Sunday, April 7, 2013

2013 New York Mets Season Preview

The 2012 New York Mets saw many highlights last season. A no-hitter, a 20 game winner and Cy Young winner, and a new team leader in hits, and a piece of the future puzzle. But once again, the second half swoon came into play. The Mets won 74 games last season, 4 less than 2011. This season looks as though the hardships will continue, (Who will replace the 20 wins R.A. Dickey gave the Mets last season?), (Who will replace Santana in the rotation?) the future appears bright. With the likely additions of Zack Wheeler and Travis d'Arnaud sometime before the season ends, fans might get a glimpse at the future of the starting rotations with Wheeler, Harvey and Niese.

The optimal lineup for the start of this season will likely be as follows
Collin Cowgill-CF
Daniel Murphy-2B
David Wright-3B
Ike Davis-1B
Marlon Byrd-RF
Lucas Duda-LF
John Buck- C
Ruben Tejada- SS

Not exactly Murderers' Row, but if each player hits to his full potential the Mets might surprise a few people and be the sneaky contender for that second Wild-Card spot, introduced just last season.

Collin Cowgill was acquired in the offseason via trade with the Oakland A's in exchange for Jefry Marte. An impressive Spring Training landed Cowgill the starting Center-Field spot over contenders like Matt den Dekker, Jordany Valdespin, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Best Case Scenario:
Cowgill proves his worth to the team by starting 120 games, hitting around .270 with a high on base percentage and a good glove.
Worst Case Scenario:
Cowgill struggles and struggles mightily with the Mets, hitting a measly .210, his speed declines over the course of the season and is eventually replaced in the lineup by Jordany Valdespin. Cowgill is also released in order to make room on the roster for prospect Matt den Dekker.
My Prediction:
Cowgill makes a nice contribution to the team hitting around .255-.260 with a relatively high OBP and makes some nice defensive plays in the outfield.

Daniel Murphy makes it for his third consecutive Opening Day this year and for the second consecutive year at second base. Last year Murphy hit .291 with an on base percentage of .331 while slugging .403 for a .734 OPS, a drop from his underrated 2011 performance in which he was fifth in batting at the time of his knee injury.

Best Case Scenario
Murphy continues to make improvements in his game both on the field and at the plate. Murphy's average rises back to over .300 with slightly more power than last time.
Worst Case Scenario
Murphy's production drops significantly, making many wonder if he really is the answer long term at second base. Eventually he is replaced by Mets prospect Wilmer Flores at second.
My Prediction
Murphy shows why he belongs in the everyday lineup, hitting .290 with a .345 OBP. His defense still leaves something to be desired but proves to be more than satisfactory.

David Wright was a huge question mark heading into the offseason, though not because of his on the field production. After a dismal 2011 season in which he missed a significant amount of time due to a back injury, Wright returned to form. In the first half, many thought Wright would be the MVP, but unfortunately when the bats went cold, so did Wright's. With rumors swirling that he might be traded, the Mets and Wright put those to bed when he signed an 8 year $138 million extension. During Spring Training Wright was officially named the captain of the Mets, only the fourth player to have such honor.

Best Case Scenario
After a hot World Baseball Classic that saw him earn the nickname "Captain America", Wright continues the torrid pace, putting up numbers of an MVP level.
Worst Case Scenario
Wright struggles mightily this season, making fans question whether or not the Mets should have given the money to Jose Reyes instead of Wright.
My Prediction
While not MVP level numbers, Wright shows why he earned his new contract, putting up numbers that haven't been seen from him since Shea Stadium.

To say Ike Davis struggled in the first half of last season for the Mets would be a massive understatement. Hitting a measly .201 with a .271 OBP and slugging .388, many questioned if Ike Davis was ever going to be the player that he was thought to be when he first burst onto the scene in 2010. But in the second half Ike picked up production showing signs that he might still be that player

Best Case Scenario
In an arbitration year, Ike shows why he should be payed a large sum. Hitting 30 HR's, and eclipsing the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career.
Worst Case Scenario
Ike's first half struggles from last year prove to be more than just a fluke, making fans wonder if Ike is a part of the team for the long-haul.
My Prediction
Ike starts off the year cold but as the temperature warms up, so does Ike's bat. Ike's season is much like his rookie season .270, 90 RBI's, 20 HR's, and a .330 OBP.

