Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New York Mets Preview

Overview: The New York Mets continued their dedication towards making big name additions in the free agent market this offseason by adding Francisco Rodriguez the season after his record breaking number of saves. Within a week, the Mets acquired an even better closer, by my estimation, in JJ Putz. Now the Mets have put together the best back end of the rotation in Major League Baseball, though it is inverted. Everything else will stay the same, which may not be good for the team that has left its fans nothing short of heartbroken. The New York Mets offense is as inconsistent as they come, with the exception of David Wright. There are times when Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran are locked in and are some of the most frightening hitters in all of baseball, but that does not happen often enough, and it hardly ever happens when they click at the same time. This is a team that is full of talent that just does not seem to be able to put it together. They have improved the back end of the bullpen, while harming the front-end. Their depth is fairly decent, but who actually expects Fernando Tatis to hit .300 again? Not me. I think the Mets have a lot to be excited about this season for the 8th and 9th innings, but they lack consistency which will hurt them in September for the third consecutive season.

Starting Pitching: This is a good rotation. Led by one of the best pitchers of the decade, Johan Santana, whom the Mets can expect to have another great season. After that they have John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey. None of whom are aces, but all of whom will keep games close. The fifth spot in the rotation is currently slated as being Lvian Hernandez, though Freddy Garcia and Tim Redding will have a lot to say regarding that fifth spot. Any of those three pitchers would be a valuable veteran arm that will also keep games close. This is a strong rotation that will probably be the best in the division when all is said and done. I do wonder how many innings each will go for. Santana is a lock for 200+ innings, but the others may struggle to get to that plateau, which will expose a major weakness, middle-relief.

Bullpen: The back end of the bullpen is phenomenal. It is without a doubt the most talented setup/closer combination in baseball this season. In signing Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets picked up a proven closer. He did have a record setting 2008 season with 62 saves and a 2.24 ERA. Red flags went up when I saw how his velocity has dropped 6MPH. If he is going to continue to be a dominant closer, he will have to do it in Trevor Hoffman fashion, setting up his curveball effectively. I also noted last year that Rodriguez had many saves that were with a 3 run lead that he made close, yet they were still saves. Fortunately for the Mets, their setup man, JJ Putz is probably a better closer than Rodriguez. In 2007, Putz was the most dominating closer in baseball. He was pretty much as automatic as they come. Assuming his health issues are behind him, Putz could be closing games if Rodriguez struggles. Leading up to these two, there is not much. I did get to see Eddie Kunz pitch in the Cape Cod Baseball League as well as in Binghamton, and this guy has dynamic stuff. His control is where he will struggle, but he has the chance to grow a lot in 2009 with Putz in front of him, a guy who has very similar stuff. After that, the rest of the group consists of Duaner Sanchez, Brian Stokes and Pedro Feliciano. They are all fairly average arms at this point in their careers which could mean headaches for Jerry Manuel, but the most replaceable part in baseball is middle-relief so this is a bit of a weakness right now that could end up being a strength with the right moves throughout the season.

Offense: The outlook for the offense projects to be bright. Though there is some aging talent in Brian Schneider (C), Carlos Delgado (1B), Luis Castillo (2B) that are all likely to continue their respective declines in 2009, there is also a solid infusion of players in the prime of their career and youth. Ryan Church, Daniel Murphy and Carlos Beltran project to be the best outfield in the NL East at least with numbers. Church was on his way to a career year in 2008, before injuries slowed him down and Murphy looks to be a great contact and gap hitter. Carlos Beltran is probably the hitter with the most talent and explosion, yet his career has shown him to be inconsistent when he hits for power. He will still be a very talented player for the Mets, but who knows what kind of season he will have? He is capable of an MVP season, but the Mets may only get the production of a 5 hitter from him. David Wright and Jose Reyes make for quite a talented left side of the infield, each can make plays defensively that will take your breath away. Offensively, Wright is showing himself to be a .300, 30, 100 machine. Reyes is all over the place. he is very prone to erratic performances at the plate, which only harms the Mets because their offense comes and goes with Reyes since he is leading off. Overall, this is a very solid offense when they are all playing to their capability. Unfortunately, that does not happen for an entire season, which is what will harm this team. The bench is looking fairly solid. Ramon Castro, Alex Cora, Marlon Anderson, Jeremy Reed and Fernando Tatis figure to be the main five guys that will be on the Mets bench and each will bring something different to the table. Castro, Cora, Anderson and Tatis are veterans and Reed still has a chance to develop into something more than a defensive replacement and occasional starter. The Mets are strong in their bench.

Projection: 2nd Place in the NL East, 1st in Wildcard. The Mets are going to be there all season, but will be up and down. The back end of their bullpen has improved, but their offense is no different from any of the last several years. They will be inconsistent. Even if they do make it to the playoffs this season as I predict because of the depth in the NL Central and the lack of talent in the NL West, I doubt that they have much of a chance at playing deep into October because of this inconsistency. Watch Daniel Murphy very closely. He could end up as a .300/20/80 guy from nowhere.

No comments: