Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Mets Realist, Part 1

To introduce myself to the Mets4Life world, I’ve been a Mets fan for the last 40 years (yeah, I’m getting old), I attend about 15 games a year and see most of the rest, and I am perhaps too much a student of the game. I know baseball will always finds its audience through offense, but I love pitching. Here in late February, the season is on the rubber and moving toward the wind-up.

This looking forward is the second best time of the year. My evil empire Yankee friends insist our Mets credo is always “Wait till next year.” It is true that, like many of you, I tend to be an optimist but I’m a realistic one…and I believe this requires a degree of pessimism. During the off-season I envision the best that can happen in the coming season while preparing my dreams for the most likely and still keep worst case scenario on the far periphery. In 2008, Mets’ dreams of a championship are probably the most reasonable they have been since the late 1980s. As for the very worst case, we just lived through it in September ‘07. So, what is that “Most Likely?”

For this and my next piece, here in the blog world—where Mets fans will be ripped by Phillies fans and Red Sox fans and those who “know” Jaba/Hughes are Koufax/Drysdale—we’ll look at what might be realistic to anticipate.

We’ll begin with the whole shebang—end of season predictions—to provide a sense of the numbers meant by being realistic. We’ll go from there to pitching. Then in Part II we can look at the lineup, fielding, and intangibles. Of course these are all pure opinions but real ones, we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

The big picture probably puts us in the World Series…but losing.
It is not that there is a specific American League team that will definitely be there and definitely beat us (although a Boston 1986 reversal is a strong possibility). But a realist has to accept that making the playoffs, winning the first round, second round, and the series is a lot to assume. In fact the math is amazing, if we were a 4:1 favorite for each step (which we won’t be), that makes it 2:3 against our winning it all…luckily the game isn’t played in a calculator.

Pitching looks good, particularly starting…less so in relief.
I was a big fan of the Pedro trade (of course I loved Roberto Alomar and knew we blew it with Edgardo Alfonzo). A proven, aging AL pitcher, in a hitter’s park, with innings issues moved to a pitcher’s park without DHs and good fielders, and you’re looking good. Downside = injuries. When healthy Pedro rarely has pitched badly for the Mets.

Johan (even September ’07 Santana) should be a true #1 as long as he is healthy…so put in 7 missed starts for pessimism and you’d still have 15-19 wins, say 17 wins.

starts healthy and should be at least as good as his short stints in ’06 and ’07. If pessimism puts him out half the season and still gives him 12 wins.

El Duque
…okay, who knows? Forget pessimism his last 5 seasons he’s had 8,8,9,11,9 wins. Even older this year but with a deeper staff and lower expectations. Lets say 9 wins.

Maine and Perez
were pretty darn impressive last year. No one would have said 30 wins from them and the Mets miss the playoffs! One year more experience and less pressure…and probably a few fewer starts pending the injuries above. One probably improves and the other fades a bit. That’s 17 and 13, add a pessimistic injury and you have a combined 27 wins.

(and Vargas or Sosa or…)--the sixth starter is sure to get innings if any pessimism above becomes reality whether off the bench or up from AAA. Yet with no permanent ‘08 position, pressure will be lighter than ‘06-07. A fairly modest prediction would be 8 wins.

So, Starters total 73 wins.
Before you say that’s crazy or horrible, that’s exactly what the Red Sox 6 starters had last year! 3-4 wins per middle and late reliever and we’re in the mid-high 90s (Vegas line 93)! If you want to be optimistic 100 wins, but be realistic.

Mets relievers
Everyone points here as a concern and my realism and memory (albeit aging) support this thinking, but not where others imagine. The assumptions seem to be that long relief has enough depth and our closer will be solid with an occasional lapse, and middle relief is the concern. I reverse these.

Long relief
might be okay, but it is no certainty. Pelfrey and El Duque are not relievers, so just assuming one will do this well (like in a World Series) is foolish; and given the likelihood of injury openings in the rotation their availability will be rare. There is a lot of potential and choices for middle relief, but it is realistically a crapshoot.

Billy Wagner
has been a very good closer for us. There are no lights-out closers, but he has surpassed realistic expectations with some major exceptions. The problem is that history is not kind to relievers and neither is Shea Stadium, very few excel for 2-4 years. And as simply as that, it is more possible that this one-person position has a letdown than any other.

Short relief
by contrast has a number of possibilities. Aaron Heilman has been far from a guarantee but has his days, Duaner Sanchez is a (taxi-)fair possibility with great history, and Sosa leads a group of specialists and hard throwers who have shown strength. There is good reason to expect those 3-4 wins from each.

On the mound, it seems realistic to expect a high 90s number of wins, with the risk of our handing half dozen back to the other team in late in the 9th and beyond.

The interesting thing is that apparently the Mets do have to hit, field, and face others. We’ll look at those in Part 2.


Anonymous said...

Nice start Matt. A couple of things, 1) I don't recall Sosa's name and steroids coming up in the same sentence, 2) where do like Pelfrey, in the #5 slot or in the #1 slot at AAA? and 3) I think Wagner gave us that let down last Sept. If his back is healthy I think he'll be fine again this season.

BrooklynMatt said...

Thanks DJ,
Your points were accurate and I revised. Particularly # 1 was a brain freeze as I seemed to combine Mota, Sammy Sosa, and Schoeneweis into Jorge Sosa...good thing he can't sue me for libel.
I thought of the triple A element regarding Pelfrey but my "realism" insists he will be back up shortly. I considered Wagner's late season collapse a norm that I think may worsen this year, thus my biggest fear for a position without a backup plan.

Thanks again.

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Marc said...
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