Mets 2020 projections: Marcus Stroman

The Mets acquired Marcus Stroman near the trade deadline last year, partially as an upgrade to Jason Vargas and partially as a 2020 replacement for Zack Wheeler. The cost was two prospects, which by itself was okay but combined with giving up two prospects in an earlier deal, really caused the Mets to be thin at the upper levels of their farm system.

Vargas ended up being given away to the Phillies to make room for Stroman. In his 11 starts with the Phillies, Vargas was 1-4 with a 5.37 ERA and a 1.518 WHIP. Meanwhile, Stroman also made 11 starts with his new team and went 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA and a 1.475 WHIP. On the surface, he certainly appeared to be an upgrade from Vargas. But both players were better before the trades then afterwards. Would the Mets have been better with Vargas and the prospects? Right now it’s too soon to tell. A lot will depend on how Stroman does in 2020 and if he ends up with the Mets long term.

Meanwhile, Stroman had a very odd debut with the Mets last year. In his first seven starts, he really did not resemble the guy who dominated with the Blue Jays, as he had a 5.05 ERA, a .918 OPS allowed and opposing batters had a .387 BABIP. But in his final four games with the Mets, we saw a pitcher who was even better than the guy who made the All-Star team earlier in the year. In that closing stretch, a span of 24 IP, Stroman had a 1.88 ERA, a .540 OPS allowed and opposing hitters managed just a .258 BABIP.

It’s tough to hang your hat on 24 IP. But in 124.1 IP with Toronto last year before the trade, Stroman had a 2.96 ERA and a 1.227 WHIP in the league with the designated hitter. And it’s not like he was never good before. In 2017, he posted a 3.09 ERA and a 1.308 WHIP in 201 IP. The less said about 2018 – where he resembled the Stroman from his first seven starts with the Mets – the better. But we have 349.1 IP over the past three years where Stroman’s performed like a low-end SP1 or a high-end SP2.

We also have 138 IP where he’s been an SP5. How do you forecast a guy like that? Let’s start by checking with what the computer models have:

ATC – 173 IP, 3.80 ERA, 152 Ks, 58 BB, 18 HR
Marcel – 162 IP, 3.94 ERA, 142 Ks, 54 BB, 18 HR
Steamer – 179 IP, 3.89 ERA, 154 Ks, 59 BB, 18 HR
ZiPS – 169.1 IP, 3.72 ERA, 144 Ks, 53 BB, 17 HR

That’s a lot of agreement among our four models. You better have a solid reason to deviate from this, regardless of direction.

In 2018, Stroman battled a shoulder injury. The problem first surfaced in Spring Training and while he opened the year in the rotation, he was sidelined from May 9 to June 22. Before going on the then-called DL, Stroman had a 7.71 ERA. In his first 10 starts after he returned, Stroman had a 3.34 ERA and limited opposing batters to a .655 OPS with a .303 BABIP. But Stroman was lit up in his final two starts of the season, as he allowed 9 ER in 5.2 IP. Those last two outings, Stroman battled blister problems. Since it was September, no DL move was announced. He simply didn’t pitch after September 3.

So, the computer models are weighing 2018 heavily, since it happened so recently. Stroman did not have either shoulder or blister problems last year. Are they “cured” and in the past? You never like to hear about a pitcher with a should problem. And blisters can linger, too. The responsible thing would be to put up a prediction in line with the computer models. But a healthy Stroman is significantly better than that.

If we’re going to dice his 2019, and include his first seven starts with the Mets in the “bad” column, shouldn’t we dice 2018 and put his middle 10 starts in the “good” column? That seems appropriate. So now we have 409 IP over the past three years where Stroman’s been good and 78.2 IP where he’s been bad, with the majority of the bad innings occurring when he was nowhere near 100%.

Here’s my totally biased prediction for Stroman in 2020:

IP – 180
ERA – 3.05
Ks – 144
BB – 54
HR – 15

You’ll have more credibility in the future if you chime in now with what you think Stroman will do this year. Next, Amed Rosario goes under the forecast microscope.

Mets 2020 projections: Jeff McNeil

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the 2019 season – and there are a ton of good options from which to choose – was the team not believing more in Jeff McNeil. Sure, they believed in him enough not to trade him. But they thought so little of him that the GM considered second base to be a “primary need” for the club. That decision is going to haunt them for years.

McNeil came up and was fantastic in 248 PA in 2018. He was every bit as good, and likely better, over 567 PA in 2019. McNeil posted better OPS+, wOBA and wRC+ numbers in his sophomore seasons. The only place where he took a step back was on defense, as he had to reacquaint himself with the outfield due to the senseless trade.

It looks like a done deal that McNeil will be at 3B in 2020. And whatever little doubt there may be about that right now will be cleared up if Yoenis Cespedes is ready to contribute … something … at the start of the season. Because beyond a shadow of a doubt, McNeil needs to be in the lineup. It may not be at his ideal position of 2B but it will still be good to see him back on the infield.

The fascinating thing about McNeil’s offense during the 2019 season is how the shape of his production changed the final two-plus months of the year. In his breakout year of 2018, which started in the minors, McNeil hit for both power and average. But when he came to the majors, he seemed intent on trading power for average.

And the first 91 games of last year were very similar. After the game of July 28, McNeil had a .336 AVG and a .909 OPS. It was an outstanding follow-up to his rookie season. But in the final 42 games of the year, McNeil started to look to hit for more power. In his final 187 PA, McNeil belted 13 HR. In order to produce the power, he had to sacrifice his average. McNeil hit just .279 – a drop of 57 points – in those final 42 games but his OPS jumped to .940, an increase of 31 points.

Without a doubt, adding power to his game made him a better offensive player.

