Christopher Reina. 2nd March, 2010 - 6:33 pm
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The Mets had a disastrous 2009 season to open Citi Field, in which they were injury-plagued and finished 23 games behind the Phillies with a 70-92 record. They essentially traded the disastrous September meltdowns of 2007 and 2008 for a season where they were irrelevant from May 31st on when they reached their peak of seven games over .500.
It is difficult to remember that the Mets actually were in first place for a stretch in May, as that 9-18 June and 28-47 second half record were unspeakably ugly.
Injuries to Jose Reyes (36 games) Carlos Beltran (81 games), Carlos Delgado (26 games) and Johan Santana (25 starts) left the Mets far too depleted to compete due to a lack of overall organizational strength.
2009 Opsera Finish: 23rd (2.84)
What Happened In The Winter
The Mets had a highly unimaginative winter that was routinely labeled chaotic and without a coherent plan, with Omar Minaya's authority being almost completely eliminated. It truly created many more questions than it possibly could have answered.
They made a big splash in signing Jason Bay to a $60 million deal over four seasons, but then they were priced out of signing an innings-eating starter like Joel Pineiro or Jason Marquis, as well as catchers like Bengie Molina or Yorvit Torreabla.
Instead, their major offseason additions beyond Bay became a trade for Gary Matthews and the signings of catcher Rod Barajas and pitcher Kelvim Escobar.
Mets Offensive Preview
The Mets had a .757 OPS against lefties (15th) and a .720 OPS against righties (23rd) in 2009 and will remain vulnerable to the latter again this season with a righty dominated lineup.
Reyes will likely bat third until Beltran returns and he will be New York's greatest potential power source from the left side of the plate. Daniel Murphy and switch-hitters Luis Castillo, Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews will be the only other players taking at bats from the left side.
The righty lineup is anchored by David Wright, Bay and Jeff Francoeur. I expect Wright to recover from a down 2009 in which his OPS+ fell from 149 and 141 to 123 now that he has Bay hitting behind him and he continues to adjust to Citi Field's dimensions. More important for Wright's rebound in 2010 is defensively at third base. He had a UZR/150 of -13.2 after showing marked improvement in 2007 and 2008.
Bay will vastly upgrade New York's 16th ranked OPS left fielders of 2009 that hit .772 with just 12 homers and 76 RBIs.
Francoeur began to look like his 2005 rookie self again once he came over to the Mets. He hit for an OPS of .836 with 10 homers in 308 at bats. A repeat of those numbers seems doubtful though it would greatly help the Mets score runs until Beltran returns.
Murphy had a disappointing OPS of .741 in his first full MLB season, but he finished with a strong .888 in September and October and mysteriously hit much better at Citi Field with home/road splits of .823/.662. I expect Murphy to hit for an OPS in the .800 range while playing an excellent defensive first base. It will be interesting to see if he can possibly develop enough power to really justify being a New York corner infielder, though I like him a lot as a hitter.
Castillo and Barajas are light hitting 30-somethings that the Mets had to turn to when they couldn't trade away the first one to clear room to sign Orlando Hudson and the second when they couldn't sign Molina or Torrealba.
Pagan had a surprising .837 OPS in 343 at bats, but he'll likely revert back to his typical level in the .700s. Regardless, his OBP has typically been very good and he'll make a good leadoff man with his speed while Reyes bats third.
If Pagan struggles, Matthews will be the alternative in center until Beltran returns. The Mets see Matthews as a flyer who has only had one legitimately good MLB season and that was way back in 2006. I would also like the Mets to give a prolonged look to Fernando Martinez, otherwise deal him away for a youngish arm.
A healthy Jose Reyes is absolutely critical for the Mets to score runs, because he will be in RBI situations instead of being a table-setter. He has shown glimpses of fulfilling his talent in 2006 and 2008, but he had a down 2007, a rough September in both '07 and '08 and wasn't healthy in 2009. He is completely capable of having a Curtis Granderson/Jimmy Rollins 20-20-20-20 season, but at 27 he'll have to finally have to deliver upon that.
Mets Pitching Preview
The Mets pitching staff in 2009 were done no favors by one of the worst defensive units in the MLB, statistically the absolute worst according to UZR/150. New York's defense should be a little bit better, especially with Gary Sheffield no longer killing them both corner outfield spots, though Bay isn't a wunderkind with the glove either.
For all of the letdowns behind them, the Mets were still ranked 24th in Fielding Independent ERA with a regular ERA mark of 4.46.
Santana had an excellent ERA of 3.13, but it was clear he wasn't completely right from the very early part of the season, as he proved more hittable. His velocity seems better already, which is crucial to offsetting his lethal change-up. Assuming he can make 35 starts, the Mets should win 20-23 of those games.
Behind Santana, things get really dicey really quickly. John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey have all had individual seasons where you could call them a solid number three, fringe number two starter, but they have career ERAs of 4.22, 4.54 and 4.58 respectively. They are all back of the rotation starters that have occasionally masqueraded as frontline guys. All three pitchers should be better than 2009, if they're healthy, but their rotation is significantly behind division rivals Philadelphia, Atlanta and Florida.
Competing for the fifth spot in the rotation will be Fernando Nieve and Jonathon Niese. Between these two and the aforementioned three, Minaya seemed to prefer the 'whichever these guys stick against the wall' theory rather than aggressively going after a Ben Sheets, or even John Smoltz still.
The Mets were ranked 12th in ERA amongst relievers with a mark of 3.89. Francisco Rodriguez saved 35 games with a 3.71 ERA. His K/9 mark dipped for the sixth consecutive season and is now finally below 10. It certainly isn't going back up and he needs to be careful about his escalating home run total.
Pedro Feliciano is very lonely as the Mets resident southpaw, especially when looking at that Philadelphia lineup. Ryota Igarashi, Sean Green and Nelson Figueroa are not exactly going to mow anyone down. If the Mets are in contention in July, they'll absolutely need to make a trade to address their bullpen.
What Are Their 2010 Chances?
The Mets have plenty of potential to compete for a playoff spot in 2010 given their collection of four of the game's best 50 or so players, but they don't have enough depth to sustain either below normal production or injuries from that group of Santana, Wright, Reyes and Beltran.
Improving upon New York's 22nd ranked OPS offense (.729) should be a given. They scored just 671 runs after a three-year average of 812, so that should bump back up as long as Reyes is healthy and Beltran returns as his former self.
But I think they'll have a difficult time improving much from their 4.45 2009 ERA. the Angels and Twins reached the postseason with ERAs in that neighborhood, though they also played in the more offensively potent American League while enjoying relatively weak division rivals.
The law of averages will probably claim the Mets should be back in realistic contention in 2010, but their lack of reliable pitching depth behind Santana will make sustained win streaks very difficult.
Winning in 2011 after importing either Josh Beckett, Cliff Lee, Javier Vazquez or Tim Hudson, along with a new GM, will be a more realistic scenario.
New York's full Opsera history.
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