I thought it would be fun to take a look back and see if I nailed anything this year, or if my preseason predictions were completely and utterly wrong.Â It’s hard to predict anything more thanÂ six weeks in advance in baseball, much less sixÂ months, but hey, maybe I lucked into something.Â I will only look at my own predictions; if Joeadig wants to go over his own, he can do so on his own.Â Let’s take a look.
How great will Johan Santana really be?
Johan Santana will be the best pitcher in the National League in 2008 and will cruise to his third Cy Young Award.Â The impact he will bring to this Mets team will be enormous; last yearâ€™s team tended to run hot and cold a lot, with really bad months in June and (obviously) September.Â With a stopper like Santana, plus Pedro Martinez around more often than not to be the Robin to his Batman, long losing streaks will be fewer and far between for the 2008 Mets.
Well, Pedro was not the Robin to his Batman, but Santana was pretty damned close to the best pitcher in the NL in 2008.Â The only other pitcher who has a real argument is Tim Lincecum, who had more strikeouts but allowed more runs and pitched fewer innings.Â He probably won’t cruise to a Cy Young Award, but he did add enormous impact; without the Johan trade, this was an under .500 team.
Will we see Fernando Martinez in the major leagues in 2008?
Called up in September, not before.Â This is a big year for F-Mart, he needs a good year in Binghamton to keep his status as the Metsâ€™ #1 prospect after a disappointing injury-plagued year last year.Â I think heâ€™s going to do it, and will be rewarded with a major league promotion when rosters expand, and it wouldnâ€™t surprise me if he started a few games to rest Moises Alou and/or Carlos Beltran before the playoffs.
We didn’t.Â He also didn’t stay healthy, although he showed signs of getting better before his latest injury.Â He’s probably going to start in Binghamton for a third straight year next year, but it’s too soon to call him a bust; he’s still only going to be 20 years old, and he seems to be suffering more freak injuries rather than anything that will linger on as his career develops.
Who will start more games in the 5 hole:Â Mike Pelfrey, Orlando Hernandez, Jorge Sosa, or somebody else?
Orlando Hernandez will start the most games, but he will miss extended periods of time throughout the year.Â Sosa might start the year as the #5, but it wonâ€™t take the team long to remember why he was banished to the bullpen last year.Â Pelfrey will be called back up at some point, but he will spend most of his year in New Orleans as the team tries to figure out whatâ€™s wrong with him and how they can try to fix him to get him ready for a full-time shot at the roster in 2009.
The answer was A, Mike Pelfrey.Â Neither of the other two, in fact, started a single game for the 2008 Mets.Â Pelfrey didn’t pitch a single game in New Orleans and by the end of the season, he had established himself as a legitimate 2-3 starter.Â Orlando Hernandez spent the entire season on the DL and never sniffed being healthy, and Jorge Sosa was released on May 21st after seven weeks of ineffective relief.
Will Pedro Martinez stay healthy?
Pedro Martinez will stay healthy for most of 2008; he might miss a start here and there or get pushed back in the rotation, and he wonâ€™t pitch more than 5-6 innings too often, but I donâ€™t think he will spend any time on the disabled list.
WRONG.Â Pedro was injured 3 innings into his 2008 campaign, and while he did spend more time with the team than he did on the DL, he did in fact miss time this year.Â Not that he was much better than the Nelson Figueroas or Tony Armases that started in his place.
Will the bullpen take a step forward from last season?
Yes – I like the moves the Mets made this year as opposed to last year.Â They were low risk moves like signing Matt Wise and avoiding long-term contracts, that more resemble the way the 2006 Mets bullpen was constructed than the 2007 Mets bullpen.Â Plus, Willie Randolph wonâ€™t be able to keep bringing Guillermo Mota in for big spots, which is always a plus.Â Overall, I think we will see an improvement this year, and while the 2008 bullpen wonâ€™t quite reach the heights of 2006, it wonâ€™t be nearly as bad as it was in 2007, either.