The question is if he’ll be able to maintain that type of power over a full season, especially if the baseballs resemble the ones from last year’s playoffs more than the ones from the regular season. That’s true for a lot of players, not just McNeil. But given his excellent AVG over the first 154 games of his MLB career, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where McNeil starts looking to hit for power but finds the sledding there tougher and transitions back to being an AVG hitter.

Add in the wrist injury that ended his 2019 season and all of that makes coming up with a forecast a challenge. Let’s check in and see what the computer models say:

ATC – 615 PA, .296/.357/.478, 20 HR, 72 RBIs
Marcel- 508 PA, .306/.372/.501, 18 HR, 62 RBIs
Steamer – 660 PA, .288/.348/.462, 20 HR, 73 RBIs
ZiPS – 573 PA, .293/.355/.480, 19 HR, 71 RBIs

Three of the four systems see essentially the same exact player. And it’s not like Marcel is far off from what the others project. The biggest difference is playing time. Marcel has the short end of the playing time projection while Steamer sees him getting 152 more trips to the plate.

Here’s my totally biased prediction for McNeil:

620 PA
.285/.355/.560
27 HR
86 RBIs

Obviously, it’s my belief that the wrist is healed, the baseballs won’t be radically different from what they were in the regular season last year and that McNeil will continue to hit for power. It’s an optimistic forecast in the power department, for sure. It might be pessimistic on his BABIP and his walks.

You’ll have more credibility if you chime in now with what you think McNeil will do this year. Net up to undergo the forecast microscope will be Marcus Stroman.

Mets 2020 projections: Noah Syndergaard

Perhaps no pitcher on the staff has the chance to benefit more from new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner than Noah Syndergaard. Sure, sure – Edwin Diaz‘ results may be more important to the club. But would Hefner get credit for that or would it be the offseason work with Pedro Martinez that Diaz has supposedly done that would get the credit?

We’ve seen firsthand the raw materials that Syndergaard possesses. They’re topnotch yet Syndergaard has one fatal flaw. No, it’s not his ability to keep runners from stealing. So far that’s proven not to hurt him as bad as one might think. Instead, it’s Syndergaard’s inability to put batters away once he gets to two strikes on a hitter.

Starting pitchers in the NL last year had a combined .253/.317/.434 line. Meanwhile, Syndergaard allowed opposing hitters a .714 OPS allowed, 37 points better than the league average. But once the count gets to two strikes, NL pitchers saw their OPS allowed drop to .524, a decline of 227 points. Syndergaard’s OPS allowed with two strikes was .543 – a decline of 171 points.

How could Syndergaard be able to get to two strikes better than other league starters yet fare worse once he got there? Some say his inability to pitch inside effectively is the culprit. Others think that his slider is not the weapon it once was, leaving him without a go-to pitch. Maybe it’s one of these, maybe it’s both or maybe it’s something completely unrelated.

Regardless, Hefner has a chance here to make a big difference.

*****

We’ve talked here earlier and more often about how effective Syndergaard is pitching to Tomas Nido than any other catcher on the team over the past two years. With Nido catching him over 24 starts and 153 IP, Syndergaard has a 2.41 ERA and a .610 OPS allowed. Overall in those same two seasons, Syndergaard has posted marks of 3.73 and a .686, respectively. Here are the ERAs allowed by Syndergaard with other backstops catching the past two seasons:

Travis d’Arnaud – 10 IP, 9 ER, 8.10 ERA, 1.016 OPS
Jose Lobaton – 6.1 IP, 2 ER, 2.84 ERA, .914 OPS
Devin Mesoraco – 28 IP, 10 ER, 3.21 ERA, .718 OPS
Kevin Plawecki – 47 IP, 24 ER, 4.60 ERA, .678 OPS
Wilson Ramos – 97 IP, 56 ER, 5.20 ERA, .731 OPS
Rene Rivera – 12.2 IP, 4 ER, 2.84 ERA, .697 OPS

Those six have combined for 201 innings and 105 ER for a 4.70 ERA.

The Mets’ refusal to pair Syndergaard with Nido on a regular basis is nothing short of madness. Ramos caught too many games last year, anyway. Why not give him 30 or so scheduled days off? They say pitchers do better on a regular rotation – why not catchers? Give Ramos those days off and a breather on some day games after night games and he can have a more manageable 115-120 games played, rather than the 141 games he logged last year, a career-high at age 31.

*****

Okay, let’s get to the forecast. We’ll start by seeing what the computer models predict for Syndergaard in 2020:

ATC – 186 IP, 3.76 ERA, 191 Ks, 47 BB, 22 HR
Marcel – 174 IP, 4.03 ERA, 179 Ks, 48 BB, 20 HR
Steamer – 195 IP, 3.89 ERA, 200 Ks, 52 BB, 24 HR
ZiPS – 186.2 IP, 3.33 ERA, 197 Ks, 45 BB, 21 HR

As expected for a player with an established track record, the computer models are all pretty much in agreement here, with the exception of ZiPS and its bullish ERA forecast. This time last year, a 3.33 ERA wouldn’t have been considered a bullish ERA prediction for Syndergaard. But it’s not like we can forget the 4.28 ERA he posted last season.

Can Hefner have an impact that Dave Eiland and Phil Regan before him did not have with Syndergaard? Will the Mets not be so dogmatic with their idea that no pitcher should have a personal catcher? Will Syndergaard and Ramos work better together in their second season? Those questions will go a long way towards answering what kind of year Syndergaard will have in 2020. Here’s my totally biased prediction:

IP – 190.2 IP
ERA – 2.93
K’s – 197
BB – 42
HR – 15

You’ll have more credibility in the future if you chime in now with what you think Syndergaard will do this year. Next, Jeff McNeil goes under the forecast microscope.