Marlon Byrd in 2013 is looking to bounce back from one of the worst seasons of his career, including a 50 game suspension for Performance Entrancing Drugs. A standout Spring not only earned him a roster spot but a place in the starting lineup as well.

Best Case Scenario
Byrd proves to be a great pickup for the Mets by providing consistent offense and a good glove in right field.
Worst Case Scenario
Byrd falters with the Mets and is eventually replaced by no-hitter folk hero Mike Baxter in the lineup and later outright released.
My Prediction
Byrd plays well enough to retain a roster spot but not well enough to continue starting and is replaced by Mike Baxter

Lucas Duda continues to be a mystery for the Mets. With no legitimate options in the outfield Duda remains the starting left fielder. But for how long is the question?

Best Case Scenario
With tweaks to his swing Duda shows why he needs to remain in the everyday lineup. Hitting 20 HR's and over 80 RBI's with an average around .275 and an OBP of over .320.
Worst Case Scenario
Duda again struggles this season and is finally let go in order to name room for den Dekker.
My Prediction 
While he doesn't show the power that made him so popular in the Mets front office, Duda does enough to stay in the lineup.

John Buck, acquired in the R.A. Dickey trade (Buck was also traded to Toronto in the Jose Reyes deal), looks to prove his worth while top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, one of the centerpieces in the Dickey trade, waits in the wings at AAA Las Vegas.

Best Case Scenario
Buck's performance makes fans forget about d'Arnaud until September call ups and see what it is like to have a legitimate catcher for the first time since Paul LoDuca.
Worst Case Scenario
Buck struggles to keep himself in the lineup, making fans beg to see d'Arnaud faster than the front office may wish to do.
My Prediction
Buck starts off hot for the Mets crushing the ball into early June but is later moved to help improve the bullpen and make room for d'Arnaud.

Ruben Tejada had a standout year in his first season as full-time starter at shortstop. While not completely erasing the memory of the departed Jose Reyes, Tejada did more than enough to show why he is the long-term answer at the position.

Best Case Scenario
Tejada improves upon his breakout 2012 season and continues to prove Sandy Alderson right when he let Jose Reyes walk in free agency.
Worst Case Scenario
Tejada struggles to stay healthy this season. While not replaced, Tejada is constantly reminded by the fans of his predecessor.
My Prediction
Tejada shines as he continues to prove his doubters wrong, hitting over .300 and earning a Gold Glove as well.


With the trade of R.A. Dickey and the shoulder injury to Johan Santana the starting rotation will look a lot different than it has for the last few seasons.

Jon Niese proved very effective last season as the third starter, going 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA. Now, as the ace of the staff, Niese seeks to improve upon those numbers for the 2013 season.

Best Case Scenario
Niese again shows why he was given the contract extension last season and shows that he is not to be forgotten in the Mets' plans going into the future.
Worst Case Scenario
Niese's proneness to injury again rears its ugly head and he is lost for the season, throwing the rotation into a further state of disarray.
My Prediction
While not flashy, Niese continues to show why he should be considered among the game's better pitchers.

Matt Harvey burst onto the scene right from his major league debut when he struck out 11 batters. Harvey showed many signs of brilliance during his short stint in 2012. Now a lock for the rotation, Harvey looks to show why the future is bright for the Mets.

Best Case Scenario
Harvey dominates the league and wins the National League Rookie of the Year title, becoming the first Met to earn the title since Dwight Gooden in 1984.
Worst Case Scenario
Harvey takes a step back in his development and falls into the "Sophomore Slump".
My Prediction
Harvey continues to prove why he is considered one of the best young arms in baseball, winning the strikeout title.

Dillon Gee is looking to rebound from his 2012 season and show he can stay healthy. Gee was shut down for the entire second half of the season due to a blood clot of his artery located in his right shoulder, his throwing shoulder.

Best Case Scenario
Gee shows that he is more than just a fifth starter. He stays healthy and pitches more than 170 innings.
Worst Case Scenario
Gee's shoulder again flares up and again is shut down. This time, perhaps, for the remainder of his career.
My Prediction
While not turning any heads, Gee lends a steady hand to the rotation and proves his worth in the dog days of summer.

