Blue and Orange 2010 Season Preview

Welcome to this year’s Blue and Orange Mets season preview!  We have a few different perspectives on the site, and the following tries to give time to different sides of the coin, to give you an idea where Mets fans expectations are going into this season.  Not surprisingly, all perspectives point towards another down year for the Mets.  Here now is the season preview; for ease of reading, the black text is Chris Wilcox, the blue text is Will Davidian, and the red text is Joeadig.

METS:

What would be your definition for a successful season for the 2010 Mets, given the current level of expectations?

Chris Wilcox: Honestly, as long as Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel are no longer in their current positions after the season is over, I will consider 2010 a success.  If they can somehow make a miraculous playoff run after firing Jerry and Omar mid-season (if we are that lucky), that’s cream cheese.

Will Davidian: From my vantage point, there are only two successful outcomes for this season: a playoff appearance or an overhauled front office. The first choice is exceedingly unlikely with the daily front office blunders and the two superstars on the disabled list to start the season. A front office overhaul, which frankly should have been executed after last season, is the only hope for the Mets and their fans going forward. Another season where Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Santana drag their mates to “meaningful games in September” is no achievement for a National League team this flush with resources.

Joeadig: Success equals a playoff appearance.  Anything less simply means that the team did not live up to the payroll.

At what point in the season will the Mets finally cut ties with Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel?  Will one survive while the other one is let go?

Chris: I have a feeling Jerry will not get fired in-season, but will not likely have his contract renewed for 2011, short of a playoff run.  Omar seems more likely to be fired mid-season if the team struggles, but I have a feeling he won’t get the axe until the postseason, either.  I’m trying to be optimistic here, but the team has a tendency to wait too long on these things.  All I know is, after seeing the Mets’ opening day lineup (1. Cora, 2. Castillo, 3. Wright, 4. Jacobs, 5. Bay, 6. Gary Matthews Jr, 7. Francoeur, 8. Barajas), it’s all the proof anybody needs that both of these guys need to go; it’s a combination of Omar Minaya’s terrible player acquisitions and Jerry Manuel’s nonsensical lineup construction and inability to properly valuate his own players (GMJ starting over Pagan is mind-boggling) all in one crazy package!  It is truly their masterpiece.

Will: I can see this playing out in stages. Manuel gets the axe after a stretch of “lackluster baseball”, then the front office realizes it’s a “talent problem” and Minaya ‘gets got’. Omar is in the first year of a – sigh — three year contract where Jerry is in the final year of an inexpensive deal so I doubt this plays out in reverse.  My official guess: Jerry is fired in June and Omar goes (or kicked upstairs) in August.

Joe: I think Manual only survives a poor season if the team is plagued by injuries like it was last year.  And I think Omar survives regardless because of his contract (not that I want him to survive, just that I think he’s going to survive).

Is there an area of the team that you feel may be better than public perception suggests?

Chris: I think the starting pitching has the chance to be not that bad.  I think Jon Niese is going to be a solid pitcher this year, and Mike Pelfrey should be better with 97% of a full season of Jose Reyes at shortstop.  The keys are Oliver Perez getting back to even his 2008 self rather than the 2009 version, and John Maine finding health, though the team lost an important fall-back option when they chose cut Nelson Figueroa.  I’m not going to say that the rotation is definitely better than public perception suggests, but there is a non-zero chance that they will be decent.

Will: The bullpen for sure. It’s damning because it’s the least important part of the team, but the media is really killing for getting drilled in spring training. The two linchpin relievers: K-Rod and Feliciano are criminally over and underrated respectively, but no more or less effective for it.  Newcomers Kiko Calero and Ryota Igarashi are (illusive) “crossover relievers” that generate the necessary strikeouts needed for late-inning roles. Takahashi and Nieve provide starting rotation depth and have the potential to be more than just low-leverage relievers. I just mentioned six guys without including Sean Green, who the Mets are intent on ruining with this submarine nonsense, and Bobby Parnell.

Joe: Nope. This is a poorly constructed team in every area.  You can’t sprinkle a few offensive superstars among the dregs of the league and expect the team to consistently score runs.  You can’t have an ace pitcher followed by four #5 starters and expect the pitching to hold the team down.  And you can’t have a bullpen anchored by an overly-emotional ace closer if there is not a single big-league-worthy arm to get him the ball (with maybe Feliciano as the exception). So no, there is nothing “better than perceived” about this team.

What are your expectations from Jason Bay in 2010?