Mets 2020 projections: Robinson Cano

It’s difficult not to be seduced by Robinson Cano. He was on a Hall of Fame trajectory through the end of the 2017 season. And after a miserable start to 2019, he hit like what his supporters hoped he would in the final 25 games of the season. In that stretch, he posted a .338/409/.600 line in 93 PA. Imagine having that guy in the lineup over an entire year, to go along with the other offensive weapons the club has. One could have visions of the Mets having a 900-run season.

But then reality calls.

What’s the likelihood that at age 37, playing second base, that Cano can put up that type of production over 150 games? Through last year’s injuries and 2018’s suspension, Cano hasn’t played 150 games since 2017. And only three players in MLB history have played 150 games at second base at age 37, none since Frank White did the trick in 1988. White’s batting line that year? He put up a .596 OPS and a 64 wRC+.

Jeff Kent misses our arbitrary cutoff by one game and he remains the sliver of hope among the 37 year olds in the post-integration era. You have Kent with a 3.6 fWAR and no one else who played the majority of their games at second base putting up an fWAR over 2.5 at that age. Somehow, Marco Scutaro put up a 2.5 fWAR in 2013 for the Giant while amassing 127 games and 547 PA. For what it’s worth, Scutaro played five games the following year and then his career was over.

Cano has two things going for him. One, as his closing stretch last year indicates, he’s still not helpless against MLB pitching. And perhaps more importantly, he has the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval from the GM. Last year, we saw Cano gifted the chance to play every day and bat third when most of us would have been giving him days off and moving down in the lineup. You have to think that type of preferential treatment would have continued had Carlos Beltran been the team’s manager.

But what happens if the Mets do end up giving the job to an old-school manager with a little more clout? Would, say, Buck Showalter have continued to utilize Cano like the Mets did in 2019? As of this writing, with the new manager yet to be declared, that’s perhaps the biggest wild card when trying to subjectively forecast Cano in 2019.

Let’s check in with the computer forecasts. We have a new one this week, with FanGraphs posting the ATC projections. So, let’s see our four objective predictions for Cano:

ATC – 512 PA, .271/.330/.439, 17 HR, 64 RBIs
Marcel – 446 PA, .264/.324/.437, 15 HR, 55 RBIs
Steamer – 565 PA, .271/.327/.448, 20 HR, 74 RBIs
ZiPS – 377 PA, .260/.316/.405, 9 HR, 39 RBIs

Wow, that’s a little bit different from last year, when the computer models all were very much in lock step with one another. This time we have ATC and Steamer being fairly similar but Marcel and ZiPS being much more bearish, especially in terms of playing time. The Steamer forecast comes with an fWAR projection, too. That system sees Cano as essentially a league-average performer, as they have him putting up a 1.9 fWAR. It seems safe to say that Marcel and ZiPS would be short of that total.

Unless Cano has injuries at a worse level than last season – not an unreasonable position to take – or they hire a Showalter-type as manager, this seems less likely, it’s hard for me to imagine playing time like ZiPS forecasts. With that thought in mind, here’s my totally subjective prediction for Cano in 2020:

440 PA
.265/.320/.440
19 HR
70 RBIs

You’ll have more credibility if you chime in now with what you think Cano will do this year. Next up to undergo the forecast microscope will be Noah Syndergaard.

Mets 2020 projections: Jacob deGrom

Jacob deGrom won the Cy Young Award last year, which is kind of remarkable given the start that he got off to in 2019. After nine games, deGrom was 3-5 with a 3.98 ERA and hardly resembled the pitcher who was so dominating in 2018. But from that point until the end of the season, a span of 23 games and 152 IP, deGrom was 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA. He limited batters to a .538 OPS and had a 0.901 WHIP with a 6.3 K/BB ratio.

So, how was deGrom able to turn things around? In those first nine games, deGrom threw to three different catchers. Wilson Ramos caught him five times, Tomas Nido three times and Travis d’Arnaud once. In the three starts with Nido, deGrom allowed just 1 ER in 21 IP. When he threw to either Ramos or d’Arnaud, he allowed 22 ER in 31 IP. Ouch.

Nido caught him his next three outings and deGrom got locked in. And even though Ramos returned to catch most of his games the rest of the year, deGrom was unstoppable. Maybe it’s too simplistic to say that Nido got him in a groove and even Ramos couldn’t mess it up. Regardless of how it happened, Ramos and deGrom learned how to work together and by the end of the year, their results were terrific. Kudos to both of them for working out whatever kinks plagued them at the beginning of the season.

Now we’re left wondering what deGrom can possibly do for an encore here in 2020 after winning back-to-back CY Awards. We’ve gotten used to dominance from him when he takes the mound. Can he keep it up in what will be his age-32 season? For what it’s worth, Max Scherzer won the CY Award in 2017 in his age 32 season. Can deGrom make it a three-peat? The last pitcher in either league to win three CY Awards in a row was Randy Johnson, who actually took home the award four straight times from 1999-2002.

Let’s check in and see what the computer models think:

Marcel – 183 IP, 2.80 ERA, 219 Ks, 47 BB, 19 HR
Steamer – 205 IP, 3.12 ERA, 259 Ks, 49 BBs
ZiPS- 184.1 IP, 2.88 ERA, 223 Ks, 42 BB, 21 HR

After three straight seasons with over 200 IP, it seems interesting that two of the three projection systems available now have deGrom falling short of that mark in 2020. Marcel and ZiPS have very similar projections overall for deGrom while Steamer shows him with more innings but an ERA about a quarter of a run worse. None of the three systems show him returning to 2018’s HR allowed level. But, given that he allowed 28 HR in 2017, perhaps that’s not at all surprising.

