapped Mets organization. Would he have taken a 4 year $80 million deal with and an option for a 5th year? I don’t know. Could the Mets even offer that to him? I don’t know the answer to that either, but they owe it to him and Mets fans to have at least extended some kind of offer. If he says no you live with it and move on. If you knew you weren’t going to give him an offer why did they not try to trade him for a prospect much like they did with Carlos Beltran. I think that’s what disturbs me the most about all of this. You knew you couldn’t afford to keep him yet you didn’t try to get anything in return. I’m sure you could have found a suitor for Reyes for a draft pick or two or three. He’s that electric. All that being said, how much will the Mets miss him? Reyes only has a 6.2 WAR. WAR stands for win above replacement meaning how many more games one would win over a replacement player. If you took that number and subtracted it from the Mets win total last year we should win 72 games. Ruben Tejada has a WAR of 1.7 so lets put 2 wins back on the board that’s 74 wins. Tejada also had a slightly better fielding percentage than Jose Reyes. Remember were at 74 wins.
know the Mets didn’t get any big name free agents or even attempt to this offseason. We are however getting back a two-time Cy Young award winner. The last year he pitched in 2010 he had a WAR of 4.4, in 2009 a 3.6, and in 2008 he posted a 6.4. That’s an average of 4.8 wins above replacement. Add 5 more wins and that’s 79 games. I’m not sure how well Santana will perform and if he will pitch the whole year, but if he’s anything close to his previous numbers it’s a far improvement over what they were throwing out on the mound as their #1 starter.
Guess whose who. Player A .302 AVG .383 OBP .925 OPS; Player B .299 AVG .366 OBP .906 OPS. Player A is Ike Davis and player B is Albert Pujols. Ike Davis only played in 36 games last year and only had 129 at-bats. It’s a small sample, but the kid shows some promise and I believe he’s an all-star caliber player. If you give him 550 at-bats his power numbers jump to about 30 bombs and 100 RBI’s. That’s like getting an all-star caliber player in free agency. He’s also above average with the leather. Remember those over the dugout catches he had his rookie season? He’s not Pujols with the glove but he’ll only be 25 by the time the season starts. He has a high ceiling for growth and as a Mets fan you have to love it.
The Mets bullpen last year was inconsistent to say the least. They blew 24 saves last year and completed only 64% of save opportunities. That’s why Sandy Alderson made sure he got some bullpen help. Jon Rauch is 6’11 and gives many hitters trouble as the ball seems to drop out of the sky and rarely walks hitters. Frank Francisco is one of the better control relievers without sacrificing speed and walks very few batters, walking only 18 batters in 50.2 innings, while striking out 53. Ramon Ramirez, one of the trade pieces in the Angel Pagan deal, is a good bullpen arm with a nasty slider, who was a formidable piece of the Giants bullpen. Terry Collins often had to leave starters in a little longer than he may have wanted to last year because of the lack of depth in the bullpen. Theses three arms will help in those situations and then you put guys like Bobby Parnell in situations that better suit them instead of asking them to come into situations that they are not ready for.
If the Mets win have the games in which they blew saves that would give them 12 more wins, bringing it their win total to 91. Do I expect the Mets to win 91 games. Absolutely not, but it is possible. That’s their ceiling 91 wins. In the NL East, the best division in the NL, 91 games won’t win you the division. The Phillies will probably win around 100 games again, but the loss of Ryan Howard for the start of the season could hurt them. The Atlanta Braves have a lot of young talent, but it isn’t known if they will stay consistent throughout the year. The new look Marlins made some key acquisitions that should help them climb out of the cellar of the division. They added a few starting rotation arms in Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. Josh Johnson is slated to come back this year and I would equate some of their success to his health. The Nationals have some good young prospects and shored up their starting rotation with the signing of Edwin Jackson and the trade for Gio Gonzalez along with the reemergence of Stephen Strasburg.
The Mets should look to add some arms to their staff in case of injury or under performance. Rumors have been going around that the Mets are looking to possible bring back Chris Young, who pitched well for the Mets last years before being shut down for the year. There was also word that they were watched Scott Kazmir throw a few bullpen sessions. Sign him to a minor-league deal, invite him to camp, and see how he performs. It couldn’t hurt and having too many starting pitchers has never been a problem in the Majors. If the Mets don’t make any of these moves I’ll still be content with the surplus of young arms that we have in our farm system and Jenrry Mejia slowly coming back from Tommy John surgery the future for our starting pitching looks very bright. It’s possible that we will see some of these prospects come September, but I much rather watch them next year so they can learn to be consistent in the minors.
In ESPN magazine’s latest issue, One for the Money, Jon Niese is given a 28% chance to reduce his ERA by .5 from 4.30 in 2012. He is also given a 25% chance to reduce his WHIP by .1 from 1.44 a year ago. There is a another positive thing to look forward to this year. As for the Mets cutting the most payroll in history in one year, $19 million on the books last year was for Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. Another $9 million was for Beltran and K-Rod whom they traded late last season. That’s $28 million, so really they are only cutting $24 million. It doesn’t make it any better I know, I’m still mad too. Let’s stay positive though and let’s look for some power numbers from some players, consistent play, aggressive base running as we’ve seen early this spring training, and Terry Collins getting players to hustle on every play. All that being said I say the Mets finish 82-80 this year and we will at least be able to watch games through September without being out of it in early August.