Looking at the players the Mets have, and the projection systems used to evaluate the team, has been interesting. Dan Szymborski’s projection system, ZiPS, has projected a meager 68-94 record for the 2013 Mets. However, other, more optimistic, projections systems, such as Nate Silver’s PECOTA, have projected the Mets to finish 80-82. It’s important to understand that a projection system is never perfect, and that there are intangibles. Teams can perform significantly better or worse than the projection. However, it’s pretty likely that the Mets finish somewhere between 68-80 wins next season. A 2013 playoff run for the Mets doesn’t look likely. However, 2014 may be the year of the Mets.
Looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the Mets in the future, the starting rotation seems to indicate a strength that is comparable to the 2012 Rays’ young pitching staff that led the AL in ERA. Arguably, the ace of the Mets’ staff right now, Jonathon Niese, can be compared to James Shields of the Rays 2012 staff. Like Shields, Niese is considered to be soft tossing. His fastball averages 90 miles per hour, yet like Shields he is held back from being a top-tier starter because of his lack of ability to keep the ball in the park. Peripherally, they are very similar. Before his breakout season in 2011, Shields never had a strikeout rate above 8.00. Given that Niese is 25, he should soon be entering his prime. Niese has the pitcher profile of Shields, and in the future could play the same role in the Mets as Shields did in the Rays’ rotation as a solid starter.
The Mets also have the younger talent that is similar to the Rays’ rotation. For example, Matt Harvey is similar to David Price. Harvey probably isn’t going to be as good as Price, however. Currently, he has a plus fastball, and has yet to really figure out how to develop and utilize his secondary stuff. Price’s first full season in the rotation was not pretty. However, his breakout season in 2010 was partly due to his ability to utilize his power fastball along with his secondary stuff. Once Harvey makes the same adjustments that Price made, there should be good things to come in Flushing. I’m not saying that Harvey is going to have the same career as Price, but they have similar profiles and Harvey may benefit from making the same adjustments that Price made.
The Mets’ Zack Wheeler could be comparable to Matt Moore of the Rays, in the sense that he has been an accomplished pitcher at the minor-league levels. He still has a lot to learn, but is a top prospect in the Mets organization who is going to be really fun to watch develop. As far as his career trajectory is concerned, we can’t really say it’s going to be the same as Moore’s because both are pretty young, and Moore hasn’t really logged a lot of major-league time.
So, as Mets fans, we shouldn’t look at 2013 as a frustrating season, but rather a developing season. Once Harvey and Wheeler can make valuable contributions to the team, the Mets won’t be far off. The year 2014 could be when the Mets become contenders. All it will take is for Alderson to add a couple of defensive pieces in the outfield, and some solid arms for the bullpen. The Mets rotation could be a poor man’s version of the Rays 2012 rotation — that would still be a very effective rotation. It may be painful to watch the Mets roll into spring training knowing that there’s a slim chance they contend in 2013, but instead of taking the “glass half empty” approach, maybe we should look ahead. This season may just be a gap year, with some of the younger players getting some experience, so that next year the Mets will be contenders. Then again, there’s always the small chance that the Mets follow the same route as the 2012 Orioles, and unexpectedly clinch a playoff berth.