Here’s my completely biased forecast for deGrom:

IP – 210
ERA – 2.06
Ks – 250
BBs – 43
HR – 16

You’ll have more credibility in the future if you chime in now with what you think deGrom will do this year. Next, Robinson Cano goes under the forecast microscope.

Mets 2020 projections: Pete Alonso

Today we kick off our eighth year of doing individual projections for the top players on the Mets. Like last season, these will be my own forecasts, not a group forecast like was done the first six years of the series. My hope is that everyone will weigh in on what they think the player will do in 2020. You’ll have more credibility later on about how you “knew” that Player X was going to have a breakout year if you say it before the game have started playing. Also, last year during the review part of our projections, a hat tip was given to the poster in the comments section who gave the best forecast. That will be the case again this year.

Just to state the obvious, these forecasts are pure projection and opinion on my part. There is no vigorous and non-biased systematic approach here. But you can get those computer projections from numerous systems out there. Speaking of the computer forecasts, ZiPS has already been released for the Mets, meaning we’ll have them from the start of the project. We’ll include numbers for any forecast system linked on the player’s B-R or FG page at the time our forecast is published.

To honor his amazing 53-homer season, we’ll start with Pete Alonso. Recall that it was far from a sure thing this time last year that Alonso would open the season with the big club. Many speculated that he would spend at least the first three weeks of the season in the minors so that the Mets would maintain an extra year of control. A few – not many – even speculated he would be kept down longer to avoid Super Two status.

But one thing that Brodie Van Wagenen made clear was that Alonso was going to be given a shot to win the job in Spring Training. And Alonso responded by posting a .352/.387/.620 line, with 4 HR in 75 PA. We’d like to think that he would have earned the job with those numbers. But it certainly didn’t hurt that two infielders – Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie – opened the year on the IL, making it easy to bring the rookie north with the club for Opening Day.

Alonso hit right out of the gate, posting a 1.024 OPS the first month of the season. And outside of a brief lull right after the All-Star break, he pretty much hit all year long. One of the big questions about Alonso was if he could play first base at an acceptable level. And he ended up being much better than the scouting reports led us to believe. Alonso actually looked quite good scooping balls out of the dirt. Perhaps the biggest complaint with his defensive play was an over-eagerness to go after seemingly any ball hit on the right side of the infield. But there were improvement with that as the year went along and it’s possible even that won’t be an issue in 2020.

Defense certainly had the potential to limit the number of games Alonso played last season. But it’s unthinkable now after the offensive season he put up in 2019. He could be the equivalent of late-career Ryan Howard-level bad and he’d still be in the lineup every day.

So, how will Alonso fare offensively in 2020?

Looking at this Similar Batter through age 24 over at B-R, there are some interesting names, if not necessarily anyone who screams great comp. It’s certainly nice to see guys like Fred McGriff and Paul Goldschmidt and Albert Belle on his comp list. But it’s a little troubling to see old pal Ike Davis show up at the bottom of the list.

Instead, let’s look at the five top rookie HR players since integration before Alonso and see how they did in their rookie and sophomore seasons:

Aaron Judge
2017: 678 PA, .284/.422/.627, 52 HR, 114 RBIs
2018: 498 PA, .278/.392/.528, 27 HR, 67 RBIs

Mark McGwire
1987: 641 PA, .289/.370/.618, 49 HR, 118 RBIs
1988: 635 PA, .260/.352/.478, 32 HR, 99 RBIs

Cody Bellinger
2017: 548 PA, .267/.352/.581, 39 HR, 97 RBIs
2018: 632 PA, .260/.343/.470, 25 HR, 76 RBIs

Frank Robinson
1956: 667 PA, .290/.379/.558, 38 HR, 83 RBIs
1957: 677 PA, .322/.376/.529, 29 HR, 75 RBIs

Albert Pujols
2001: 676 PA, .329/.403/.610, 37 HR, 130 RBIs
2002: 675 PA, .314/.394/.561, 34 HR, 127 RBIs

First, that’s pretty awesome company for Alonso to be in. But as expected, all took a tumble from the previous season. Pujols’ “fall” was not as big as the others but he also was playing during the Silly Ball era. And we certainly need to keep the ball in mind when making the 2020 forecasts. Alonso was the right guy in the right moment last year, a guy with impressive power playing with a ball that was primed to leave the park. Will MLB feature the same ball in 2020?

Perhaps because of that, McGwire becomes the most interesting comp. His rookie season came in the big offensive year of 1987, the one where Wade Boggs went from 8 to 24 HR, a total he never approached again in his career. Meanwhile, in virtually the same amount of playing time in 1988, McGwire hit just 65% of the HR he did the year before.

So, what do the computer projections expect from Alonso in 2020? Here are the three we currently have available:

Marcel – 547 PA, .261/.353/.566, 39 HR, 90 RBIs
Steamer – 663 PA, .252/.343/.533, 44 HR, 104 RBIs
ZiPS – 620 PA, .254/.347/.551, 43 HR, 108 RBIs

Steamer is a tiny bit bearish, relatively, on the SLG forecast but otherwise these are pretty much in agreement on what to expect, which seems a little odd for a player with so little MLB experience.

To me the big question is how Alonso reacts when he doesn’t hit HR at the pace he did last season. Does he expand the strike zone in an effort to swing at any pitch he think he can club, regardless of if it’s a strike? Or does he confidently take walks and be content with good contact on pitcher’s pitches? My feeling is that there’s more room for AVG/OBP growth than the computers expect.