Chris: I think he’s going to be exactly what we expect; a middle of the order power bat with good on-base skills who isn’t great defensively.  I think he fits in well with this lineup.  I don’t think Citi Field will hurt him too much, because whatever effect going from Fenway Park to Citi Field might have will be mitigated from going from facing AL pitching to NL pitching.  He won’t wow anybody necessarily, but he’ll be a very good hitter for a team that did not hit very well in 2009.

Will: I’m bullish on Jason Bay. He was a top ten hitter in the American League. Fenway Park or not, that’s a pretty impressive feat. I expect a similar level of offensive production with below average defense in left field. While Bay’s poor defender, he isn’t Adam Dunn/Brad Hawpe-level bad.  A four WAR season is definitely within his reach.

Joe: I expect him to be less than he was in Boston but not as bad as we pessimists are afraid he’ll be.  Maybe .270, 20, and 90.

What do you think of the Mets’ catching options?

Chris: I’m not very excited by Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco at all, but they will be adequate for this transition year.

Will: I’m glad the Mets didn’t commit $12 million for two years to Bengie Molina. Rod Barajas is 3/4ths of Bengie at 1/6th of the (rumored) price, so I guess that’s a good deal. Blanco is a venerable backup catcher with a good defensive reputation and clearly better than Omir Santos. Together you have a pretty uninspiring tandem you could live with if the rest of the roster was locked down with good players. They’re not so let’s hope Josh Thole hits his way to Queens.

Joe: I think there are too many options, none better than the other.

How do you think Jonathon Niese will handle his first full season in the major leagues?

Chris: I think he’s going to do really well.  As a team, I’m trying not to keep my expectations for the Mets too high, but one player whom I do have high expectations for is Niese, who proved by August that he had mastered the minor leagues and was ready for a shot at the majors.  I don’t think he’s going to be an ace, but I do think he’s capable of being a solid mid-rotation starter, which is an area the Mets have had problems developing pitchers over the past several years.

Will: Will Luis Castillo, Mike Jacobs and Alex Cora handle the balls-in-play behind him? Actually, Niese survived Mike Lamb at second base and Javier Valentin at third base in Buffalo last season, so this season’s alignment might actually be an improvement. I’d be more concerned with how the Mets handle it.  Due to that freakish leg injury, Jon only pitched 120 innings in 2009 and his career high in a season is 163. It’d be prudent for the organization to watch his innings. Also, how will they evaluate his performance? The Mets are a lock to be a poor defensive team this season, so success for Niese shouldn’t be measured exclusively by the end result.

Joe: Not well.  If he were surrounded by solid, reliable pitchers he would have the chance to ease in to the rotation; however, he’s surrounded by big question marks, which means he’ll have too much pressure to be any good.

Speaking of minor leaguers, will Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, Jenrry Mejia, or Fernando Martinez have any impact on the big league Mets this season?

Chris; I think the most likely to have a big impact on the major league roster this season will be Davis, who could be with the big league team by midseason.  There is a gaping hole at first base that the Mets will soon find out that Daniel Murphy and Mike Jacobs are unable to fill.  Ideally, the Mets will cut bait on Jacobs and send Murphy to AAA in July and give the job to Davis.  Of the others, Mejia might make the team, but I’m hoping he gets lit up enough to where the team realizes the error of their ways and sends him back to Binghamton to work on his secondary offerings.  Tejada will be the first call-up if there are any middle infield issues, but will only make an impact with his glove, not with his bat, which is not major-league ready.  Martinez is a guy who I will have an eye on this year, as hopefully this is the year he stays healthy for an entire season.  If it is, I think he can make as much of an impact on the major league team as Martinez.  Regardless, the Buffalo Bisons may be a more interesting team to watch in the first half of the season than the New York Mets.

Will: Mike Jacobs, Alex Cora and Jeff Francoeur, simply put, are bad baseball players. As long as those four fellows play to their skill level and as long as Davis, Tejada and Martinez play well in Buffalo, I’d expect a mid-season youth movement.  I’ll ignore for a second that the Mets are doing Mejia a disservice by putting him in the Major League bullpen: he has one plus pitch, questionable command and struck out 9 batters in 17 spring innings.  Consider those elements and the fact that middle relievers mean very little, Jenrry’s on-field impact will be relatively nil. Management’s ill-conceived decision to rush him is another story altogether.

Joe: I’ve seen nothing to feel excited about in any of them.  Remember Bobby Parnell last April/May?  Now he’s in Buffalo. That’s what Davis and Mejia did in spring and their impact will be the same as his.  As for Martinez… Alex Escobar.  ‘nuff said.

Will the following Mets repeat, exceed, or regress from their 2009 seasons?

