Who stands in the way of a Mets pennant?

National LeagueThe Mets will begin the 2017 season vying for an unprecedented third straight post season. This Mets fan likes our chances, despite what Fangraphs (83 wins?!) thinks. If we can win 87 games and make the playoffs with half our team on the disabled list, you have to think we’ve got a good shot to win at least 90 this year with a healthy rotation flanked by a deep bench and bullpen. It also helps to play in a division that only has one other playoff contender.

Thanks to the wildcards, the Mets don’t have to win the NL East to make the playoffs. Five teams out of 15 in the National League will play in the post season and by any measure, the Mets are one of the top five teams. Who besides the Cubs, Nationals, Giants, and Dodgers could you argue is better than the Mets? The Giants have three strong starting pitchers, the best catcher in baseball and now a real closer. Beyond that? Some good defense and a few solid every day players (Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt) but not much else. The back end of their rotation is ugly, as is the bottom of their lineup and middle relief. It’s as though they ran out of money building a team. The Diamondbacks are similarly constructed with a few stars and a lot of holes. The Cardinals have all the makings of a .500 team with good defense and a solid bullpen but no feared hitter or ace pitcher (Adam Wainwright is not who he used to be by any stretch). The Pirates are in the same boat, with some good players but a weak bottom of the order and a solid, but unspectacular rotation that is hardly playoff worthy. The Marlins and Rockies can score runs in bunches but can’t prevent them. The Phillies, Braves and Padres are rebuilding while the Brewers and Reds are still tearing down. Of all these also ran teams, you could best make a case for the Giants to make a playoff push, if they stay healthy and add another bat at trade deadline.

So for the sake of discussion, let’s look at these five teams – the Mets, Giants, Dodgers, Nationals and defending champion Cubs. Fangraphs is bearish on the Mets because of too many ifs – specifically, too many guys coming back from injury or off seasons. The point is, if the team can win 87 games despite having four fifths of the rotation and six of eight starting players hit the disabled list, imagine what they can do if even half of those guys return to health. Plus, they have more depth to start the season than they’ve had in years so they are better equipped to overcome a few injuries this time around. If Zack Wheeler is not ready to join the rotation, Robert Gsellman is ready to step in. If David Wright or Lucas Duda aren’t ready to play every day we have Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera waiting in the wings. If the older Curtis Granderson or the seemingly injury prone Juan Lagares go down, the Mets have more outfielders than they know what to do with.

Similarly, the Dodgers also got hit hard by injuries last season and still made the playoffs. Like the Mets, they got the band back together, resigning their own free agents to give it another shot with their current roster led by baseball’s best pitcher Clayton Kershaw and second most dominant closer in Kenley Jansen. They also have pitching depth and some bench players who could step in. In some ways, the Dodgers and Mets mirror each other and could meet in October.

The Cubs, while loaded on both sides of the ball, have some notable issues. First, they were remarkably lucky health wise last season. It’s rare that a team gets that many starts from their five-man rotation and this time around they don’t have the same depth behind their front line guys to step in if one of them goes down. Secondly, they’ll be relying on the shaky right arm of Wade Davis to replace the unhittable Aroldis Chapman at the backend of the bullpen. Thirdly, Dexter Fowler, a major catalyst for this team, is gone. Without him, they don’t have a true leadoff hitter. Lastly, while Kyle Schwarber‘s big bat will be in the lineup, it will be joined by his tiny glove, which is a serious liability wherever they put him.

The Nationals’ strong rotation is back, but trading their top two pitching prospects away stripped them of any depth in case of injury. And when you’re relying on the frail Stephen Strasburg, injuries are a given. The trade for Adam Eaton and the emergence of Trea Turner gives them some nice table setters in front of their two big lefties – Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper, but the lineup after that is ugly. The aging and injury prone Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, the inconsistent Anthony Rendon, and new light hitting catcher, Derek Norris are backed up by one of the weakest benches in the league. This is a top heavy team with little depth and, barring a trade, their bullpen does not currently feature a real closer. A good rotation and a strong top of the lineup should get them in the playoffs, but the Mets will be the better team in 2017.

 

 

27 comments for “Who stands in the way of a Mets pennant?

