There’s something nagging about the Mets’ 2018 outlook

It’s finally here. Spring training is officially on, as pitchers and catchers had all reported by Monday’s mandatory date. Coincidentally, maybe, the New York area has emerged from its winter-long deep freeze to have a relatively warm week. So spring – actual spring — is definitely visible on the horizon, even without squinting. And not a moment too soon, either.

Here in New York, the 2018 baseball season has been greatly anticipated. Across town, of course, the Yankees are coming off a surprising year. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding season, they came within a heartbeat of the World Series…again. Now, having added Giancarlo Stanton to slug side-by-side with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird, it would appear that they – along with the World Champion Astros, of course – will be the class of the American League. A somewhat more muted optimism – but optimism, nonetheless — is also on display in Queens. By all accounts, the Mets had themselves a terrific offseason. They made good, thrifty free-agent signings in Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier and Anthony Swarzak. They brought back Asdrubal Cabrera for second base and Jose Reyes for the bench. They brought in Adrian Gonzalez to play first base and push young Dominic Smith to get serious. For his part, by the way, Smith has shed 30 pounds and looks a lot better in his uniform, at least. They have an exciting young shortstop in Amed Rosario. They jettisoned their clown-show training staff for what we can only hope will be a more competent handling of injuries. They have a new manager, with some new ideas: Mickey Callaway is enthusiastic with the press, innovative with the bullpen and sympathetic to what his players need. Most importantly, perhaps, the starting pitching appears healthy. Jacob deGrom is coming off a should-have-been-an-All-Star season, Noah Syndergaard is fully recovered from the lat issues that sidelined him from May to September, and Steven Matz – coming off the same nerve realignment surgery deGrom had in 2016 – finally looks ready for a full season’s workload. The attitude would appear to be rising, as well: deGrom, Swarzak and Syndergaard have been talking big about playoffs and such. It would all appear to be in place for the Mets to win at least a Wild Card spot, which would mark the team’s third playoff appearance in the last four years.

And yet…

Even if one is bullish on the pitching staff – the meat-and-potatoes of this club – there is a feeling that this team is still incomplete. Maybe it’s because Michael Conforto isn’t back yet. Maybe they need another pitcher as insurance against all the injury worries – not even necessarily Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb: even bringing back a Jason Vargas type would bolster hopes. We still aren’t 100% convinced about the health of Syndergaard, Matz, Zack Wheeler or Matt Harvey and we’re completely unconvinced that Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo are up to stepping into the breach again. We don’t know if Gonzalez has anything left and we don’t know what kind of production we can expect from Smith or Rosario. Right now, the notoriously cautious pre-season PECOTA projection system pegs the Mets at 82-80 – unimpressive, yes, but only two games shy of a Wild Card spot. We fans, of course, would certainly love to see an improvement on that win total, especially if we’re conceding the division title to Washington. There’s something still off, still too many “ifs” around this team to fully embrace its chances. Callaway and GM Sandy Alderson have exactly 43 days to figure it out.

Meanwhile, hope springs in Florida.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

16 comments for “There’s something nagging about the Mets’ 2018 outlook

  1. February 15, 2018 at 8:57 am

    Mets will get one more pitcher, maybe one reliever as well, then that is it.
    The key will be health, as everyone knows. If Mets have that and are in contention at the All Star break, they will make a move or two, possibly Harvey on the outs if he has upped his value, and then charge toward the playoffs once again. I am going to say 91-71. Perhaps 3-5 games behind Washington for the division, however, if there is a key injury or two from the Nats, Mets could sneak up and take the division. I think the new manager will bring an attitude of confidence and accountability. Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce are what the clubhouse needs. Don’t underestimate Jose Reyes in spot duty. He is still fast and an athlete that could be a factor as he is kept ‘fresh’. It’s all about the Pitching, and the previous regime had worn out it’s effectiveness with these pitchers. Time for something new, new learnings for them.
    Exciting year coming for Metsies.

  2. Hobie
    February 15, 2018 at 9:09 am

    If you’re looking for certainty, there’s death & taxes. I’m much better at rooting than predicting; it’s more fun and has a spiritual center in optimism. LGM.

    • Chris F
      February 15, 2018 at 10:56 am

      The Mets are on an interesting course. While projections are all the rage this time of year, I prefer to focus on the team as it is.

      Alderson gambled that the biggest problem occurred outside the lines accompanied by health matters. No doubt both are true. Team Callaway is saying the right things now, but all before a pitch has been tossed in anger. We will no doubt have plenty to say once we see him and his crew actually manage. Health is a finicky thing. I am pleased that as of today we seem to have everyone in good shape. This is today. Again, not a single pitch thrown in anger yet. Ill wait for April before being convinced the season will start with even 1 turn of deGrom, Syndergaard, Harvey, Matz, and ________. Its too easy to get a come backer in the arm, or make a stupid slide, or get hit on the head shagging fly balls, not to mention unhinging a UCL trying to make the team.

      I think the main FA pick ups were good. I like Bruce and Frazier. I dont like Cabrera and Reyes. I wish Flores and Lagares were traded. I think we need a serious pitcher, like Arrietta.

      In any event, not having to deal with Collins and Warthen is enough to have a smile greet 2018.

