Team to Beat: 2011 Mets Preview

Manager: Terry Collins
General Manager: Sandy Alderson
Projected finish: 84-78, third place

This preview will be different than those for the other four teams in the division – I’m not going to do a little blurb for every player, because you probably know them all already. (However, if you don’t know them all already, check out Ted Berg’s series.) Instead, I’ll just be briefly looking at how the Mets stack up compared to the other teams in the NL East.

Also, I realized that the Mets play the Phillies and the Nationals this week. It probably makes more sense to run those respective previews the day the series starts. So Phillies preview tomorrow, Nationals preview on Friday.

Lineup:
SS – Jose Reyes
CF – Angel Pagan
3B – David Wright
RF – Carlos Beltran
LF – Jason Bay
1B – Ike Davis
2B – Brad Emaus
C – Josh Thole

The Mets lineup looks good on paper . . . eh, I guess we don’t really use paper anymore. It looks good on a computer screen. Every player has some on-base abilities (Moneyball!), and every player except Thole is an solid bet to end up with double-digit home runs. Then again, even Thole looks like he’s starting to turn on some inside pitches. Either way, the Mets look like they should score runs.

The problem is that every non-Nationals team in the division has a lineup that looks just as good on a computer screen. The Braves’ worst hitter is probably Alex Gonzalez, a shortstop with 20 home run power. The Phillies’ worst hitter is a Placido Polanco, who might hit .300 – an empty .300, but it’s still .300. The Marlins have some trouble at third, but are strong nearly everywhere else.  And even the Nationals have Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman hitting back to back, which could prove to be the best one-two punch in the division.

But everyone also has question marks. The Braves need Nate McLouth to forget about his nightmare season last year and Chipper Jones to squeeze 100 games out of his dissolving body. Chase Utley, the Phillies’ best player, is already out for an indefinite period with a Beltran-like knee injury; he is being replaced by Wilson Valdez, who is . . . well, he’s not Chase Utley. The Marlins have problems with injuries to Mike Stanton and Donnie Murphy already, exposing their lack of depth. And the Mets have Carlos Beltran’s knee to worry about. My guess is that the NL East team that scores the most runs is also the one with the best health in their lineup.

Rotation:
RHP – Mike Pelfrey
LHP – Jon Niese
RHP – R.A. Dickey
RHP – Chris Young
LHP – Chris Capuano

This appears to be the Mets’ largest comparative weakness, though if Young and Capuano are healthy, things start to look up. Still, the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins all have rotations that appear to be much better, with the Nationals the only team worse.

On the other hand, pitchers are always getting hurt, so depth matters. The Marlins aren’t particularly deep in their rotation, the Braves are, and the Phillies look to be somewhere between. The Mets have middling depth with Dillon Gee and Jenrry Mejia in Triple-A, and Johan Santana on his way back. Rotations are fluid, and while the Mets’ looks to be the fourth best at the moment, these things can change in a hurry.

Bench:
C – Mike Nickeas
IF – Daniel Murphy
IF – Chin-lung Hu
OF – Scott Hariston
UT – Willie Harris
(C – Ronny Paulino)

I like this group. Everyone here can sort of do something: Murphy and Hairston provide lefty/righty pop, Hu is a good defender, and Harris gets on-base and hits a home run every once in a while. Whenever it is Paulino returns, this might be the best overall group in the division, though I think that’s may be more of a negative reflection on everyone else than a positive one on the Mets.

Bullpen:
RHP – Francisco Rodriguez
RHP – Bobby Parnell
RHP – Taylor Buchholz
LHP – Tim Byrdak
RHP – Blaine Boyer
RHP – D.J. Carrasco
RHP – Pedro Beato

Bullpens are fickle, and it’s probably not worth trying to figure out which team has the best ‘pen. We’ll figure that one out as the season goes along. The Mets do have the division’s best closer in Frankie Rodriguez (though the best reliever may be the Phillies’ Ryan Madson). The Braves and Marlins have assembled solid collections of arms, and the Nationals’ best group of players might be in their bullpen. The Phillies are top heavy in the relief department, but with someone going 7 innings every night, it probably doesn’t matter.

Up next . . . the Philadelphia Phillies.

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1 Comment

Filed under Columns, Mets, Words

One response to “Team to Beat: 2011 Mets Preview

  1. This would be an 84-78 team in the National League Central where there are just two legitimate “aces” to face in Carpenter and Greinke. Gallardo is not there yet. When I talk about an ace, all you have to do is think back to the playoffs last year when the Reds were the only team without an ace. What is going to hurt the Mets the most this year, other than when management starts to unload Reyes and company, are the estimated 37 or so games (that’s almost 1/4 of the schedule) that Pelfrey, Niese and Dickey have to face Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, Johnson, Hanson and Hudson.

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