  1. Metsense
    February 10, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Nobody !!!

  2. Eraff
    February 10, 2017 at 9:15 am

    The Vertebral Column: 3 starting Infielders recovering from Spinal Surgery

    Out Patient Pitchers: Harvey, deGrom, Wheeler have all faced a Live Surgeon more recently than a Live Batter. Add Matz, who seems to be in a constant recovery cycle. All four were shut down/inactive when the Mets last played.

    In a word…Health!

  3. Reese
    February 10, 2017 at 9:48 am

    The Manager who has never won a World Series.

  4. Jimmy P
    February 10, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Trea Turner.

    That guy scares me. A lot. I think he’s a superstar and a difference maker. He’s going to drive Mets fans crazy. 20 HRs, 100 runs scored, 60 SBs.

    • John Fox
      February 10, 2017 at 10:08 am

      I agree completely on Turner. Will be interesting to see how he does at shortstop, I know he usually played that as an amateur and in the minors. I thought he fit in well in center with his height and speed, centerfield is the spot where speed is most valuable.

  5. February 10, 2017 at 9:53 am

    I like the way you think, Matt! And Eraff has an excellent point.

  6. February 10, 2017 at 9:57 am

    OT: First Vegas over/under number is out (Atlantis Sports book) and has the Mets at 89.5…

    http://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/18657559/chicago-cubs-lead-way-first-nevada-sportsbook-releases-2017-mlb-win-totals

    • February 10, 2017 at 10:37 am

      And which way are you betting?

      This number is always interesting, if not particularly relevant to the team’s actual talent level. To take the over, you’d have to have a pretty good comfort level with the majority of the SP staying healthy.

      I dunno – guess I’m glad to see it this high.

  7. Jimmy P
    February 10, 2017 at 9:59 am

    To be clear:

    I don’t consider Game 163 to be “making the playoffs.”

    To me, it’s the play-in game, not the playoffs.

    I don’t think the Mets participated in the playoffs last season, nor do I think a one-game format plays to their strength, which is having a top-shelf starter every single game.

    Fans may debate if the Mets have the best starting rotation in baseball. If Harvey comes back, I’d say they will make a strong case. The question then is how ably did management surround that staff — which represents a rare opportunity — with quality position players. The concept has been to go with the 2016 roster.

    NL East or bust. That must be the goal and, yes, the measuring stick that determines the regular season’s failure or success. And I don’t think it will be easy.

  8. MattyMets
    February 10, 2017 at 10:29 am

    I feel good about the Mets making the playoffs and like our chances to advance, but notice I made no mention of a World Series win. The AL has some really good, hungry teams, namely the Indians, Red Sox and Astros. As the preview guides start to come out, I’m guessing those are going to be the popular picks.

  9. Eraff
    February 10, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Jim P’s comment about “surrounding the staff”… they had/have no choice but to bet on this Starting Rotation— young, cheap, and really, really good if healthy.

    The other positions they’ve taken are not so great– Duda, Wright, Walker…. over 40 Million dollars of Post Surgical Spines—and I don’t believe Wright is a real chip, at this point. It’s like seeing a Lion at the Zoo—He’s not really a Lion anymore.

    In a Cycle where they have great cheap arms, they should have really solid, well rounded, well paid Position Players— mostly, they’re well paid. They have big bucks in “???’s”… Duda, Wright, Walker, Bruce.

    I realize they’ve worked to control their next rotation of $$’s to Pitching that will be paid and toward cheap young position players who will emerge in the next few years—but they’ve well overplayed that hand.

    It can work—but this is not the team that will win the East— maybe the team on July 31st will be that team. I expect in-season movement, and I expect that it will be needed.

    • Jimmy P
      February 10, 2017 at 11:24 am

      That’s a great line about the lion at the zoo.

      In fairness, the ink had long dried on the Wright deal before SA could go about building an improved roster for the 2017 WS drive.

      He looked at his cards, knocked the table, and said, “I’ll stick.”

      We’ll see. It may be that there’s a lot to be said for continuity, consistency, known quantities.

    • February 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      It also could be that ownership told Alderson to make the Wright deal happen.

      I think it’s an accurate description to consider Cabrera, Walker, Cespedes and Granderson as solid or better position players. And certainly the expectation was that TDA was one of, if not the, best catching prospects in baseball when they got him. Of the guys that Alderson brought on board, I think the only one that is fair to criticize in this way is Bruce. And most everyone entered his initial acquisition with eyes wide open. Most everyone categorized it as less than ideal but that it was a gamble worth taking.

