Can this team finally erase the demons of the past two years and make the playoffs?
I say this every year, and every year I’m disappointed, but I just don’t see how this team can fail to make the playoffs. Sure, they are top-heavy, and their second-tier and third-tier players aren’t going to impress anybody, but there is too much talent at the top of this team for them to fail to make the playoffs for a third straight season. Does this mean I will be surprised if they don’t make the playoffs? No, but on paper, they should.
What kind of impact will we see out of the revamped bullpen?
I like the fact that nobody from 2008 is back except for Pedro Feliciano. What we saw this off-season was a wholescale purging of the Achilles heel of the 2008 Mets. I do think there are questions regarding K-Rod and if he can stay healthy, or how Putz will perform in the 8th inning, or what kind of contributions we can expect from young players like Brian Stokes, Darren O’Day, and Bobby Parnell. But I am cautiously optimistic that the later innings will not be nearly as disastrous as 2008.
What do you expect from Jerry Manuel in his first full year as manager?
I like Jerry and think we’re in good hands. I thought Willie was too hands-off in his approach, and I like that Jerry wants to leave his imprint on the team, without trying to do too much that could be construed as crazy. I also generally thought Manuel was a better in-game manager than Willie as well. I think the team will benefit overall with Jerry at the helm for a full season.
Will the Mets regret not upgrading in the outfield corners?
Yes. I’m sorry, but I am not a believer in Daniel Murphy. I think he’s going to struggle more than people think this year. He likely was a lot luckier than people realize last year, and I think he’s going to crash back down to earth, perhaps hard. Also, Ryan Church is a good spare part, but I don’t see him as a starting right fielder for a contender. He plays an acceptable right with a good arm, but he can’t hit lefties. He’s a platoon player masquerading as an everyday player. The Mets might have enough to play well despite these guys, but I don’t feel like they are full-time solutions.
Will the lack of depth for the fifth starter job become a problem?
I don’t think so, because I do expect Tim Redding back before too long. Livan Hernandez won’t be good, but he will be durable, and playing back in the National League in a true pitcher’s park, he should be a bit better than he was last year until Redding returns.
What do you think about the Mets bench?
I like Fernando Tatis, and I think he can be a decent player there. Alex Cora is making a lot of money, particularly in this economy, but he will give the Mets their first true backup shortstop since Chris Woodward, which might help to give Reyes needed time off. Jeremy Reed was a savvy pickup for Omar, as I think they might be able to extract something out of him this year, and he should be able to capably fill in for Murphy in left in later innings for defense. I’ve always liked Ramon Castro, though I hope he can stay healthier this year.
That leaves Marlon Anderson, who is a complete waste of the 25th spot on this roster, since he offers no offensive or defensive value. Couldn’t we just eat the money on him and send him to Buffalo? I know this wasn’t a great offseason financially for the Wilpons, but they probably gave more money to Bernie Madoff to buy breakfast than they’re paying Marlon Anderson this year, can’t we find somebody for this spot on the roster who doesn’t suck? Hopefully, the Sheffield signing means he’s gone. He seems like a great guy, but he has no business playing on a team with playoff hopes.
Will the following Mets repeat, exceed, or regress in 2009?
I am hoping for improvement, particularly on getting on base, but I think we are more likely to see him repeat 2008, maybe slightly improve or regress.
I have no optimism for Luis Castillo. He could slightly improve, but would still be terrible.
I think we are starting to settle into what David Wright is capable of, which is greatness every season. I expect a continuation of his past successes. I also think he will hit better with runners in scoring position this year, which writers and fans will chalk up to “David Wright is better in the clutch!” when the reality is, he will have just been luckier in 2009 than 2008.
I think despite the hot spring, we saw Delgado’s last stand in 2008. I think we’re going to see a season closer to 2007 than 2008.
He has to start getting worse eventually, right? I think he’s going to continue to play his excellent defense in center field, he’ll give the team 25-30 homers, and another 30-40 doubles, and just remain his excellent self. The most underrated great player in baseball, which is strange considering how much money he makes.
I think his 2008 season stats give you an idea of how Ryan Church actually is, but his hot start from the start of the season I think makes people think he’s better than he is, which is an above average defensive player and mediocre hitter who can’t hit lefties. He is a prime target to be in a platoon by the end of the year, especially with Gary Sheffield in the fold.