Alonso hit 27 HR at home and 26 on the road. But other than that, his numbers were all significantly better on the road. That’s not a huge surprise. But it’s certainly possible that Alonso can better his 2019 home BABIP of .217 in this upcoming season. With that thought in mind, here is my completely biased prediction for 2020:

675 PA
.275/.380/.560
38 HR
115 RBIs

You’ll have more credibility if you chime in now with what you think Alonso will do this year. These projections will run once or twice per week from now until the start of the regular season. Next up to undergo the forecast microscope will be Jacob deGrom.

Mets 2019 projection review: Outfielders

This is the third and final edition of our series where we go back and revisit the preseason predictions made here at the site. Today we’ll look at the outfielders. Let’s compare the Mets360 forecast to what the player actually did. And if a reader put in a particularly good prediction in the comments section, they’ll get a shout out now.

Michael Conforto
Forecast – 615 PA, .275/.360/.525, 27 HR, 94 RBIs
Actual – 648 PA, .257/.363/.494, 33 HR, 92 RBIs

It’s a rare forecast where you nail two categories – OBP and RBIs, here – yet feel like it was not a particularly good one. Conforto ended up with six more homers than anticipated, yet his SLG was 31 points lower than the forecast. Sure, 18 points of that was due to AVG but the feeling was, much like Conforto himself, that somehow the end results should have been better. Hopefully next year his 2B won’t run into him and give him a concussion. After returning from the IL, Conforto had a .729 OPS over 209 PA his first 49 games back. It’s pretty amazing what his final numbers look like given that he was below average for one-third of the year. David Klein predicted .260/.360/.510 in the comments section.

Juan Lagares
Forecast – 210 PA, .250/.290/.340, 5 HR, 22 RBIs
Actual – 285 PA, .213/.279/.326, 5 HR, 27 RBIs

The homers and RBIs were right on; it’s just too bad that it took an additional 75 PA to get there. We know who Lagares is at this point in time. The forecast was for him to be pretty bad and it turned out that prediction wasn’t negative enough. If you’re looking for a bright spot, you can say he walked more than anticipated. Lagares did hit more balls in the air in 2019 and got his ISO back in triple digits. But the BABIP gods did not smile on him last year and his 63 OPS+ was easily the worst mark in his seven-year MLB career. Lagares was in the final group projection and no one offered any thoughts in the comments section.

Jeff McNeil
Forecast – 560 PA, .290/.340/.445, 15 HR, 68 RBIs
Actual – 567 PA, .318/.384/.531, 23 HR, 75 RBIs

No one knew if McNeil was going to be able to cut it defensively in the outfield. There was also the question of what would happen if he didn’t run an ultra-high BABIP like he did in his rookie season. Most of the projection systems had him under 500 PA and with an OPS around .750 or so. ZiPS was the outlier, with 605 PA but still saw the same production as it had McNeil with a .756 OPS. So, compared to the big boys, this was a successful prediction. But McNeil still outperformed this by a healthy amount. This forecast was in the final batch and there were no projections from the comments section.

Brandon Nimmo
Forecast – 650 PA, .265/.375/.450, 11 HR, 52 RBIs
Actual – 254 PA, .221/.375/.407, 8 HR, 29 RBIs

Nimmo missed a lot of time last year with the bulging disc and played a month when he should have been on the IL, which didn’t help his final numbers at all. When he came back in September, he put up a .261/.430/.565 line in 93 PA. That .995 OPS came with a .302 BABIP, which is extremely impressive. Just imagine what the Mets would have been like if Nimmo was putting up those numbers in the middle of the year, rather than the dreck that Lagares and Keon Broxton produced in his place. The best part about the Mets360 forecast was the .185 ISO, compared to his actual .186 in the category. Chris F. predicted a 115 OPS+ for Nimmo in the comments section and his final mark was 112.

Mets 2019 projection review: Infielders

This is the second edition of an on-going series where we go back and revisit the preseason predictions made here at the site. Today we’ll look at the infielders and include catcher in this grouping. Let’s compare the Mets360 forecast to what the player actually did. And if a reader put in a particularly good prediction in the comments section, they’ll get a shout out now.

Wilson Ramos
Forecast – 495 PA, .260/.390/.440, 16 HR, 70 RBIs
Actual – 524 PA, .288/.351/.416, 14 HR, 73 RBIs

This was neither a particularly good nor a particularly bad forecast. Ramos ended up playing more games than expected, as the preseason thought was that the Mets would give more playing time to Travis d’Arnaud than clubs typically give to the backup catcher. Still, the PA weren’t that far off from what actually happened. Ramos had a better AVG but a worse OBP and SLG than anticipated. But the HR and RBIs were pretty good. In the comments section, Pete did good with a .285 AVG and a .330 OBP but he thought Ramos would only get 440 PA.

Pete Alonso
Forecast – 504 PA, .235/.320/.450, 25 HR, 75 RBIs
Actual – 693 PA, .260/.358/.583, 53 HR, 120 RBIs

Unlike the Ramos one, it’s pretty easy to categorize this projection. It missed badly. Alonso exceeded this forecast in every single category, often by big amounts. Projecting a .215 ISO for a Mets rookie is not something that happens every year. And Alonso blew past that with a .323 mark. It’s fun to think what Alonso might achieve next season with a year under his belt. And don’t you dare even think about suggesting a sophomore slump. Alonso’s projection came in a group of eight players, which drew very few comments. None of those that replied weighed in on the rookie.