      As far as re-upping with Bruce, I think a few more people were vocal against it but it was still the case that the majority opinion was that we wanted him if Cespedes left and that we would be able to flip him for something worthwhile if Cespedes re-signed. Hey, it didn’t work out that way and now the club has to deal with it. Not every bounce goes your way.

      I can very easily see this team winning the East as currently constructed. That’s not necessarily a prediction but rather the realization that what’s keeping us from being the favorites is health and luck rather than talent. The one thing we do know is that if push comes to shove and they need to bring in something at the deadline – Alderson now has done that in back-to-back years.

      The rotation is dominant if it can stay healthy, the pieces are there for a great bullpen and as flawed as the offense is, there’s every reason to think it will average or better with reasonable health from the middle of the order.

      • MattyMets
        February 10, 2017 at 1:13 pm

        Brian, on that note, there is more to depth than just injury insurance and filling in on days off. I really hope that Collins is smart about playing the hot hand. That really bugged me last summer when Flores was on a tear and then he sat for like three games in a row. This was actually one of the few things that Jerry Manuel was good at. If a guy went 4 for 4, he was in the lineup the next day.

  10. MattyMets
    February 10, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Was looking up something else and just stumbled upon a funny piece of trivia. Only 3 Mets position players have ever registered a season of 8.0 WAR or higher – David Wright (8.3 in 2007), Carlos Beltran (8.2 in 2006) and…..

    ….Bernard Gilkey (8.0 in 1996).

  11. Eraff
    February 10, 2017 at 11:44 am

    I’m not Criticizing the Wright deal, but the Planning Around Wright deals and decisions. “I see your Overpriced Spinal Injury, and I raise you 2 Overpriced Spine Injuries”.

    • Jimmy P
      February 10, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      BTW, let the first red flag of ST be raised.

      Three days into camp, David Wright continues to field ground balls and then roll them toward a bucket.

      He’s yet to “graduate” to throwing to 1B.

      Do you know how hard it is to not throw a baseball on a beautiful Florida field? Not even a soft throw, a lazy throw, an easy toss, a loosening-up lob.

      Nothing yet.

      Maybe like IBB, the new rules will no longer require the actual throwing of the ball. You know, in the interest of speeding up the game.

      Let’s hope!

      Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

      • TexasGusCC
        February 12, 2017 at 1:28 am

        Can’t understand why the Mets continue to expect Wright to be the starter rather than just saying “Let’s see how he feels”. It’s a small thing, but they just don’t want to acknowledge that Wright is not reliable.

  12. BK
    February 11, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    Every year there’s one team that should be hot garbage, but still makes me nervous heading into the season. A bad team from the previous season that will either make a surprise WC run or, even if not a contender, really mess things up for the Mets. It’s completely irrational, but this year, for me, that team is Atlanta. They should be a 75-win team, but I feel like they have just enough youth, defense, pitching, and Freddie Freeman to give the Mets fits.

    • MattyMets
      February 12, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      And they just added Brandon Phillips. I think their rebuild is a season ahead of Philly, but I put them in the same boat as the Marlins – nice offense but not enough pitching.

  13. Eraff
    February 15, 2017 at 6:44 am

    What is the structure of the D Wright “Insurance Deal”. Have the Mets been collecting, or does he needs to be established as permanently disabled?

    This is a big part of their finances and their roster construction going forward. It appears that he’s “hoping to throw a ball” by March 1st… I’d guess that Kelly J. would be on this roster now if D Wright status was established.

    • February 15, 2017 at 7:15 am

      Back in 2015, Ken Rosenthal tweeted this:

      “Once he misses 60 days, team would recoup 75 percent of contract while he is unable to play.”

      https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/603390350506463232

      However, there was nothing about how long the insurance covered. Given the length of Wright’s contract, it’s not impossible that it was built into it that the insurance only covered X number of years.

  14. Eraff
    February 15, 2017 at 11:46 am

    so…have they collected in the past 2 years?

  15. MattyMets
    February 15, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    So the worst case scenario with Wright is that he’s healthy but stinks.

    • Jimmy P
      February 15, 2017 at 12:38 pm

      I think so.

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