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2009 New York Mets: Is The Third Time A Charm?

BaseballEvolution.com Spring Preview
by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
April 3, 2009


Much has been made of the Mets’ late-season collapses the past couple of years, and their inability to make it past the regular season despite significant leads in September is impossible to avoid. Fortunately for the Mets, they appear to have solved the problems that plagued them last year with a busy offseason. The question is: have they done enough to contend again and win?

2008 Standings - NL East
East W L PCT GB Home Road RS RA Exp W% RHP LHP
Philadelphia Phillies 92 70 .568 0 48-33 44-37 799 680 .573 60-48 32-22
New York Mets 89 73 .549 3 48-33 41-40 799 715 .551 55-51 34-22
Florida Marlins 84 77 .522 7.5 45-36 39-41 770 767 .502 62-56 22-21
Atlanta Braves 72 90 .444 20 43-38 29-52 753 778 .485 52-57 20-33
Washington Nationals 59 102 .366 32.5 34-46 25-56 641 825 .387 37-66 22-36

Brian Schneider hopes to bounce back from a staph infection that limited him to 110 games last season. The Mets are relying on him to be a stalwart defensive catcher because they certainly are not relying on his bat (.257/.339/.376). All said, however, he is an adequate #8 hitter, especially considering the defense he brings to the table.

Departed Pos.
Moises Alou OF
Damian Easley 2B
Trot Nixon OF
Aaron Heilman RP
Joe Smith RP
Ricardo Rincon RP
Matt Wise RP
Luis Ayala RP
Ambiorix Burgos RP
Acquired Pos.
Francisco Rodriguez RP
JJ Putz RP
Sean Green RP
Ron Villone RP
Casey Fossum RP
Livan Hernandez SP
Freddy Garcia SP
Tim Redding SP
Elmer Dessens SP
Jeremy Reed OF
Alex Cora 2B

Other publications have referred to Carlos Delgado as “the x-factor” in the 2009 Mets’ lineup; I expect him to sink their offense. Delgado is 36 and has been in decline for a couple of years now, and while he had a fine second half of 2008 (.303 average, 21 homeruns, 63 RBI) I believe that was a fluke. Still, the Mets need him to perform near his second-half level if they are going to compete next year. The 2007 Atlanta Braves showed what happens to baseball teams with generally strong offenses but black holes at first base. The Mets won’t be able to trade for Mark Teixeira the way those Braves did.

If Delgado comes to first base as a question mark, then Luis Castillo is an exclamation point on fire. The second baseman batted just .245 in 87 games last year while suffering from a left hip flexor. Castillo is 33 years old, and I do not know what the Mets are expecting from him. His sole redeeming quality is that he can steal bases well.

David Wright

At third base is David Wright, the MVP-caliber third baseman who, at 26 years of age, is coming into his own as a player and has become the face of the Mets. Last season he set career highs in homeruns (33) and RBI (124) while stealing 15 bases and playing everyday but two. Barring injury Wright should only continue to improve.

Fleshing out the infield is Jose Reyes, the Mets’ shortstop and leadoff hitter who stole 56 bases last season and is only a year removed from having swiped 78. He, does not turn 26 until June, but he needs to start cutting down on his strikeouts, walking more, and being caught stealing less. Still, the sky’s the limit for Reyes.

Pos '08 '09
C Schnieder Schnieder
1B Delgado Delgado
2B Castillo Castillo
3B Wright Wright
SS Reyes Reyes
IF Easley Cora
LF Tatis D Murphy
CF Beltran Beltran
RF Church Church
OF E Chavez Reed/Sheff

Hot prospect Daniel Murphy, coming off of a solid 2008 debut season, has been slated to start in left field and hit second in the order. He should be one to watch, though he should watch out because if he starts slow he might be platooned with Fernando Tatis.

Ryan Church might have the biggest health challenge of all Mets (maybe of all players in baseball) as he is coming back from a season where he was concussed twice. (Concussions are very serious business). He’s a complete wild card for this season; I would not be comfortable right now if I were a Mets fan looking at Citi Field’s right field.

Fortunately for Mets fans and management, Carlos Beltran is back for his fifth year as the Mets’ centerfielder, and there’s no real reason to worry about his production next season, barring injury. Beltran turns 32 in April, but he played his most games since 2002 last year and appears to be back on track.

Pos '08 '09
SP Santana Santana
SP Pelfrey Pelfrey
SP Perez Perez
SP Maine Maine
SP Pedro Livo/F Garcia
CL Wagner K-Rod
LP Feliciano Feliciano
RP Heilman Putz
RP J Smith Green
RP D Sanchez O'Day
RP Scherzer Parnell
RP Schoeneweis Stokes
This is an offense that can be quite good, but likely won’t be due to a mixture of injuries and age. The pitching staff has similar potential, but will likely disappointment Mets fans everywhere. The rotation starts strong with Johan Santana who is, despite being slightly injured this spring, still the best pitcher in baseball. Don’t expect another season quite as good as last year’s but expect a Cy Young Award-caliber performance, assuming health. Assuming injuries, you can assume the end of the Mets’ season.

Behind Santana are Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, and Oliver Perez, who are backed up by the dueling tandem of Freddy Garcia and Livan Hernandez, though Hernandez has won the fifth starter’s spot due to his having a better spring. Pelfrey seems to be the best bet to have success next year, as the highly-touted former prospect had a solid 2008 season and is hoping to build off of it. Behind him, however, is the mediocre John Maine coming off a shoulder injury and a near-league average performance over 25 starts. There’s no reason to expect much more than that from him. Then they have Oliver Perez, who is wild and inconsistent. Last season, he walked a league-high 105 batters. No reason to be optimistic about him, folks, and there’s especially no reason to be excited about Livan Hernandez. Aside from the sheer number of innings he throws, he blows.

Mets Team Capsule

The Mets are back. For now. The New York Mets swept a double-header against the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday to run their winning streak to six games. The Mets also took over first place in the NL East for the first time since May 29th of last season. The Mets were a team for whom so much went wrong in 2009, but thus far everything seems to be going right in 2010. The hitters are hitting, rookie call-up Ike Davis looks like everything the Mets were hoping for, Mike Pelfrey has remembered how to pitch, and the bullpen has been nigh unhittable. Even Oliver Perez is giving up less than a hit per inning.

For all the potential problems with the starting pitching staff, the bullpen is as good as any in baseball. On paper, at least. The Mariners sent JJ Putz, who was solid last year despite injuries and who was arguably the best reliever in baseball two years ago, to the Mets to be the setup man for the newly-acquired closer Frankie Rodriguez. Say what you will about Rodriguez -- and say what I do, when I call him a maniac and a loser -- but Rodriguez can close out ballgames, as his record-breaking season last year shows. They have a problem in that the bullpen only has one lefty, the durable (if mediocre) Pedro Feliciano, but LOOGY pitchers are not so hard to find. Overall, they’re solid.

FINAL WORD

These Mets have a lot of potential, but in a lot of cases, they are getting old or are surprisingly shallow. There are numerous question marks on this team, and those sorts of clubs rarely make the World Series. The beauty of baseball and life is that anyone can exceed your expectations at any time, and maybe the Mets can do that this year.


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