In yesterday’s New York Post, Joel Sherman wrote a column entitled, “Odds stacked against Mets.” In the piece, Sherman laid odds on varying events occurring. It was a mix of positive and negative things. Here’s what the oddsmaker wrote:

Carlos Beltran has 500 PA – 20%
Johan Santana makes 10 starts – 30%
Jason Bay 500 PA – 80%
R.A. Dickey for real – 80%
Mets currently have a Major League 2B – 5%
Jose Reyes is healthy and productive – 80%
Chris Young and Chris Capuano combine for 50 starts – 10%

You can quibble with the individual odds listed here but I think there’s more to the story than what Sherman wrote. Here are some additional things that I would like to lay odds on, things that make the outlook not seem so bleak.

Mets get improved numbers from catchers – 80%
Last year Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco combined for 411 PA of .222/.266/.375 production for a .641 OPS. Josh Thole had a .723 OPS in 2010 and figures to get the lion’s share of time at catcher this year. He certainly can improve on last year’s numbers, but even if he doesn’t, it will be a huge upgrade from what the Mets got a year ago. Plus Ronny Paulino had a .665 OPS last year, better than what the Mets received. Keep in mind that Paulino had a .769 OPS at the end of June before being worn down by catching every day, something he will not have to worry about this year in New York.

Mets get improved numbers from second basemen – 90%
While Sherman may not think much of the guys who the Mets have in camp for second base, he should take a second to review what the Mets got from the position last year. Luis Castillo, Alex Cora and Ruben Tejada combined for 741 PA of a .220/.314/.275 line for a .589 OPS. Last year 27 second basemen in the majors had at least 400 PA and the worst number was a .633 OPS. So, assuming the Mets hand the job to anyone – and they turn out to be the worst offensive second baseman in baseball – it will still be a significant improvement over what the Mets received from the position in 2010.

Mets get improved numbers from right field – 95%
Old pal Jeff Francoeur in 447 PA put up a .237/.293/.369 line for a .662 OPS last year. That’s poor for a shortstop and it’s disgusting for a corner outfielder. Among right fielders last year, that ranked dead last among players with at least 400 PA. The next worst was Roger Bernadina, who had a .691 OPS. Even if Beltran is unable to go, whoever the Mets put in right is going to represent a massive upgrade from Francoeur.

So, the Mets should easily see improvement from three spots in the batting order. If Ike Davis just duplicates what he did in 2010 over a full season, that’s still an upgrade from a year ago, as what Mike Jacobs did in his month of action at first was Francoeurian. Jason Bay, while covered by Sherman, is likely to improve upon what he hit a year ago.

Now we are looking at a team that is likely to improve by significant amounts in five of the eight everyday lineup spots. Two of the other spots are covered by Jose Reyes and David Wright, so it’s hard to imagine a big dropoff in production there and in Reyes’ case, it’s even possible that we will see improvement.

Which brings us to Angel Pagan. The projections on FanGraphs have him essentially matching what he did offensively in 2010. And there’s reason to be optimistic that he can beat those numbers. Last year, Pagan had an .845 OPS before the All-Star break and a .678 mark afterwards. Did pitchers figure Pagan out or did the constant switching in both the outfield and the batting order do him in?

Of all the hitters on the Mets, Pagan might be the most likely to regress from 2010. But the projection systems see him maintaining his 2010 numbers and there’s even a shot he improves from what he did a season ago, if switching between RF and CF really did hurt his offensive production.

What kind of fan do you want to be? Do you want to go all Eeyore and talk about how Beltran and Santana will miss significant time and the club doesn’t have a second baseman and Dickey is going to turn back into a pumpkin? Or do you want to focus on a lineup that has a realistic chance to be better at six positions compared to a year ago and a non-zero chance to be better in all eight spots?

Virtually no team has all of its questions heading into the season answered either positively or negatively. Maybe Beltran misses half the year, Dillon Gee and Pat Misch make more starts than Capuano and Young and Bay’s power is still MIA. But that still leaves a lot of things to go right. Davis takes a step forward from his rookie year, Pagan hits like he did in the first half and Reyes returns to being a dynamic leadoff hitter.

The bottom line is that no one knows how these questions will be answered over the 162-game season. It’s wise to keep in mind the volatility and not expect a 95-win year. But it’s just as smart not to expect the worst and predict a 75-win season, either.

