Pre-Preseason-Preview-View

Today is January 17, a full month before the Mets’ pitchers and catchers are to report for Spring Training. It’s still far too early for a season preview, and too soon for a spring training preview – but is it too early for a pre preseason preview view? Probably. But the Mets’ 40-man roster looks set, and barring a trade and a few inevitable minor league signing, the Mets are ready to go for Spring Training. One can even see the beginnings of the Opening Day roster. Here is a very early look at the 2012 Mets:

The Lineup:

C – Josh Thole
1B – Ike Davis
2B – Daniel Murphy
SS – Ruben Tejada
3B – David Wright
LF – Jason Bay
CF – Andres Torres
RF – Lucas Duda

- First things first: This whole team costs about $88-92 million dollars to field. That’s not close to the $130 million dollar payroll being discussed this time last year, and it’s not all that close to the $100 million dollar payroll floated in the fall. The Mets will have somewhere between the 10th and 15th highest payroll in baseball this season, and the lowest among the Chicago/LA/New York teams.

- Think about the offense! Think about the offense! Don’t think about what an awful fielding team this is going to be — as part of their regular defensive alignment, the Mets will be running out the worst fielding third basemen in baseball, Jason Bay in left field, and then one-time-first-basemen at first base, second base, right field, and catcher. Tejada, Davis, and Torres can all cover their ground and then some, but it’s hard to imagine those three making up for the rest of the defensive booger-eaters.

- Seriously though, think of the offense. The Mets should be able to score runs. Everyone in the lineup has shown the ability to get on-base in the past, and Davis, Wright, Bay, Torres, and Duda have all flashed some power during their careers. Health from Wright and Davis and improvements across the board – Thole, Davis, Murphy, Tejada, and Duda are all hopefully in the still-improving parts of their young careers — should help close that gap created by the departure of Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. The floor looks like an average offensive team. When Jason Bay is threatening to be your worst offensive player, you’re probably doing all right. Except for the whole having Jason Bay on your team thing.

– Speaking of: Jason Bay’s contract has been such a disaster that the Mets reconfigured their stadium half-way through the deal in an attempt to compensate for Bay’s diminished power and poor range.

- I know that’s not actually what happened . . . but that’s sort of what happened.

- Spring Training subplot: Who’s going to hit leadoff? With this group, it’s easier to list the candidates who definitely won’t bat leadoff. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda definitely won’t hit leadoff. Johan Santana definitely won’t hit leadoff. Terry Collins seems too convention to do something weird-if-logical like batting his high-OBP catcher or one of his former sluggers in the first spot, which probably eliminates Josh Thole, David Wright, and Jason Bay.

That leaves Ruben Tejada, Andres Torres, and Daniel Murphy. Assuming Collins wants to avoid putting pressure on Tejada to replace Jose Reyes both in the lineup and on the field, we can cross Tejada off for leadoff. That leaves Torres and Murphy. Torres has the traditional leadoff hitter speed (60 career steals), while Murphy has the better career OBP (.343 to .318). I would lean towards Murphy and his OBP, except for fear that this would happen once a week:

Everyone in the stadium except Daniel Murphy: “Man, this would be a really awful time for a poor base stealer to try to steal a base.”

Daniel Murphy (breathing intensely): “I’m so gonna run on this pitch.”

In a SABR-friendly world where the best hitter gets the most at-bats, David Wright would hit leadoff (and Ruben Tejada would hit ninth, or something like that). But I think it’s more likely the Mets will rely on a rotating cast of leadoff hitters throughout the season.

How does this look:

CF – Torres – S
2B – Murphy – L
3B – Wright – R
1B – Davis – L
LF – Bay – R
RF – Duda – L
C – Thole – L
SS – Tejada – R

That’s not awful, right? Right?

Starting Rotation:

SP – R.A. Dickey
SP – Mike Pelfrey
SP – Jon Niese
SP – Dillon Gee
SP – Johan Santana

- How about this from the department of arbitrary comparisons:

R.A. Dickey, 2010-11: 383 innings, 58 starts, 3.08 ERA, .304 OBP against, .372 slugging against, 124 ERA+
Tim Lincecum, 2010-11: 429.1 innings, 66 starts, 3.08 ERA, .306 OBP against, .354 slugging against, 124 ERA+

Over the past two seasons, the biggest difference between R.A. Dickey and Tim Lincecum is that Dickey has eight fewer starts, and only because he missed the beginning of 2010 pitching in the minor leagues. (Second-biggest difference: Dickey throws a silly pitch.) Otherwise, the two have been nearly identical in terms of effectiveness. The anonymous Met who wrote that New York Magazine piece missed that these Mets do have someone to match up with Strasburg, Lee, Hanson and Hudson: R.A. Dickey, the Mets’ best pitcher and player.

- If the Mets can squeeze 550 mediocre innings and 150 not-awful innings out of Jon Niese, Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee, they’ll be okay. Is that setting the bar low enough? We can make it lower. The Mets’ rotation was actually just 10th in ERA (out of 16 teams) in the National League last season. If the starters can repeat that performance and the bullpen improves, the Mets could make a run at having an average pitching staff.