Robinson Cano
Forecast – 523 PA, .283/.345/.445, 18 HR, 83 RBIs
Actual – 423 PA, .256/.307/.428, 13 HR, 39 RBIs

This one wasn’t a good forecast, either. But not many outlets would have predicted Cano to produce as poorly as he did in 2019. There were five computer forecasts available at the time the Mets360 projection was made and these all had Cano in a rather tight range in the triple slash categories. Marcel was very good on the PA end, as it had Cano with 439 PA. But Marcel had a .790 OPS and with a late surge, Cano produced a .735 mark. From the comments section, Mike Walczak predicted a .257 AVG but was off badly on HR and RBIs.

Todd Frazier
Forecast – 250 PA, .225/.310/.410, 10 HR, 36 RBIs
Actual – 499 PA, .251/.329/.443, 21 HR, 67 RBIs

Everyone thought that after missing around a month that Jed Lowrie would come back and be the team’s third baseman. Turns out that was optimistic. Frazier beat the forecast in the slash categories but if we double the forecast to match the actual playing time, the HR and RBIs would be pretty accurate. There were no forecasts for Frazier, who also came in the group of eight, from the comments section.

Amed Rosario
Forecast – 575 PA, .265/.310/.395, 12 HR, 50 RBIs
Actual – 655 PA, .287/.323/.432, 15 HR, 72 RBIs

In the first half of the season, this prediction was right on target. At the break, he was slashing .260/.299/.414 for a .713 OPS compared to a .705 OPS from the forecast. But Rosario posted an .804 OPS after the All-Star game. We were teased with a second-half hot streak in 2018 from Rosario, too. This one lasted longer but came with a .367 BABIP in his final 77 games. This projection also appeared in the group of eight. Gus said he thought Rosario’s AVG was too low but he did not say what he thought it would be.

Mets 2019 projection review: Starting pitchers

Let’s go back and re-visit the preseason projections made here at the site. Today we’ll look at the starting pitchers. A forecast was made for all five guys who began the year in the rotation. Let’s compare the Mets360 forecast to what the player actually did. And if a reader put in a particularly good prediction in the comments section, they’ll get a shout out now.

Jacob deGrom
Forecast – 198 IP, 2.54 ERA, 240 Ks, 55 BB, 16 HR
Actual – 204 IP, 2.43 ERA, 255 Ks, 44 BB, 19 HR

This was a pretty strong forecast. And if he hadn’t made that last start of the year he would have had 197 IP and a 2.51 ERA with 248 Ks and 43 BB. It’s unlikely we’ll see a better forecast than that the rest of the year. A tip of the hat to Eric Bloom, who predicted a 2.35 ERA with 267 Ks and 45 BB.

Noah Syndergaard
Forecast – 190 IP, 2.80 ERA, 53 BB, 201 Ks, 12 HR
Actual – 197.2 IP, 4.28 ERA, 50 BB, 202 Ks, 24 HR

Well, the gopher ball sure did cause havoc with this prediction! IP, BB and K’s were all very strong but intel about the new ball did not filter down to me before making this forecast. For what it’s worth, Syndergaard allowed 5 HR when Tomas Nido caught (78 innings) and 19 HR when anyone else (119.2 innings) was behind the dish. None of the readers saw the ERA or HR allowed, either.

Zack Wheeler
Forecast – 205 IP, 2.70 ERA, 210 Ks, 57 BB, 15 HR
Actual – 195.1 IP, 3.96 ERA, 195 Ks, 59 BB, 22 HR

It was a streaky season for Wheeler, who ended the year on an up note, with a 1.80 ERA in his final 40 IP over six starts. But there were too many bad starts for him to meet my high expectations. Seven starts with two homers allowed certainly didn’t help matters. Chris F. predicted an ERA north of 3.50 but also said, “he would be surprisingly lucky to get 30 (starts).” Wheeler made 31 starts.

Steven Matz
Forecast – 110 IP, 3.40 ERA, 108 Ks, 40 BB, 12 HR
Actual – 160.1 IP, 4.21 ERA, 153 Ks, 52 BB, 27 HR

My forecast was for Matz to pitch pretty good but to suffer some type of injury. He was healthy for the second consecutive season but didn’t pitch nearly as well as expected. After the All-Star break, Matz had a 3.52 ERA and gave up 9 HR in 79.1 IP. If he had pitched like that the entire year, this forecast would have looked a lot better. David Klein predicted an ERA around 4.00 for the best from the comments section.

Jason Vargas
Forecast – 141 IP, 4.40 ERA, 125 Ks, 47 BB, 23 HR
Actual – 149.2 IP, 4.51 ERA, 124 Ks, 63 BB, 21 HR

Well, this forecast was pretty strong, too. And Vargas was even better when he was on the Mets – it took the Philadelphia stench to get him in line with my preseason forecast. It would be kind of funny if Vargas ended up being the low-cost 2020 replacement for Wheeler. Name predicted a 4.43 ERA and Gus saw a deadline deal.

Mets 2019 projections: The final eight

We get all revved up for Opening Day, we get a tremendous win over a disliked division rival and then … a day off. It’s a little frustrating. So, to fill this void, let’s get around to guys who didn’t get a preseason prediction. Hopefully the fact that they’ve played 1/162 of the schedule won’t bother you too much when you see these guesses of mine.