Wow.Â Other than suggesting that the Mets should trade Jose Reyes, I may never have said anything more wrong in the history of this website.Â There was no step forward, only steps back.Â Guillermo Mota may have been an improvement over Aaron Heilman had he not been traded.Â Matt Wise threw exactly seven innings, most of which were terrible.Â The Mets didn’t pick up a single player who improved this bullpen, either.Â My optimism was highly misplaced.
Next, the question was posed “Will the following Mets repeat or exceed their play of last year, or will they regress a little bit?”.Â My answers for each are below.
I am excited for Reyesâ€™ 2008, because I think this is going to be a huge year for him.Â Lost in all of the hype about his final two months is the fact that heâ€™s still a player who is young and has made enormous strides since coming to the big leagues.Â I think he will have something to prove after last season ended so poorly for him, and with a renewed focus and a little more maturity, heâ€™s going to have a big year for the Mets in the leadoff position.
I needed a win after that awful bullpen quote, and I got one here – Jose Reyes was great this year.Â I think I was hoping for more OBP from him than what we ultimately got, but overall, he had a terrific year.Â Yet I still think the best is yet to come for Reyes; I am excited for what we will see from him in the future.
But Reyes wonâ€™t be the Metsâ€™ best hitter, because thatâ€™s going to be David Wright.Â Itâ€™s scary that Wright keeps getting a little bit better every year, and he came into the league pretty damned good.Â Last year, he lost out on some hardware because the Metsâ€™ pitching staff folded down the stretch.Â This year, with the rotation solidified with a true ace for the first time since Mike Hamptonâ€™s one-and-done season, and with some further small improvements, Wright wonâ€™t be denied his first MVP.
Ummmm…yeah, he will be.Â He did regress a little bit in 2008, but he still had a fine season.Â Much has been made of his lack of “clutchness,” but the truth is, he was probably a little bit unlucky this year; his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) with two outs and runners in scoring position was 40 points lower than it was overall; when he was putting the ball in play, fielders were getting to the ball more often.Â That’s luck.Â His line drive percentage also increased over 2007, but he had a lower overall batting average; again, that’s just fielders catching line drives.Â He’s hitting the ball well, but right at fielders, which is going to mean fewer hits.Â Not much he can do once the ball leaves his bat, right?
Iâ€™m expecting a little decline from Beltran this year – his offseason knee surgery will sap him of some of his great range in center field, and perhaps some of his power as well.Â He will be moved to a corner sooner rather than later, and will evolve into something of an all-or-nothing power hitter – but not right away.Â Heâ€™ll be good, but he wonâ€™t be as good, and by the end of the season, he will be the Metsâ€™ third-best hitter.
There was a little decline, but not much.Â His defense remained superb, to the point where moving him to a corner seems ridiculous.Â He also hasn’t begun to evolve into an all or nothing power hitter; he still shows great on base instincts and works the count well.Â He was probably the team’s second best overall hitter behind Wright if you consider the months of April through September.
I am coming in with low expectations this year – something around a .260/.330/.480, which would be better than last year, but still not exactly what the Mets were hoping for when they traded for him.Â Iâ€™m also expecting at least one stint on the DL.Â I hope I am proven wrong.
I wasn’t that far off:Â .271/.353/.518.Â No stints on the DL, either.Â Delgado was a weird case; so many people remembered his June through September to the point where they forget just how bad he was in April, May, and the beginning of June.Â He really belonged nowhere near the MVP discussion, and the fact that the Mets didn’t make the playoffs will likely keep him miles away from the award, and rightfully so.Â This team had four MVP candidates, and none of them were Delgado.
I am predicting that by the end of 2008, Omar Minaya may already regret signing Luis Castillo to a four year deal.Â He underwent double knee surgery over the offseason, and heâ€™s a player primarily known for is speed – if he canâ€™t beat out infield hits to keep his batting average up, he isnâ€™t going to get on base, and itâ€™s not like heâ€™s going to hit for anything resembling power to make up for it.Â I believe this offseason, the Mets will once again be on the look out for a new second baseman.