But then again, I think Daniel Murphy is going to struggle, too. I just don’t think he can sustain his success from 2008 over a full season, and pitchers are going to learn how to pitch to him. He’s been able to get by so far because of his patience, but once pitchers learn how to get him out, he’s going to struggle big-time.
I continue to have no expectations for Brian Schneider.
With a bullpen that doesn’t blow his leads, he could win the requisite 20 games he needs to win the Cy Young Award this year. He pitched well enough to win, but the bullpen blew enough wins for him that it did not happen. While he may not be as impressive in 2009, he’ll still win more games.
I hope he can get back to where he was in 2007, but I’m not optimistic. It’s starting to look like that was an aberration, especially since he faded in the second half. I think we need to look at Maine not as a potential ace, but as a back end of the rotation guy who will give the team 150-200 innings a season and pitch decently for most of those, but not much better. There is value in that, but he’s not a potential ace or anything close.
He’s not worth that contract, of course, but I think we will continue to battle the same demons with Oliver, flashes of greatness followed by bouts of ineffectiveness. He’s not going to get it together, and Mets fans should hope that he doesn’t completely fall off the cliff.
What impressed me most about Pelfrey was that he got better as the season moved on; his strikeout rate improved to the point where by September, he wasn’t relying solely on the ground ball. If he can inch that K/9 number north of 6, or even better, north of 7, he’s going to be a great pitcher. If it hovers in the 4-5 range, where it is now, he can be good, but he will have days where he gets bombed as well.
He has become a straight LOOGY, and will probably be asked to perform more in that role this year since he is the only lefty in the pen as of now. He should be effective in this role.
THE REST OF BASEBALL:
Home Run Leaders
AL: Miguel Cabrera (43) NL: Ryan Howard (47)
AL: I never know who to pick for these. Dustin Pedroia? .332?
NL: Hanley Ramirez? .338? Like I said…no idea.
Stolen Base Leaders
AL: BJ Upton (51)
NL: Jose Reyes (62)
Teams That Will Surprise
AL: It’s not going to be the Royals, no matter how many times they get flaunted as “the next Rays.” I think it’s more likely to be a team like the Oakland A’s, who could win the weak AL West this year. I like what they did this offseason, they made a calculated shot at either winning the West, or failing that, they have a lot of prime midseason trade bait for other contending teams with veterans signed to short-term contracts. I think they’re going to take the AL West in an absolute shocker.
NL: Nobody really stands out as being better than they should be, so I’m going to say the Reds, who have a lot of decent young talent. They probably can’t take the NL Central, the Cubs and Brewers are too good, but they could finish third if their young talent plays to their abilities.
Teams That Will Disappoint
AL: Going back to my “Teams That Will Surprise,” I don’t think the Angels are very good at all. They were an 84-86 win team who played in a cake division. Now, they don’t have Teixiera, they don’t have K-Rod, they have three DHs, two of which will need to play the OF…frankly, they just aren’t very good. Throw in the loss of Lackey and Santana for a month or longer, and this is a team that is going to struggle hard. Expect a mid-June or July ESPN headline that says “What’s Wrong With The Angels?”
NL: The Marlins are not in contention to win the NL East. I’m sorry, but that was a 76 win team that lucked into 84 wins. Their defense stinks, their hitting outside of Uggla and Hanley isn’t very good, and I don’t think their young pitching is good enough to overcome it all. They are closer to being a last place team this year than a contending team.
AL: I predicted Miguel Cabrera last year, and he didn’t pan out, so why not try him again?
NL: I’m not jinxing David Wright again, so I’ll go with Albert Pujols, who is the best player in the NL when healthy, although it seems to be like pulling teeth to get the BBRAA to acknowledge this.
Cy Young Award
AL: CC Sabathia.
NL: I’m not jinxing Johan Santana again, so I’ll go with Dan Haren.
Rookie of the Year
AL: Matt Wieters, whenever the Orioles get around to bringing him up. By the way, on an unrelated note, can we get MLB to change the arbitration rules? Does this really benefit anybody for a player who everybody knows is ready for the majors to begin the year in AAA just so the Orioles can delay his arbitration clock?
NL: Edinson Volquez. No, really, Cameron Maybin.
Red Sox: 96-66
Blue Jays: 69-98
White Sox: 80-82
Red Sox over A’s in 3
Rays over Indians in 4
Cubs over Mets in 5
Dodgers over Phillies in 5
Red Sox over Rays in 7
Cubs over Dodgers in 6
Red Sox over Cubs in 5