Hitters

Pete Alonso – 504 PA, .235/.320/.450, 25 HR, 75 RBIs
Jeff McNeil – 560 PA, .290/.340/.445, 15 HR, 68 RBIs
Jed Lowrie – 450 PA, .245/.330/.410, 12 HR, 45 RBIs
Amed Rosario – 575 PA, .265/.310/.395, 12 HR, 50 RBIs
Todd Frazier – 250 PA, .225/.310/.410, 10 HR, 36 RBIs
Juan Lagares – 210 PA, .250/.290/.340, 5 HR, 22 RBIs

Pitchers

Edwin Diaz – 72 IP, 2.22 ERA, 110 Ks, 25 BB, 7 HR
Seth Lugo – 88 IP, 2.40 ERA, 90 Ks, 25 BB, 6 HR

My expectation is that McNeil will get full-time ABs, with Frazier and Lagares seeing their playing time suffer. Lowrie’s reduced time is injury related. And even 450 PA may be generous, given that we don’t know when he’ll actually return. Diaz comes very close to matching last year’s phenomenal numbers and Lugo spends the whole year in the pen and puts up great numbers as a reliever. My expectation is that Jeurys Familia will be similar, although slightly worse, than Lugo.

Mets 2019 projections: Jason Vargas

Jason Vargas is a nice representation of everything that troubles me about the way the Mets conduct business. They like to reward old guys from other organizations with limited upside and Vargas checks all three of those boxes. That being said, he’s a perfectly fine fifth starter and if the biggest problem on your team is Vargas, well things can’t be too bad.

Last season, Vargas got injured late in Spring Training and perhaps because of that, he got off to a terrible start. Actually, that’s underselling things. He was incredibly lousy for about two-thirds of the time when he was healthy enough to be on the field. And then, his last eight starts of the year, Vargas put up a 2.62 ERA and a 0.963 WHIP, with a 4.1 K/BB ratio.

Yes, his first 12 starts of the year were miserable. But the last eight were numbers that we’re hoping Noah Syndergaard will produce this year. Will Vargas deliver those type of numbers over 25-30 starts? No, there’s probably zero chance that will happen. But will he deliver an 8.75 ERA and average four innings per start like he did in the first 12 games of 2018? Well, there’s probably a non-zero chance of that happening but my opinion is that there’s probably not a double-digit chance that will occur.

Feet to the fire, my take is that Seth Lugo would put up better numbers in a starting role than Vargas would. But the difference would not be huge. And my opinion is that Lugo would put up significantly better numbers in the bullpen than Vargas. Plenty of times in this space, you’ve read me mention that you don’t put people in sub-optimal roles. Is there a contradiction here with my position that it’s okay to use Lugo in the pen? Perhaps. But if you’re a 4.06 ERA pitcher as a SP (Lugo’s lifetime mark) and a 2.38 ERA guy as a RP (also his lifetime mark) – is a bullpen utilization sub-optimal?

For what it’s worth, Vargas has a lifetime 4.23 ERA as a starter and a 5.88 mark as a reliever, although the latter mark covers just 20 games and 41.1 innings.

With his Jekyl and Hyde performance last year, some may think it’s difficult to project what Vargas will do in 2019. Let’s check in on the computer forecasts and see what they project:

ATC —— 9-9, 4.46 ERA, 120 IP, 102 Ks, 39 BB, 18 HR
Marcel – 9-9, 4.65 ERA, 124 IP, 105 Ks, 43 BB, 19 HR
Steamer – 6-7, 4.37 ERA. 105 IP, 88 Ks, 34 BB, 15 HR
THE BAT – 6-8, 4.60 ERA, 113 IP, 98 Ks, 38 BB, 21 HR
ZiPS —— 7-10, 5.08 ERA, 106.1 IP, 92 Ks, 33 BB, 22 HR

Before commenting on the computer projections, let’s take a step back and see what a fifth starter gave NL teams in 2018. Using the FanGraphs leaderboards and setting the parameters to starters and 90 IP, we get 72 pitchers, and while not the 75 necessary for a five-man staff for all 15 teams, it’s close enough. Let’s present the range of what the 61-72 pitchers in this grouping did:

IP – 91.1 to 131.1
ERA – 4.21 to 6.09
K/9 – 6.13 to 7.70
BB/9 – 3.25 to 8.25 (the 71st pitcher had a 5.09 mark, so 8.25 is a real outlier)
HR/9 – 1.21 to 1.95

ZiPS is the most bearish one of our computer models and it projects Vargas for a 7.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 1.86 HR/9. It’s hard to look at what the computer models project and see anything besides solid fifth starter. Would it be nice to have Max Scherzer as your fifth starter? Sure. But if Vargas hits 113 IP with a 4.60 ERA – the median of our five computer forecasts – is Gio Gonzalez any upgrade? The median of the same five computer forecasts for Gonzalez is 123 IP and a 4.38 ERA. Steamer projects Gonzalez and Vargas to both produce 0.8 fWAR this year.

The gopher ball seems like it will go a long way to determine Vargas’ success in 2019. Last year he allowed a 1.76 HR/9, his worst mark in any season in which he threw at least 50 IP. In his All-Star year of 2017, Vargas had a 1.35 HR/9, so clearly he’s going to allow some homers. Even in his strong closing stretch in 2018, he allowed 6 HR in 44.2 IP. We have to accept the homers and hope the majority of them are solo shots.

Here’s my totally biased projection for Vargas:

141 IP, 4.40 ERA, 125 Ks, 47 BB, 23 HR

It’s not anything to get excited about. Yet that’s the definition of fifth starter, isn’t it? Some like to live in Lake Wobegon, where all of the children are above average. The Mets are likely to have above average starters in their first two spots. It’s very possible they’ll be above average in the third and fourth spots, too. They can survive an average fifth starter. Should they have signed Vargas last year? With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to say no. Would they sign him if he was available right now? Again, the answer is probably no. But he’s here and he adequately fills the requirements of the position. Use him as your fifth starter, shrug your shoulders and move on.

You’ll have more credibility in the future if you chime in now with what you think Vargas will do this year. Next week, Amed Rosario undergoes the projection microscope.