Substitute “end of 2008,” with “end of April,” and I completely nailed this one.Â Indeed, the Mets are already rumored to be considering Orlando Hudson or other options for 2B for next year.Â I can’t give myself too much credit for this one, as this was an easy call; anybody could have seen that four years of Luis Castillo was a bad move.
He will be similar to last year – he wonâ€™t hit .341 again, but he will give the Mets good production when heâ€™s in the lineup, which unfortunately wonâ€™t be often enough.
Nope; he wasn’t similar to last year because last year he played in some games.Â He wasn’t in the lineup often enough, because save for 15 games, he wasn’t in the lineup at all.
Maine has a chance to be a real unsung hero for this team – he wonâ€™t be as flashy as Pedro or Santana, but he will be a solid, consistent #3.Â If he can avoid wearing down like he did last year (and I suspect that Peterson and Willie will more closely monitor his innings this year), he could be a sleeper Cy Young candidate.
This was overly optimistic from the start, although I was trying to convey that he could pile up wins on a good team to enhance his Cy Young resume, but he was an average starter until being shut down for the year in August.
Can you really predict what Oliver Perez will do from week to week, much less season to season?Â Since the answer is no, Iâ€™ll just predict that he gives the team exactly what he gave them last year, and hope it comes to pass, because itâ€™s sure better than him being worse.
He remained unpredictable, although he was probably a little bit worse in 2008 than he was in 2007.
I feel an injury to Wagner coming – heâ€™s been â€œunavailableâ€ for games here and there the past two years, but heâ€™s been lucky to avoid the DL, and heâ€™s been a guy who has battled injuries in the past.Â Heâ€™s not getting any younger, and I feel as though we Mets fans may feel almost too â€œsafe,â€ for lack of a better term, so I think heâ€™ll miss around a month somewhere in the middle of the year.
He would miss two months at the end of the year, and this probably did as much to submarine the Mets’ playoff hopes as anything.Â Kinda wish I had been wrong on this.
Heâ€™ll close for a little while when Wagner is out and will perform well – enough to where the Mets can add â€œpotential closerâ€ to the list of other things Heilman does well should they try to trade him this off-season.Â But he will stay with the Mets at least through this year.
He did get a shot at closing, and did not perform well, matching his performance in non-closing situations.Â If they do try to trade him this off season, it will be at a discount for whomever acquries him.
Heâ€™ll give the Mets a solid year of relief – hopefully theyâ€™ll monitor his innings too, because heâ€™s another guy who wore down in September.
He did not give the Mets a solid year of relief.
Heâ€™ll split time between the rotation and bullpen without doing either particularly well.
He was in the bullpen, and did not relieve particularly well, and was cut before long.
Scott Schoeneweis will not finish the year in a Mets uniform – heâ€™ll get traded for something before the year is out.
Sadly, not only did he finish the year in a Mets uniform, he finished the year for everybody wearing a Mets uniform when he gave up a solo home run to Wes Helms in the final game of the season at Shea Stadium, taking the loss in relief that ended the Mets’ season.
Who will be the Metsâ€™ best hitter and best pitcher in 2008?
Pretty easy question for me:Â David Wright will not only be the Metsâ€™ best hitter, but the best hitter in the National League, and Johan Santana will not only be the Metsâ€™ best pitcher, but the best pitcher in the National League.
I was right on Wright and Santana being the Mets’ best hitter and pitcher, not necessarily about them being the best in the National League, although Santana was pretty damned close, and Wright was probably closer than most people think.
Next was a series of league-wide questions.Â Some of these awards have yet to be decided, but I can probably guess how close I will wind up being for each award.