David Wright

Chris: I think he’s going to exceed his 2009 numbers, thanks to improved power output.  Here’s hoping he has more homers by June 1st than he did all of last year.  I’m also optimistic his defense can return to its pre-’09 levels as well, for the benefit of the pitching staff.

Will: Exceed. David’s a superstar and superstars don’t lose it at 26. I expect a monster year.

Joe: Those biceps will not help his average but he’ll be back to 20 HRs.

Jose Reyes

Chris: Exceed.  Way exceed.  I am expecting a huge year from Reyes, he’s entering his age-27 season, he’s coming off of a lost year, which means expectations are low (I was mocked for taking Reyes in the fourth round of my fantasy draft last week.  Last year, I took him first round and nobody batted an eye.  Amazing what one bad year does for expectations).  I think Reyes could be a fringe MVP candidate before 2010 ends.

Will: Exceed simply because he’ll play more. He was a five win player in 2006, 2007 and 2008, so that’s the baseline.

Joe: At best, he’ll hit .270 and steal 25 bases; he has already peaked.

Carlos Beltran

Chris: I hope I’m wrong, but I think we’ve seen the last of Carlos Beltran, elite player.  By the time he gets back, he will have essentially missed an entire year, all because of knee problems, and who knows what that will do to his range in center or his ability to steal bases.  His power and patience should keep him as a good to very good player, but I’m worried that he won’t be a superstar anymore.  With a heavy  heart, I say regress.

Will: Repeat. He’s slated to miss six weeks from the jump. In 2009, Carlos missed half the season, but when he did play, he was awesome. That’s about as good a projection as any.

Joe: He’ll contend for the NL LVP, as he clearly is still unhappy with the Mets for the way they handled his surgery this off-season; he’s got one foot out the door already.

Jeff Francoeur

Chris: Speaking of regression!  I think Francoeur will avoid being as positively dreadful as he was for the Braves in 2008 to 2009, but won’t be as good as he was for the Mets in 2009 either.  That’s still not a very good baseball player.  I also think we will hear nary a peep about his regression from the New York media desperate for a good quote guy.  Francoeur will get away with being far worse than David Wright could ever hope to be, and receive 10% of the flak David would receive.

Will: Repeat leaning toward regress. What he was as a Met wasn’t anything special, but you’d swear he won a slew of games by himself. I foresee a season where he’s less hit-lucky, but maintains a similar level of power.

Joe: He’s the only guy I’m counting on to be above expectations; 90 RBIs aren’t out of the question.

Luis Castillo

Chris: Same as Frenchy, really; not as bad as 2008, not as good as 2009.  His defense will remain extremely lousy too.  If the Mets do fire Omar around June, it wouldn’t surprise me if the new GM dumped him at the trading deadline.

Will: He’ll be better defensively because it’s tough to be worse than -12 UZR/150. Luis had a career year offensively in 2009, but it’s tough to expect a repeat at age 35, especially since so much of his game is predicated on speed and contact.

Joe: He’ll stay around .300 but do absolutely nothing to help the team.

Daniel Murphy

Chris: I don’t think Murphy will be the Mets’ starting first baseman in September.  Either Davis or (ugh) Mike Jacobs will take the job from him on a permanent basis.  But I do think he will be a better hitter than he was in 2009, though he probably won’t put up another 7.6 UZR/150 season at 1B.

Will: Murphy’s another guy I’m bullish on for whatever reason. In 2008 and early 2009, he showed keen strike zone discipline. In the second half of 2009, he showed decent power. Combine the two and add some water, and you’ll have a slightly above average hitter, who’s ill-suited for first base.

Joe: I’ll honestly be surprised if he’s still a starter come summer.

Johan Santana

Chris: I’m somewhat worried that we won’t see Johan touch the levels of his 2008 season again, but I would be happy to be proven wrong.  Maybe it’s just the lingering effects of Bret Saberhagen Disease that caused last year to be so bad.  Still, I expect him to exceed what he achieved in 2009.

Will: Both? Santana started 2009 with a flourish, striking out the world and pitching to a microscopic ERA. Then, he stopped striking folks out altogether and his pinpoint control escaped him. I’d love to blame the latter performance on his elbow injury, but I’m not so sure I can. This much is clear — Johan has a lot of mileage on his left arm and his best days are behind him. Is that to say he’s done? No. If he can hover around the 4-5 WAR mark, he will earn his salary.

Joe: He’ll be solid, but not dominant; he’ll have no motivation, and like KRod, he doesn’t perform his best without motivation.