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7 comments on “Odds stacked in favor of Mets

  • SteveP

    Sorry, the meme is WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!! Don’t you just LOVE pre-season defeatism?

  • Chuck

    This team would be lucky to win 75 games.

    No Santana.

    Probably a minimal contribution from Beltran so Harriston/Hairston? Makes you ong for the days of Shane Spenscer & Karim Garcia.

    No legit second-baseman.

    Starting pitching that is inconsistent (Pelfrey), unproven (Niese, Dickey) and injury risk (Young, Capuano).

    I could go on …. this team is a train wreck …. would not surprise me to see them finish last.

    • Brian Joura

      You know – they get to replace people if they’re injured. Santana not being around is definitely going to hurt but replacing his 11 Wins from a season ago is not insurmountable.

      I have no doubt that a Willie Harris/Scott Hairston platoon would be miles better than Shane Spencer/Karim Garcia.

      Their 2B will be light years better than what they trotted out last year, even if it’s not “legit” in your eyes.

      The SP is definitely a concern. Some questions will be answered favorably and others not. The assumption that they all stink is extremely unlikely to wind up true.

      They won 79 games last year and had a Pythagorean record of 81-81. The offense is shaping up to be 75+ runs better than a year ago yet they are going to be “lucky” to win 75? In order for that to add up – you have to believe the pitching staff is going to be 100+ runs worse than a year ago. Unless they trot Oliver Perez out there every five days that seems unlikely.

      • SteveP

        They need to make some smart decisions and the smart decisions aren’t all going to be the traditional fall back of baseball teams, glovesy veterans for example. It would be insane to think that guys like Young and Capuano are going to give them 185 innings each, but they’re the kind of guys who have been effective and have games pretty well matched at least to Citi. The nay-saying seems like a mix of the usual NY stuff, the cancerous attitude of some towards the Mets and the whole New York thing that if you don’t have an all-star at every position you’re gonna be screwed. But what Brian says is right, if you just run through the likely players, and plug in a standard RC formula, this teams scores a lot more runs. Replacing Santana of 2010 is simply not a monumental task, I’m more concerned about how the bullpen pieces fit together. The question to me isn’t whether they’ll be better than 2010, because I think they certainly will be. The question is whether they can go from a second division team to a wildcard team and I just don’t see that as a huge hill even if ultimately they need some help/bumps from some other teams in the division.

    • LGNYM

      The pitching was near the top of the league last yr and that wasn’t just b/c of Santana.
      I don’t think it will be as bad as people project.

      And the Mets haven’t had a good 2bman since Valentin’s fluke season in 2006. It will be hard for this yrs 2b to be worse than last yrs..(unless they give the job to Castillo again).

      Beltran didn’t contribute much of anything last yr, so even if he doesn’t do much this yr its not like you are losing out from one season to the next.

      This team might not be great, but I don’t see them being worse than last yr.

      And there is nothing that will make me long for Spencer/Garcia.

  • Guz

    I enjoy reading articles by people that actually put some thought and research into what they say. I tend to be more of the optimistic type early on, but I am also a realist. Health will clearly be a hurdle again this season, being that our depth is nowhere near what the elite teams have. But, if a few things go our way and we win some of those one run games we have lost the past few seasons, then 85 wins is not out of the question. And if you are at 85 wins, you have a chance to make a move or two to get to the wild card spot. Likely this year will end up with no play-offs, but with a good draft this coming season and the potential development of some of our prospects under DePodesta would put us a lot closer to the kind of depth that could help down the road. Combine that with upwards of $60M coming off the books next off-season and we have the chance to fill some of the holes that some of these other posters are eluding to. Of course, this all means nothing if the Wilpons go bankrupt and we have no means to sign anyone….

    Guz

  • John

    Baseball is a funny game in that the season is so long and the way the schedule is set up with teams tending to play each other in clusters (three games series, and usually rematches within a week or so). Each team goes through hot streaks and slumps. So if you play a poor team when it is hot or a good team when it is slumping really can make a difference in a final record.
    Because the season is a marathon, things do tend to even out. So a good team will win more games than they lose and a bad team will lose more than they win. But how the schedule plays probably is worth four or five games a year, either positively or negatively.
    My feeling is the Mets are a .500 team. Add five wins and they go to 86 wins and ten games over. Add five loses and now they have 75 wins.
    86 wins competes for a wild card.

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