Home Run leaders
AL:Â Alex Rodriguez (45)
NL:Â Ryan Braun (50)
The AL leader in home runs was Miguel Cabrera with 37; A-Rod finished two out with 35, although he missed a couple of weeks due to injury.Â The NL leader in home runs was Ryan Howard with 48; Ryan Braun would finish tied for fourth with 37.Â Not too bad; both finished top 5.
AL:Â Ichiro Suzuki (.340)
NL:Â Hanley Ramirez (.332)
Joe Mauer won the AL batting title by hitting .328; Ichiro finished 7th by hitting .310.Â Chipper Jones won the NL batting title by hitting .364; Han-Ram finished outside of the top 10, hitting .301.Â Not so close here.
Teams that will surprise
AL:Â I like the Devil Rays to contend, but not make the playoffs.Â But they will be a hard team to play and none of the contenders will want to play them in September, and they have an outside shot at a Rockies-type season.
NL:Â They wonâ€™t be taking anybody by surprise after a .500 year last year, but I think the Brewers can make the playoffs in the NL Central.
Both of these teams surprised.Â The Devil Rays, in fact, made the playoffs, and are currently in their first LCS in franchise history.Â The Brewers can and did make the playoffs in the NL Central, at the expense of the Mets.
Teams that will disappoint
AL:Â The Yankees may fail to make the playoffs (which by their definition, is a disappointment), but if they do, it will only be a one year aberration, and I can see them rolling off another title within five years.
NL:Â The Dodgers have the talent to win the NL West, but going with Juan Pierre in left field, among other roster goofs, will help them underachieve for a second straight season.
One out of two.Â The Yankees did in fact disappoint, and finished in third place in a tough AL East.Â The Dodgers did have the talent to win the NL West, and in fact did win the NL West, although they would have fallen short had they not resolved the situation with Juan Pierre playing left by trading for Manny Ramirez at the deadline.
AL:Â Picking A-Rod is too easy given last year; Iâ€™ll go with Miguel Cabrera
NL:Â How can I not pick David Wright after I devoted 5,000 words to why he deserved it last year?
Neither of these two will likely finish in the top ten in MVP voting.
AL:Â This is a lot more open without Santana in the league.Â Iâ€™ll take Beckett over Sabathia, since I see the two of them being close, and voters may feel obligated to reward Beckett after giving Sabathia the award last year.
NL:Â Johan Santana might put up PlayStation numbers this year in the NL.
Josh Beckett will not win the AL Cy Young Award; truthfully, I wouldn’t have picked Cliff Lee to finish top 50 for the AL Cy Young.Â Johan probably won’t win the NL Cy Young, but probably deserves at the very least second place; he probably won’t get it.
Rookie of the Year
AL:Â I was going to pick Evan Longoria until he got sent down, so Iâ€™ll give it to Ellsbury over Longoria, but I do think Longoria could make a Ryan Braun-like run at this award if he gets called up soon enough.
NL:Â I donâ€™t feel great about this pick, but I think Johnny Cueto could grab this.
Longoria will probably win the AL Cy Young even after being sent down.Â Johnny Cueto won’t win the NL Rookie of the Year; in hindsight, I really should have picked Soto since I took him in many fantasy leagues this year expecting him to have a strong year.
Next up was division pickings.Â Â Originally, I started with the NL, but I’ll start with the AL here.
Red Sox – 98-64
Yankees – 90-72
Blue Jays – 83-79
Devil Rays – 82-80
Orioles – 64-98
Boston did not win the AL East, but they did take home a wild card.Â The Yankees fell one win short of 89.Â The Blue Jays finished fourth instead of third, but actually won more games than I had predicted.Â The Rays took home their first AL East division title en route to a 97 win season.Â The Orioles were only a little bit better than I had anticipated.