Mike Pelfey

Chris: I like Pelfrey, but his lack of a true strikeout pitch may prevent him from ever fully reaching his ceiling.  His ability to induce ground balls is admirable, but without good infield defense, he can’t be a very good pitcher.  He might have to find his way onto a better defensive team before we see what Big Pelf is truly capable of achieving.

Will: Exceed. He gave up an inordinate amount of long balls late in the season, plus the middle infield play behind him was atrocious. Even though Castillo is still there (or in this case, not there), Reyes’s return should do wonders for Mike. It’s also worth noting that Big Pelf improved his strikeout rate last season after posting a ~2 K/9 ratio in the first six weeks of the season.

Joe: Fifteen wins with a 4.5 ERA would be a good season in my eyes.

John Maine

Chris: This is a key year for Maine.  If he can’t stay healthy this year, he’s not going to be tendered a contract for 2011, and he’s going to have to sign a minor league deal somewhere else and fight for a rotation spot.  For some reason, I’m slightly optimistic Maine can have a decent season this year.  Maybe my optimism is misplaced, but I think he can give the Mets a league average ~150 IP or so.

Will: I have no expectation of John Maine. He hasn’t been good since early 2008 and shoulder woes are bad news for pitchers. Let’s hope he gets through it, but he shouldn’t have been counted on for this season.

Joe: Twelve wins if he stays healthy, which is unlikely.

Oliver Perez

Chris: He can’t possibly be as bad as he was in 2009, right?  He will never again be as good as he was in 2007, never mind his age-22 season in Pittsburgh in 2004, but I think he is at least capable of being a league average pitcher in the aggregate, even if it means the return of Good Ollie/Bad Ollie drama.

Will: Exceed. I expect the healthy Oliver Perez to be his normal, below average self.

Joe: I can’t even stomach thinking about him to make a prediction.  Sorry.

Francisco Rodriguez

Chris: I see a continuation of his downward trending statistics.  I’ll be honest; I hope if the Mets are out of contention by August, that they shut Frankie down or move him to the 8th inning.  Anything to keep him from finishing 55 games in 2010 and triggering the first part of that dreaded vesting option.

Will: Repeat. It’s hard to see him getting worse. He isn’t even 30 yet.

Joe: He’ll lead the NL in blown saves because the team will be out of contention early and he won’t give a crap about playing.

Pedro Feliciano

Chris: I always include Feliciano here, even though I don’t know what to say about him, since he’s been the one constant in the Mets bullpen since 2006.  I think he’ll be OK, but will wind up reverting to a LOOGY role after an attempt at being a primary setup man fails when he can’t retire right-handed batters.  Leaning towards repeat here.

Will: Regress. Pedro Dos was awesome last year — he cut his walk rate in half! I wouldn’t expect that again.

Joe: He’ll be the set-up man by default come mid-May, and he’ll be traded by the deadline in July.

Who will the Mets’ best pitcher and best position player be at the end of 2010?

Chris: The Mets’ best pitcher will be Johan Santana, almost by default.  Jose Reyes will be the Mets’ best position player.

Will: Johan Santana and David Wright. And if the Mets fade again down the stretch, expect Wright and not the flotsam around him, to be blamed.

Joe: Francoeur will be the only above-expectation position player and Feliciano will be the most reliable pitcher; both will most likely be traded by mid/late-July.

THE REST OF BASEBALL:

Home Run Leaders

Chris:

NL: Ryan Howard

AL: Alex Rodriguez

Will:

NL:  Prince Fielder

AL:  Mark Teixeira

Joe:

NL: Ryan Howard

AL: Alex Rodriguez

Batting Champions

Chris:

NL: I never know what to put here. I like trying to guess, though.  Hanley Ramirez?

AL: How about…Ichiro?  Who knows, who cares.

Will:

NL: Hanley Ramirez

AL: Ichiro

Joe:

NL: Chase Utley

AL: Evan Longoria

Stolen Base Leaders

Chris:

NL: Jose Reyes

AL: Carl Crawford

Will:

NL:  Jose Reyes

AL:  Jacoby Ellsbury

Joe:

NL: Michael Bourn

AL: Carl Crawford

Teams That Will Surprise

Chris:

AL: I think the Texas Rangers will win the AL West in what should be an interesting pennant race.  I’m not sure if it’s that much of a surprise, but I think the rest of the AL will go pretty much chalk, so they would probably be the biggest surprise on the national level.

NL: I think the Atlanta Braves can win the NL East.  I don’t think they will, but they will give the Phillies more of a “phight” than many people think.

Will:

AL: Indians.  Plentiful young talent could surprise in a weak division.