Shaun Marcum, signed as a free agent in the offseason, looks to prove he can stay healthy. A feat that he has not accomplished so far in his career.

Best Case Scenario
Marcum shows that he is more than just a stopgap for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.
Worst Case Scenario
Marcum misses significant time due to injury and when he does pitch he proves ineffective.
My Prediction
Like much of his career Marcum misses significant time with various injuries but when on the mound Marcum shows why he was signed in the first place.

Jeremy Hefner takes the place of Johan Santana in the rotation. Last year, Hefner was mostly used as the long man and spot starter. This year he looks to show why he earned the chance to be in the starting rotation.

Best Case Scenario
Hefner proves he can hang with the big boys and holds his own, keeping Wheeler at bay for just a little while longer.
Worst Case Scenario
Hefner shows signs that he can pitch full time as a starter but they are few and far between and is sent to the bullpen to make room for Wheeler.

Hefner proves satisfactory but is eventually moved out of the starting rotation to make room for Wheeler.

Zack Wheeler is considered by many to be one of the top pitching prospects not just for the Mets, but in all of baseball, ranking 8th in Baseball America's top 100 Prospects list. It is only a matter of time before he sees major league action.

Best Case Scenario
Wheeler dominates AAA Las Vegas and is called up as soon as possibly allowed and shows exactly why the Mets invested much of their future on him, providing a dominant 1-2 combo with Harvey that hasn't been seen since the days of Seaver and Koosman.
Worst Case Scenario
Wheeler struggles with his command while in Vegas and makes many question whether or not he is ready for the major league level and if he is the real deal
My Prediction
Wheeler arrives sometime in mid-June. While not initially setting the world on fire, Wheeler gets better with every start and soon begins to dominate hitters in the National League.


The bench this season, despite the loss odd Scott Hairston to the Cubs, should be improved from last season. With the likes of Kirk Neiuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, Jordany Valdespin, Anthony Recker, and Justin Turner, it should prove a valuable asset if it is not overly taxed.

*NOTE* I am not making predictions on the bullpen because their success varies from season to season.

I had thought this last year that I believed that the team would do better than expected and that was partially correct as they were in contention for the division title for the first half of the season. This year I believe the same thing. The Phillies appear to be ripe for the picking and the Marlins have completed their third fire-sale leaving them barren. Look for the youth movement to start this coming season with the debuts of Wheeler and d'Arnaud (and if we're incredibly fortunate Raphael Montero as well).

80-82, no playoffs, 3rd in the NL East.

Posted by Andrew Lavan 0 comments  
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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Examining the Career of Johan Santana

March 28th, 2013, likely marked the end of an era for the Mets. With the announcement of Johan Santana having a possible tear in his anterior capsule in his left shoulder, the same injury he had at the end of the 2010 season which required him to miss the entire 2011 season.

Johan Santana came to New York with much fan-fare in a sign & trade deal that saw then top prospects Carlos Gomez, Phillip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra, in exchange for Santana signing a 6 year $137.5 million contract, the richest for a pitcher in baseball history at the time. Out of these four players, only Gomez has shown any sort of consistant success in the majors. After throwing a perfect game last season, Humber's season took a drastic turn for the worse, and Mulvey, who pitched not even a full season in the majors (he last pitched for Arizona in 2010) before retiring as a Met in May of last year. But injuries marred what was supposed to be a reign of dominance by Santana.

His 2008 season Santana nearly won the NL Cy Young Award placing third in voting, and kept the Mets playoff hopes alive (at least for one more day) by pitching a spectacular three hit complete game shutout against the Marlins in Game 161. It was later revealed that Santana had pitched the game on a torn meniscus, thus making the performance all the more spectacular. 

Santana's 2009 season was a bit off compared to 2008. In 2009 Santana came out hot, in his first 10 starts he was 7-2, and had a 1.72 ERA, but in his final 15 starts he went 6-7 and had a 4.02 ERA to finish with a 13-9 record and 3.13 ERA in 166 innings pitched, shut down in late August to remove bone chips from his elbow.