- Beards: Pelfrey, Niese, and Dickey

- Goatee: Santana

- Weird Half-Goatee: Dillon Gee

- Spring Training Subplot: What does Johan Santana look like without facial hair? I can’t find any pictures and now I’m curious.

- Chris Schwinden, Jeremy Hefner, and Garrett Olson as the rotation depth in Buffalo, with Miguel Batista as the major league swing-man, aren’t a totally awful bunch. Rotation depth is an underappreciated part of roster construction. Pitchers get hurt so often that a team’s rotation isn’t the first five guys, it’s the first seven or eight guys. These middling Quad-A guys may not seem important, but they matter.

Bench:

C – Mike Nickeas
IF – Justin Turner
IF – Ronny Cedeno
OF – Scott Hairston
OF – Mike Baxter

- Spring Training Subplot: The fifth bench spot looks up for grabs. I have Mike Baxter penciled in there for now. Unless the Mets bring in another dude, lefthanded hitting outfielder Adam Loewen and righthanded hitting infielder Josh Satin look to be his only serious competition. So that’s an exciting race.

- The bench is a little light on bats, though I have a hunch Justin Turner might prove a good pinch-hitter. Turner went 5-16 with two walks in that role last season. While I suspect his general clutch-ness last season had a lot more to do with Turner’s ability to hit breaking balls than it did with any superior clutch skills, being able to dump tough sliders into right field against pitchers thinking “I have no idea who this guy is, let’s see if he can hit this tough slider” seems like a useful pinch-hitting ability.

- That’s a pretty brutal bench, though. Mike Nickeas and Ronny Cedeno only have value as defensive replacements, while Turner and Baxter are pretty much replacement-level players.

Bullpen:

RHP – Frank Francisco
RHP – Jon Rauch
RHP – Ramon Ramirez
RHP – Bobby Parnell
RHP – Manny Acosta
LHP – Tim Byrdak
RHP – Miguel Batista

- Francisco, Rauch, Ramirez and Byrdak are locks, so I see three spots in the back of the bullpen up for grabs. I think Parnell and Acosta get nods, and the third spot goes to Miguel Batista as longman-swingman-hilariously-old-guy depth. The Mets are light on lefty relievers again.

- D.J. Carrasco is still on the 40-man roster. Fernando Martinez is a Houston Astro. I still don’t get this. Josh Stinson, Josh Satin, Zach Lutz, Armando Rodriguez, Jeremy Hefner are all still on the 40-man roster as well. Even if Martinez had just a 5% chance of reaching his potential, he’s still worth more than any of those other players. There must be more to this story than we know, or Sandy Alderson just made an oops.

- Josh Stinson, Pedro Beato and Daniel Ray Herrera will ride the Buffalo Express for all of 2012. I suppose each has a shot at making the Opening Day roster, but they all have options and I can’t see the Mets dropping Manny Acosta to make room for any one of them.

That’s what I’ve got for the Mets’ roster. Back of the envelope — that saying has no meaning to me outside of being another way to say “making an estimation”– this looks like a 77-win team. If a few things go right, .500 is within reach. If a lot of things go right, maybe an 85-win Mets team sneaks in as the second wild card. If a lot of things go wrong, the Mets cut $40 million from their payroll, lose their best player to the Miami Marlins and spend a few years floundering between cost-cutting and rebuilding before MLB finally steps in and puts them out of their misery.

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31 Comments

Filed under Columns, Mets, Words

31 responses to “Pre-Preseason-Preview-View

  1. 77 wins? Try 70 if they are lucky. RA Dickey is no where close to Lincicum no matter what the stats say. Knuckleballers are not reliable day to day. This team is doomed and you drink too much cool aid. If you are a real Mets fan, you will not go to Citi field until those criminal owners are toppled.

  2. They’ll lose a lot of games 8-5; 7-4; and the like. They’ll score runs, but they’ll give up even more. 73-89, last place in the East.

  3. Yeah 70 is about right, def not 77. Didn’t we win 77 last year? This team is worse. Nickeas and arguably Thole do not belong on MLB 25 man rosters. It is embarrassing.

    • Patrick Flood

      They did win 77 last season, and these Mets will be without Jose Reyes, and half-seasons of Carlos Beltran and Frankie Rodriguez. I see the pessimism. But the 2012 Mets should get something from Johan Santana, more from Ike Davis and David Wright, and much more from a rebuilt bullpen. I think that’s enough to stand still.

      • I guess we can always just say that’s why they play the games, but in a pre preseason preview..we can guesstimate. I agree that the Mets could arguably be better than last year’s team based on your comments Patrick, however, the rest of the division also got better. SO while in one vein we could say the 2012 Mets could be better…they very well might be and still win 70 games and finish in last because everyone else in their division either improved (Marlins, Nats) or stayed ahead (Phillies, Braves) of us.

        But again, that’s why they play the games.

      • It’s a worse team, probably the worst team the Mets have fielded since ’04. Mike Nickeas is an uncontested member of its MLB roster.

      • Uncontested?!? How dare you besmirch Vinny Rottino’s good name!