      • February 15, 2018 at 12:18 pm

        Can you be more specific when you say the biggest problem occurred outside the lines?

        • Chris F
          February 15, 2018 at 1:28 pm

          Coaching staff.

          The main addition is Frazier. Everything else is a wash (expect for 1B which probably is a net minus). Does Frazier and pitcher health at whatever level it may improve to get you 10 wins? Im not so sure.

          Alderson has banked on coaching being the main off season maneuvering. It had to happen. But is it 10 wins better?

          • February 15, 2018 at 4:49 pm

            Gotcha, thanks,

            I also think the bullpen should be better and it’s reasonable to expect better production from catcher. Plus whoever pitches should benefit from an improved defense. The four infield positions combined for (-68) DRS last year. I think it’s reasonable to expect a 50-run improvement and a 70-run improvement isn’t out of the question.

          • Eraff
            February 15, 2018 at 6:27 pm

            Chris….If you’re trying to figure out how this team goes from disaster to contention based on Todd Frazier, you’re looking in the wrong place…. Healthy Pitching???—90 plus wins and playoffs

          • Chris F
            February 15, 2018 at 8:56 pm

            Sure. I just dont believe that the pitchers live up to expectations whether it be health or some other reason. There is a ton of “what if” sitting on the bump.

            • Eraff
              February 16, 2018 at 7:07 am

              Well… you cannot Position Player your way around a pitching disaster like last years disaster…. add two of the best FA position players and you still won’t win 80 games with that pitching disaster

              Would you have expected them to trade or replace or trash all the pitchers and buy new ones?…. I believe that would be incredibly poor management to do that

              The pitching will identify the Next Decisions…. Trading into a Pennant Race or Trading into a rebuild

              • Chris F
                February 16, 2018 at 9:01 am

                For sure. Thats why if you forced me to predict wins, I think we are headed for 81-84. Its a big improvement from last year, but I cringe at hearing “90”. Every pitching issue we faced last season opens in PSL this season. Realistically, Harvey, Wheeler, Matz, and Lugo are all health risks no matter how good they feel today. Gsellman and Montero are vast unknowns. Its easier to be bad than be good, so Im deflecting my appraisal toward caution on not over-expectation. I figure 2 of the pitching staff will be out come April.

  3. MattMets
    February 15, 2018 at 11:31 am

    This is far from a perfect team. Our defense is average at best, we have no team speed and no true lead off hitter. On the pitching side we’re clinging to a rabbit’s foot and a horse shoe that our talented but brittle staff can stay healthy. On paper we’re not in the same class as teams like the Astros, Indians, Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals and probably add the Yankees and Sawx too. However we have a few things going for us – a weak division/schedule and two wild cards to chase. As long as we can avoid the disastrous injuries of last year, we have the depth to overcome a few and should be good enough to be interesting to watch and competitive. If luck goes our way, who knows.

  4. Eraff
    February 15, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    They don’t figure out anything in 43 days—In 43 days they start to see whether there is a Pitching Staff that befits an addition of Position Players and Pitching Depth.

    The Idea that they should finish this team in the Hot stove ignores the question of whether they could finish it before the season began.

    In 100-125 days, you’ll have an idea of whether they can add players and chase a Season, or whether they will sell off and rebuild—there is no in-between here.

    I think they’ve been very smart…they are in position for a positive result in either direction.

  5. TJ
    February 15, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    If our expectation since 2017 ended was an elite 2018 team considered one of the limited few to win the world series, then I think that was unrealistic and would lead to disappointment at where the team is today.

    If our expectation was a 2018 that could be mentioned objectively as approaching playoff caliber, and one that could compete for the NL east with some good fortune (not the rabbit’s foot type of long shot), then I think that was a realistic expectation that would lead to a reasonable level of satisfaction at this point.

    I am of the latter group. The team is far from perfect, but there have been very few in baseball history that meet that standard. Given where they left off in 2017, with all the injuries and roster gutting, they have done a decent job of positioning themselves. So long as they stand by their word and continue to look for (and find) improvements, I will give them a thumbs up. The bottom line is, the season is soon beginning, and as a Met fan I am excited about that and their chances to compete this season…to me, that’s what it’s all about.

    Oh, and welcome home Matt Den Dekker. I always liked his game..not sure why he couldn’t become a steady 5th OF in the bigs.

  6. Eric
    February 15, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    Just read that Familia (100) and Ramos (99) have the 4th and 5th most saves in the Majors over the last 3 seasons. I think the bullpen is improved dramatically, and if Eiland and Callaway can harness Robles, look out. He could provide a Familia 2014 like jump in performance.

    The lineup will hit for power. Left side of the infield vastly improved defensively. Seems like good club chemistry.

    I’m optimistic.

    • Mike Walczak
      February 15, 2018 at 10:56 pm

      Very few players will land exactly where the metrics and predictions say they will. Just like team and playoff predictions. Some up, some down.

      That is why they play the games. The wonder of what could be pervades the air. I love it. Could be a fun season.

  7. Steve S.
    February 16, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Reports are that we signed Vargas for two years. A decent move. I’m guessing he hit a wall last year, going almost 180 innings, and will be under a 4.0 ERA in the NL this coming year.

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