The 2010 season does not stand out as memorable on the surface but it has proven to be vastly underrated. To drive home the point, outside of record, innings pitched, and strikeouts, Santana's season was better than his crosstown ace counterpart in CC Sabathia, who placed third in AL Cy Young voting that season. In 200 innings pitched, Santana had a 11-9 record, but a 2.98 ERA, a WHIP of 1.18, and 144 strikeouts. But once again, Santana's season was cut short due to injury, this time a torn anterior capsule in his left throwing shoulder. This injury kept him out for the entire 2011 season as well.

2012 marked a new beginning for Johan. Santana came back with a vengeance, posting a 2.75 ERA and along with eventual NL Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey made a potent 1-2 punch. On June 1st, it finally happened. That night, Johan Santana threw not only his first career no-hitter, but also the first no-hitter in New York Mets history. His next start, Santana was rocked by the New York Yankees, going five innings and allowing six runs. But after that he seemed to settle down and begin getting his feet back under him, especially after throwing 8 shutout innings against the Dodgers. But his next start, Chicago Cubs outfielder stepped on Santana's ankle and it all went downhill from there failing to make it past the 5th inning while allowing six or more runs in each of his five starts after. 

Santana is a very polarizing figure for some Mets fans but he still remains one of the most popular and better pitchers in Mets franchise history. Was he worth the contract that he received? In short, no. But would I do that trade again? In a New York minute. 

Posted by Andrew Lavan 0 comments  
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Friday, January 11, 2013

Mike Piazza Not elected to the Hall of Fame

On January 9th of this year, the class of 2013 was announced to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, and for the first time since 1996, no player was elected. Some of the players on the list include, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, and former Met Mike Piazza. Back in 2008, after Piazza announced his retirement, our very own Mike Peters wrote an article stating that Piazza should be put in to the Hall. However Piazza fell well short of the 75% needed to gain entry with 57.8% of the vote, 93 votes short.

It appears that the main reason why Piazza was not elected is the suspicion of his steroid use. Unlike Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, and Clemens, there has been no concrete evidence ever linking Piazza to performance enhancing drugs. Piazza was not named by Jose Canseco, nor was his name listed in the Mitchell Report. The closest link between Piazza and steroids was the rumor of back acne. Piazza's numbers alone should have warranted election to the Hall of Fame, with 396 homeruns as a catcher out of 427, 1335 career RBI's, a .306 career batting average, .377 on base percentage, and .545 slugging percentage. Piazza beats out Johnny Bench, who is considered by many to be the greatest catcher ever, in every category but RBI's, in two seasons less than Bench. However, many writers simply have stated that they wish to see what Piazza's book (which comes out in February) has to say about his potential usage of steroids.

If there is no new revelations about Piazza and potential steroids in between now and next year's vote, then there should be no argument that Piazza should be voted in as a Hall of Famer. Thus leaving the only argument whether or not he goes in as a Dodger, or as a Met.

For the second year in a row Piazza was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving 62.2% of the vote. Read More...

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

My 2012-2013 Mets Offseason Wishlist

This past season was truly a historic one with Johan Santana throwing the first no-hitter in Mets franchise history, and R.A. Dickey winning the National League Cy Young Award. There were some other bright-spots this past season, like David Wright returning to form after struggling since the opening of Citi Field in 2009, the blazing debut of pitching prospect Matt Harvey, the resurgent second half for Ike Davis, Jon Niese's successful first complete season.

There were also many spots where the Mets had trouble thus leaving voids needing to be filled. The bullpen once again was about as leaky as a Swiss Cheese sandwich. After a horrible start to his season, Frank Francisco seemed to have righted the ship until injury struck. After his return Francisco reverted back to the level of performance he opened the season with until ultimately being shut down in mid-September. The bench was a bright spot for the first half of the season but with the ineffective play of the starting outfield, the bench became worn out.

This off-season there are three things that are necessary to improve this team.

Priority #1: Re-sign Wright & Dickey
R.A. Dickey going for win #20
With two of the Mets biggest stars contracts about to expire (both had options picked up at the end of the season) it is a priority that both  David Wright and R.A. Dickey receive extensions of their contracts, Dickey more than Wright. Many have argued that Dickey should be traded for prospects to help further rebuild the farm system left depleted by Omar Minaya, but despite everything that Dickey has done for this team, he is one of the few players that has more value to the Mets than he does for anyone else. What other team out there would be willing to give up a top pitching prospect for a 38 year old pitcher? Granted this pitcher is now the reigning NL Cy Young winner but in reality the chances of receiving a bounty are slim to none.