Mets 2019 projections: Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano put up a 2.9 fWAR in 80 games last year, which is a terrific number. It’s almost as good as the 2.7 mark Jeff McNeil put up in 63 games. Of course unlike McNeil, Cano has a track record, three times turning in a season of at least 6.0 fWAR, the last one coming in 2016. In his career, Cano has a total of 56.3 fWAR, which is approaching the level at where we need to take his Hall of Fame chances seriously.

And that’s the rub. Cano has been a great player in the past. But we don’t really care about his past – we care about his present and his future. In the MLB universe, it’s getting harder and harder for free agents on the wrong side of 30 to get multi-year deals, as front offices have found out that as a rule, it’s a bad idea to commit years and money to that demographic. But Cano isn’t only on the wrong side of 30, he’s on the wrong side of 35. And he’s at that age while trying to play second base.

It’s not easy to be a productive middle infielder at age 36 and above. In the past 25 years, there have been a total of 46 seasons turned in by second basemen in which they accumulated at least 300 PA in that age range. Of those 46, there have been six seasons where the player amassed an fWAR total of 3.0 or more. So, essentially once every four years. And even that is a bit misleading. One of the six was Ben Zobrist last year, who had a 3.6 fWAR. But Zobrist, who played 139 games in 2018, made just 42 starts at second base. Furthermore, Jeff Kent turned in two of the six seasons.

Certainly, great players can age more gracefully than the average guy. Eddie Collins put up a 5.8 fWAR season at age 36. But for every great player like Collins or Joe Morgan (5.2 at age 38) you can find Hall of Famers like Frankie Frisch (1.8) or Nellie Fox (0.8) or Ryne Sandberg (0.7) or Charlie Gehringer (0.6). Maybe Cano adds some prime age 36 and up seasons like Collins or Kent or Morgan. Let’s see what the computer models forecast for him:

ATC —- 629 PA, .288/.351/.467, 22 HR, 87 RBIs
Marcel – 439 PA, .275/.334/.456, 16 HR, 60 RBIs
Steamer – 617 PA, .278/.339/.457, 22 HR, 80 RBIs
THE BAT – 625 PA, .278/.341/.466, 23 HR, 81 RBIs
ZiPS — 492 PA, .272/.329/.434, 16 HR, 66 RBIs

Two of these forecasts included an fWAR calculation, with Steamer’s line producing a 3.3 mark and ZiPS a 2.5 one. Obviously, Marcel and ZiPS are being heavily influenced by Cano’s 348 PA in 2018. They don’t make an adjustment that it was for a suspension, rather than an injury. The surprise isn’t that those two systems don’t but rather that the others seemingly do.

Also unsurprising is how the systems all have very similar productions lines for Cano. It’s what you would expect from a veteran player. ZiPS is a little more bearish than the others but Marcel and Steamer look like they could be copying from one another in the triple slash categories. This is actually good news. As fans, we now have a realistic baseline of what to expect. If you’re significantly above or below these marks, you need to bring something to the table besides “he’s always been good!” or “he’s just too old!”

We’ve seen Cano’s numbers in his home park take a hit when he went from the Yankees to the Mariners. In his last season in The Bronx, Cano had a .909 OPS at home. It was the third time in the last five years where his mark eclipsed the .900 mark and an .881 OPS was his lowest home rate in this span. But in his five years in Seattle, Cano ranged from a home OPS high of .847 to a low of .795 last year.

Now you may think this is because of Safeco Field. While the vast majority of parks would be less favorable than Yankee Stadium for a LHB, Safeco was not nearly as bad as you might think for a lefty. It’s righty hitters that Safeco is the most unfavorable towards. According to ESPN, in the five-year period from 2013-2017, Safeco had a HR factor for LHB of 1.031 while it was 0.962 for RHB. The park factor for HR for lefties in Safeco ranked 16th in the majors – or right in the middle of the pack.

Safeco was certainly a dropoff from Yankee Stadium. But it was essentially a neutral park for power and pretty similar to Citi Field in both HR for LHB and Runs overall.

So, what’s going to happen to Cano’s home production now that he’ll be playing those games in Queens? If you remember last season, you know that as a team, the Mets really struggled to hit in home games. But it wasn’t just last year. The last five seasons, the Mets have hit better on the road than they have at home, by an average off 55 points of OPS.

Obviously, what’s true for the team as a whole does not forecast what will happen for the individual. McNeil put up a .959 OPS in Citi Field. But of the dozen batters who amassed at least 100 PA in Citi Field, only McNeil and Brandon Nimmo (.822) had an OPS above .766 last year. And while those guys are both LHB like Cano, they were also age 26 and 25, respectively. And LHB Michael Conforto (.682) and Jay Bruce (.547) showed that not every lefty enjoyed hitting in Citi Field last year.

Here’s my completely biased prediction for Cano:

523 PA, .283/.345/.445, 18 HR, 83 RBI

My triple slash forecast is not too far from what the computer models forecast and is more optimistic than ZiPS. The main difference is that my expectation is that he’ll get more time off. Also, my belief is that he’ll get more RBIs with Nimmo and his high OBP batting in front of him. Still, my forecast calls for a drop of 55 points of OPS from what Cano did last year.

To go a step further, my opinion is that Cano ends the year with an fWAR in the neighborhood of 2.5 – which is a good total. Is it worth $20 million? If you believe the FanGraphs Dollar Value calculation, it will be worth almost exactly that. Was it worth booting McNeil off the position? You can make a case for it but my opinion is that case is 50-50, rather than a slam dunk. Will that 2.5 fWAR in 2019 make up for what will come in 2020-2023? No, it won’t.

You’ll have more credibility in the future if you chime in now with what you think Cano will do this year. Next week, Jason Vargas goes under the forecast microscope.