Tigers – 93-69
Indians – 91-71*
Royals – 75-87
White Sox – 75-87
Twins – 74-88
You can almost inverse this order and it would be right; I had no read on the AL Central at all this year.Â The Tigers were closer to 93 losses than 93 wins.Â The Indians battled back to finish at .500 but were nowhere close to the division title.Â The Royals did not, in fact, finish third in the AL Central, although they did win 75 games (the first team I nailed on win totals).Â The White Sox and Twins did not finish fourth and fifth, but first and second, with their inverse of my predictions being close than what I had picked.
Angels – 90-72
Aâ€™s – 80-82
Mariners – 79-83
Rangers – 72-90
I picked the Angels to win the division by 10 games, and was still off by ten wins on my projection.Â The A’s probably would have finished second had they not traded Rich Harden and Joe Blanton before the trading deadline.Â Everybody was high on the Mariners before the season, and I didn’t know why; it turns out, my 79 win projection for them was optimistic.Â The Rangers were better than I thought they would be too, and were a fun team to watch.
St. Louis 72-90
Both the Brewers and Cubs won more than 87 games; the Cubs won 97 and the NL Central, the Cubs won 90 and the NL Wild Card.Â Both were playoff teams, as predicted.Â The Reds were nowhere close to .500, as I had forgotten how bad of a manager Dusty Baker is when he doesn’t have Barry Bonds.Â The Cardinals were better than anybody could have expected thanks in part to a full season of Albert Pujols and surprise contributions from guys like Ryan Ludwick.Â The Pirates stunk worse than I expected, winning 67 games (although they traded 2/3 of their outfield at the deadline).Â It also looks like I underestimated the Astros, although they had a negative run differential and appeared to capitalize on playing the Pirates and Reds a lot.
Diamondbacks – 88-74
Dodgers – 86-76
Rockies – 84-78
Padres – 80-82
Giants – 64-98
The Diamondbacks did not win the NL West and in fact only won 82 games.Â The Dodgers did win the NL West by winning 84 games.Â The Rockies finished third, but with far fewer wins than I anticipated (74).Â The Padres were a worst team in baseball contender for much of the year (although they did sweep the Mets at Petco), and only won 63 games.Â The Giants failed to be as historically awful as I had thought they would be, but were still not very good at all, only winning 72 games.
Mets – 93-69
Phillies – 85-77
Braves – 84-78
Nationals – 74-88
Marlins – 68-94
I saved the worst for last.Â The Mets fellÂ four wins short of 93,Â three wins short of winning the division, and one win short of making the playoffs.Â The Phillies’ bullpen was much better than I had anticipated, which probably accounts for most of the seven win difference between my projection and their actual total.Â The Braves abandoned ship at the deadline and won nowhere close to 84 wins, although a good percentage of their eventual 72 wins came at the expense of the Mets.Â The Nats also won nowhere close to the 74 win projection I made, winning a mere 59 games to clinch being far and away the worst team in baseball.Â The Marlins, meanwhile, surprised most by getting over the loss of Miguel Cabrera with some really good pitching and won a solid 84 wins to finish third place, with win #84 ending the Mets’ season.
Even though the post season isn’t over, I will share my postseason predictions, because none of them have a chance of panning out.
Mets over Brewers in 3 games
Cubs over Diamondbacks in 5 games
Indians over Red Sox in 5 games
Tigers over Angels in 3 games
League Championship Series
Mets over Cubs in 7 games
Tigers over Indians in 7 games
Mets over Tigers in 6 games
The Mets will not be winning the World Series by defeating the Tigers in six games.Â None of that other stuff is going to happen, either.Â After hitting onÂ six ofÂ eight playoff teams in 2007, I only hit onÂ four in 2008.
Overall, it looks like I was overly optimistic about the Mets, mostly because of Johan Santana.Â I did not anticipate the bullpen being as lousy as it would turn out to be, for certain.Â It’s explainable, because they had been so close and made such a big acquisition.Â Nevertheless, I’m not sure I will be quite this optimistic again in 2009, but we’ll see what happens.