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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