2011 New York Mets Season Preview

2010 Outcome: People forget, the Mets were the NL Wild Card leaders at the All Star Break, but a bad West Coast road trip and injuries lead to their downfall. General Manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel were dismissed and the Amazins’ chose former A’s/Padres executive Sandy Alderson and promoted manager Terry Collins to lead the organization back to the playoffs, which have eluded the Mets since 2006.

Top story: Despite the state of flux the organization is in, the main headline is the lawsuit against the Saul Katz and Mets owner Fred Wilpon. The reason is the uncertainty of the future. Will the Mets become a cash strapped organization (such as the San Diego Padres) or will they continue to spend as they have in the past? No one knows, but how could losing $1.5 BILLION not change an organization?

Position players
Infield: The Mets corner infield spots appear to be in good hands with Ike Davis (.264, 19 HR, 71 RBI) and David Wright (.283, 29 HR, 103 RBI) bounced back in an important way after a disappointing 2009. The only alarming number for each are the strikeouts: Davis (138 K’s in 523 AB) Wright (161 K’s in 587 AB).
However, the rest of the infield is a question mark. Jose Reyes (.321 OBP, 30 SB) must put the history of injuries behind him are thyroid and oblique problems last season. After averaging 158 games played from 2005-08, Reyes played for a COMBINED 169 games in 09-10. The make matters worse, his contract expires at the end of the season and Reyes may surpass the Carl Crawford 7 yr/ $142 million contract in the open market. Look for the Mets to move him by the trade deadline regardless of their place in the Division/Wild Card race. The other matter is at second base, where it appears Brad Emaus (career .276 ave in the minors) will succeed the dismissed Luis Castillo. After a slow start in the Spring, Emaus has hit well since Castillo’s release, but will he hit once the games count?

Outfield: Angel Pagan (.290, 11 HR, 37 SB) is the brightest spot for the Mets since July of 2009 and now is the full time Center fielder. He should flourish in the full time role, but like Reyes, Pagan must remain healthy. Jason Bay (.259, 6 HR, 47 RBI) was a career worst after averaging .280, 30 HR, 99 RBI with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox. There is little doubt that Citifield was the major reason for his decline. What remains to be seen is whether he will bounce back like David Wright did or will he not produce again?
Carlos Beltran (.255, 3 HR, 27 RBI) will be the Mets “rental car” for the rest of this season. In the final year of his 7 year deal, Beltran will be motivated to perform to get a new contract, but the Mets are likely to move him as well if he has a good season. Either way, the Mets will have another new player in Right Field next Opening Day… again. The Mets black hole position hasn’t had a right fielder play consecutive Opening Day’s since Darryl Strawberry.
Catcher: Ronny Paulino (.259, 4 HR, 37 RBI) will have to catch up for the lost time, but the Mets appear to be just fine with Josh Thole (.277, 3 HR, 17 RBI in 73 games). Thole took the reigns from Henry Blanco and Rod Barajas, but his work defensively showed his progress. With thole behind the plate, the Mets’ staff ERA was 3.54. He allowed 4 passed balls in 61 games and was the personal catcher for a knuckleball pitcher. He also threw out 44% of runners who attempted to steal.

Starting Rotation: This can be summed up with three words: health, potential, and guile. The potential was shown last year with Mike Pelfrey (15-9. 3.66 ERA) and Jon Niese (9-10, 4.20 ERA). Niese pitched well in his rookie season, but said concentration was the reason for “hitting a wall” in August. He had three months with a 3.10 ERA or lower and three months with a 4.43 ERA or HIGHER. Pelfrey’s numbers were almost as erratic. He had five months where he was (15-6 with an 2.75 ERA), but was 0-3 with a 10.02 ERA in July, which helped end the Mets season.
The guile was Robert Alan Dickey. Dickey used his “different” knuckleball and guts to an 11-9 record with 2.84 ERA. Dickey has the most potential to revert back to a career minor leaguer, but the Mets have seen this script before. In 1997, the Mets had former replacement player Rick Reed and he was key in the next four seasons for the Mets. If the two are similar, the Mets may have found a tough reliable pitcher, which was sorely been missed.
The health resides with the rest of their pitchers: Johan Santana, Chris Capuano and Chris Young. The Mets cannot rush Santana back, no matter how close to first place/Wild Card they could be. Santana is too important to their team’s future beyond THIS season. Capuano and Young may prove to be great bargains. Each have had previous success… and history of injuries. Young started 36 games since 2008 after averaging 30 from 2005-2007, but his career 3.80 ERA is promising. Capuano won 18 games in 2005, but TWO Tommy John surgeries derailed his career. He has combined for 19 wins since 2005, which included two years without throwing a pitch in the major leagues. If either pans out, the Mets get a steal, but don’t hold your breath.

Bullpen: Pedro Feliciano is gone, but Franscico Rodriguez remains. If K-Rod finishes 55 games, the Mets owe him $18 million for 2012. He is candidate number one likely to move in August to a contender in need of a setup man. Bobby Parnell (2.83 ERA, 10.5 K/9) showed a lot of promise, but is not likely ready to take over the ninth inning. DJ Carasco (3-2 3.68 ERA) has struggled in the spring, but will likely be a swing man for the Mets and can spot start if needed. Tim Byrdak will be the lefty specialist despite struggling over the last couple years with Houston.

Competition: For the Mets to make the playoffs, they must take the division or the Wild Card from the Braves, Marlins or Phillies which is not likely. They can contend, but will likely fall off in August after the roster is retooled by Alderson. If they are within striking distance of the playoffs, Santana could be rushed back and could contribute. However, this teams chances of vaulting the teams within their own division are slim. If you add the rest of the National League, the Wild Card could have as many as nine contenders such as the Rockies, Brewers, Cardinals, Giants, and Dodgers.

MVP: No doubt, it will be David Wright. Wright will have to outperform his 2010 comeback season and not start slowly. In June of 2010, he became the first Met to hit over .400 in a month. If his protection holds, Wright can have a big season. If the Mets suffer more injuries, Wright can match his 2009 numbers in RBI’s.

Breakout player: Ike Davis. Davis can possibly surpass his rookie numbers and hit 25 HR’s 100 RBI. Davis looked lost at points last year as most rookies struggle, but his month of August was horrible. He hit .214 with no home runs and five RBIs. Davis responded with September where he hit .330, 4 HR, 14 RBIs. He will likely be the Mets cleanup hitter this season.

Most important: Sandy Alderson talked about the Mets going down to $60 million after 2011. That would be without Jose Reyes and Fransisco Rodriguez in the mix. It will be interesting to see what shape this team will be in come September, but Alderson’s track record shows that he can build winners in markets with limited resources- if that’s what the Mets become. No matter what, Alderson will have to lead this team into a new era.