Wright is also a player of tremendous value but that value isn't an exclusive feature to the Mets organization. With top hitting prospect Wilmer Flores waiting in the wings, Wright is potentially expendable. While Flores is nowhere near as fleet of foot nor good defensively as Wright, Flores has the potential to fill in for the offensive void that would be left by Wright if he were traded. I do not wish this to happen and I want both players to stay. I believe that would be the best thing for the fans and the organization going forward.
(It should be noted that both Wright and Dickey have reportedly received contract offers from the Mets of 6 years $100 million and 2 years $27 million with a mutual option respectively)

Priority #2: Fix the outfield
Grady Sizemore back in 2009
Due to the release of Jason Bay and ineffective play of Andres Torres and Lucas Duda, the outfield is now completely barren. Duda is likely to stay but Torres may now be a player off the bench depending on who the Mets sign. Prior to the completion of the postseason I had suggested the signing of Delmon Young, though with his successful play in the postseason Young has likely priced himself outside of the Mets range. It looks again unfortunately that the team will be bargain basement shopping. That unfortunately means no BJ Upton, Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton (who despite everything he's done on the field I wouldn't touch with a 10 pole). That however does not rule out a big piece coming in via trade (read Justin Upton [BJ's younger brother]). That option seems unlikely though given the current financial situation. My suggestion would be to look at Grady Sizemore. Having not played all of last season and not having played a full season since 2008 due to injury he likely fits the bill of what the Mets would be looking for. When healthy Sizemore can be a good addition to the team, unfortunately that has not been the case since the 2009 season. The other spots can starting spot will likely be fought out between prospect Matt Den Dekker, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who after a strong start to the 2012 season hit the rookie wall and hit it hard, eventually being sent back down to AAA Buffalo in favor of Matt Harvey.

Priority #3: Rebuild the Bullpen 
Broxton pitching for Cincinatti
The bullpen once again proved to be the undoing of the Mets season in 2012. The hot and cold mentality of Bobby Parnell and Jon Rauch combined with the ineffective performance of Frank Francisco and Ramon Ramirez along with the season ending injury to the lone consistent pitcher in Tim Byrdak destroyed any chances of playoff contention for the Mets. However with the infusion of prospects Elvin Ramirez, Josh Edgin and Robert Carson plus the possible additions of either Jenrry Mejia or Jeurys Familia should help sure up a weak spot last season. One player who I personally believe would be a benefit to the back end of the bullpen is Jonathan Broxton. After receiving a one year contract last year and some success splitting time between Kansas City and Cincinnati Broxton should receive a similar type contract this offseason.

While the Mets unfortunately likely won't be in the hunt for a playoff spot look for the team to be much improved from last season. Read More...

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Fear The Knuckler

R.A. Dickey accomplished what every pitcher dreams about by winning the 2012 National League Cy Young Award, making him the first knuckleballer to win the prestigious award. While the Mets season fell off the rails, Dickey's season was nothing short of amazin'.

When the Mets signed Dickey in the 2009 offseason, he was nothing but an after thought (to quote our very own king of sarcasm, Matt Kaufman, "R.A. Dickey= CHAMPIONSHIP!"). Since then he has been anything but. Dickey was signed on a minor league invite to Spring Training for the 2010 season and was the first player cut coming into camp. On April 29th, while pitching for Buffalo, Dickey allowed a leadoff single to start off the game, then proceeded to retire the next 27 batters in consecutive order. This caught the attention of the Mets front office and on May 19th, Dickey's contract was purchased from Buffalo and he made his Mets debut against Washington that same evening pitching.

Once considered to be a top pitching prospect, Dickey spent most of his career as a journeyman; spending time in Texas, Minnesota, and Seattle. After his May 19th call-up, Dickey hasn't seen the minors since. Dickey provided a shot in the arm to the Mets fanbase becoming a beloved figure, even the subject of local memorabilia.

This season was one for the ages, for Dickey. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time in his career, became a best selling author, subject of a critically acclaimed documentary, and now can add Cy Young winner to what has become quite an extensive resume. This not only legitimizes him, but also legitimize the knuckleball whom many have said is a circus pitch. So to the few doubters left, it is time to fear the knuckler. Read More...

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