NL: Cubs. They’re inefficient, butthey have enough talent and few major holes. They’re a Soriano bounce back away from the Wild Card.

Joe:

NL: Florida Marlins

AL: Texas Rangers

Teams That Will Disappoint

Chris:

AL: The Seattle Mariners will not finish over .500.  They were a good offseason story, but Cliff Lee is already hurt, and I just don’t think they have the horses to overtake two talented teams in the Angels and Rangers.  They certainly aren’t the sixth best organization in baseball.

NL:  I think there’s an excellent chance that the Dodgers will not make the playoffs.  The Rockies are very capable of winning the NL West, and I think the Braves and Brewers will both be competitive in the Wild Card race.

Will:

AL: White Sox. I’m not sure what’s expected of them, but Harold Reynolds likes them, and after looking at their roster you can see why. They’re a gang of grissiony, grinding and grizzly vets dressed in black. In other words, they have a bunch of players who haven’t been good in several years.

NL: Giants.  Their run prevention will be worse without Winn and Lewis, plus Sabean and Bochy haven’t a clue of what a good hitter is.

Joe:

NL: Atlanta Braves

AL: Boston Red Sox

Most Valuable Player

Chris:

NL: Eventually, the MVP electorate has to give this award to Chase Utley, right?  Why not 2010?

AL: Mark Teixiera will benefit from the Yankee hype machine and another really good Yankees season.

Will:

NL: Ryan Howard because the voters are insanely dumb.

AL: Evan Longoria because he’s better than A-Rod.

Joe:

NL: Hanley Ramirez

AL: Evan Longoria

Cy Young Award

Chris:

NL: Roy Halladay in his first year in the NL.  Even Lincecum isn’t good enough to win this three straight years, right?  And even if he is, there’s no way the BBWAA would let him do it, short of a historic, Pedro in 2000-type season.

AL: I like Greinke to do it back to back.

Will:

NL: Roy Halladay

AL: Felix Hernandez

Joe:

NL: Josh Johnson

AL: CC Sabathia

Rookie of the Year

Chris:

NL: It might be too easy to say Stephen Strasburg, but I think he is going to dominate from day one in the majors.  I think Heyward might struggle a bit too much to win this.

AL: The AL field isn’t as deep as the NL.  I’ll take Austin Jackson in a pick I don’t feel even remotely good about.

Will:

NL: Aw, for the hell of it, Jon Niese.

AL: Carlos Santana

Joe:

NL: Jason Heyward

AL: Wade Davis

Team Records – Only Chris was smart enough to know how to use Microsoft Excel to make this easy, so he is the only one who submitted predicted team records.

AL East

New York Yankees, 100-62

Boston Red Sox, 95-67*

Tampa Bay Rays, 90-72

Baltimore Orioles, 81-81

Toronto Blue Jays, 65-97

AL Central

Minnesota Twins, 90-72

Chicago White Sox, 82-80

Detroit Tigers, 75-87

Kansas City Royals, 70-92

Cleveland Indians, 67-95

AL West

Texas Rangers, 85-77

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 84-78

Seattle Mariners, 80-82

Oakland Athletics, 75-87

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies, 93-69

Atlanta Braves, 90-62*

New York Mets, 82-80

Florida Marlins, 81-81

Washington Nationals, 68-94

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals, 98-64

Milwaukee Brewers, 89-63

Cincinnati Reds, 81-81

Chicago Cubs, 78-84

Pittsburgh Pirates, 68-94

Houston Astros, 66-96

NL West

Colorado Rockies, 93-69

Los Angeles Dodgers, 86-76

Arizona Diamondbacks, 79-83

San Francisco Giants, 75-87

San Diego Padres, 64-98

Playoff Winners (LDS, LCS, World Series)

Chris:

LDS

Yankees over Rangers in 3 games

Twins over Red Sox in 5 games

Cardinals over Braves in 5 games

Phillies over Rockies in 4 games

LCS

Yankees over Twins in 5 games

Cardinals over Phillies in 7 games

World Series

Yankees over Cardinals in 5 games

Will:

LDS

Yankees def. Rangers

Rays def. Twins

Rockies def. Braves

Cardinals def. Phillies

LCS

Rays def. Yankees

Cardinals def. Rockies

World Series

Rays defeat Cardinals

Joe:

NL East: Phillies

NL Central: Cardinals

NL West: Rockies

NL WC: Dodgers

AL East: Yankees

AL Central: Twins

AL West: Rangers

AL WC: Rays

World Series: Yankees over Cardinals in 5

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