      • Patrick Flood

        ^ I approve this message.

      • Awesome joke guys, great job! But what you are forgetting is Mike Nickeas is our full blown back-up catcher and takes a righty bench spot up. That is the funnier joke.

  4. Great post, Patrick – except for one thing. A cause i have taken up for years is to make people properly identify facial hair, and you have made a pretty common error:

    Beard on a chin – goatee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goatee)
    Beard on a chin, connected to a mustache: a Van Dyke. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandyke_beard)

    Knowledge is power!

    Brian

  5. Interesting take, Patrick.

    Oh, and i’m pretty sure those last two comments were the same person.

  6. And what if they trade the closer at midseason and don’t bother to replace him… cost them quite a few wins last year.

    The bench and the lineup takes on a new look if you suggest that Turner beats out Murphy for the starting 2B gig, which isn’t unreasonable. Either one will likely be the best bat on the bench most days. I kind of expect Carrasco to make the opening roster with Batista in Buffalo, now that he’s survived the offseason cuts. Batista will be up before his opt out tho, one way or another.

    How is it that the Phillies can get Joel Pinero and Brian Sanches to pitch for Lehigh Valley, and Boston can get Silva, Padilla and Aaron Cook to compete as potential 5th starter placeholders until Matsuzaka gets back, but the Mets can only find Miguel Batista interested in competing for their 5th start spot, which is likely to turn into 4th starter? (Holy run-on sentence) You would think these guys might go to the team that actually has the big league openings.
    There are still some interesting loogy candidates out there who could be worth a look see in March. Arthur Rhodes and Mike Gonzalez and a few others.

    • Patrick Flood

      I suspect the sad truth is that players actually want to play for competitive teams the Phillies and Red Sox, and will take less to go there than to come to the Mets.

      I agree with the Carrasco/Batista thing. If the front office is as attached to Carrasco as they seem, it makes more sense to start the season with Carrasco in the majors and Batista in the minors, with Batista coming up as soon as the Mets need another pitcher. They’ll retain depth that way.

  7. Patrick,

    Any shot Sandy and Terry consider Kirk for that final bench spot. I mean he fits, he can play all 3 OF spots and bats left, which is something this bench will need. Also gives the fanbase a new homegrown guy to root for.

    • Patrick Flood

      No, I don’t see Nieuwenhuis as the fifth bench guy. He’s lefty bat and can play the outfield, but I think it makes more sense to let him get 100-200 more PA in Triple-A, and then bring him up if Jason Bay falters. Let him play everyday in the minors, and when they need him to start in the majors, bring him up.

      • ray

        Yeah, Mets brass would rather pay 1.5M for a POS like Hairston than give a minor leaguer a shot at the minimum.

      • That’s nonsense. There’s no point in rushing Cap’n Kirk as he’s coming off a season ending injury, starting his arb clock early, and then sitting him on the bench.

        Hairston is not a POS, he’s actually a near perfect bench piece that’s being pair right in line with his worth, to do something that would be waste of developmental time for a minor leaguer who might actually be part of the next “successful” Mets team.

    • you know who sounds like a fairly ideal match for the role you are describing? Fernando Martinez.
      *shrug*

  8. This Mets team will surprise many. Last year they won 77 games and lost 23 that they were leading due to the bullpen. If they won 13 of tose they would have had 90 games won. We have a good offense.The starters have to give us 6 innings or maybe more so the pen can come in.So many fans are negetive on the Mets this year. They are a young team and many of the other NL east are older guys who are declining.They are hungry to win and will.

  9. I agree with your general assessment of how the leadoff hitter SHOULD be decided. My first choice is David Wright, and my second would be Daniel Murphy followed by Wright. One of my arguments is that I believe that if David hits leadoff he’ll change his approach and stop trying to dig the longball. I firmly believe Dave could hit .330+ (maybe .350) if he would just stop trying for the fences. Batting second MIGHT have the same effect, if we’re lucky.

    I think Torres would be a good candidate to bat ninth, putting speed on (or more often, not on) just before the good hitters come up.

    If we see that Thole has returned to his 2009/10 (especially 2009) form, then I would be happy to bat him leadoff, followed by Murphy and Wright, but I want some visual evidence before I go there.

    • While I like the thinking about DW as a leadoff hitter, that pretty much necessitates the middle of the order (3-4-5) to be Duda, Ike and Murph. Three lefties in a row? I really don’t like the idea that a good LOOGY completely neutralized the middle of the order. Maybe if Bay weren’t a shell of his former self, I’d like DW at the top, but as it is, I think he has to break up that trio.

      I think Murph really makes the most sense, but really, I don’t think it’s impossible that Torres finds some semblance of the OBP form from 2009 that would make him a viable 2-hole hitter. Basically whether it’s Murph-Torres or Torres-Murph, I think Collins is ok.

      • I agree on not having all those lefties line up and needing Wright in the middle of the lineup somehow. The other all profile as potentially good two hole hitters. Having a couple of them at the top of a lineup could be better than having a speedy game.

  10. I predict that the Mets win somewhere between 40 and 120 games in 2012. Book it!

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