2009 New York Mets Preview
2007 was a shot to gut to the New York Mets; an inexplicable disaster from a season that should have meant so much more.
The cry back then was, “Seven and a half games with 17 to play.”
2008 was just another year in the life of the Mets. Another August rush and another September collapse.
In the end, the Philadelphia Phillies danced and partied like seniors during their last days of college. The Mets watched on their couch miserable, defeated, and depressed.
Another year gone.
Another year bites the dust.
The Mets front office, who blamed former head coach Willie Randolph for the team’s woes at 3:00 a.m. in Anaheim while everyone else was sleeping last June, decided to put blame on a beleaguered bullpen that blew 29 games last year.
29 games that, even if the Mets won two of them would have been enough to win the NL East, let alone the Wild Card.
Mets general manager Omar Minaya went out to Las Vegas in December and brought home some nice Christmas gifts. He traded away Scott Schoeneweis, Aaron Heilman, and Endy Chavez, and traded away Joe Smith.
In their place came two perennial closers in Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and J.J. Putz from the Seattle Mariners.
K-Rod could be the best closer the Mets have had since Jesse Orosco, if you want to go back that far. K-Rod is tough, durable, and he lives for the big game, unlike past closers Braden Looper, Armando Benitez, and even Billy Wagner.
Last season, K-Rod set the major league record for saves in a season with 62 while striking out 77 batters in 68 and-a-third innings. He is the best in the game not named Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon.
As for Putz, he had a lackluster 2008 with Seattle, but so did everyone on the Seattle Mariners. In 2007 Putz was an All Star, closing 40 games and posting a 1.38 ERA.
If Putz, who didn't have much of a Spring Training thanks to the waste of time known as the World Baseball Classic, can master the idea of being a set-up man, then the Mets will shorten games this season.
Still there are concerns with the Mets’ pitching staff, especially their rotation. After Johan Santana there is nothing but question marks. John Maine is coming off arm surgery and this spring he has looked awful, so awful that early in camp he said he didn't have confidence in what he was doing.
Oliver Perez has been his wild self this spring, and that is a big problem. Against the Detroit Tigers Perez walked six and gave up six runs in just three innings. He does not look ready to go north.
Considering he got bombed in an 85-pitch performance for team Mexico in the WBC, the Mets must be kicking themselves that they gave this guy a three-year contract.
If Perez and Maine struggle this year the Mets are toast. Forget about a September collapse, because there won't be a September to be had if this happens.
The Mets should have gone out and added a quality arm like Derek Lowe or Jon Garland, but refused to do so because of financial obligations.
Mike Pelfrey is coming off his best season, winning 13 games in 20008, and proving that he could be the No. 2 guy behind Santana. However, if Pelfrey gets touched up early in a game, he can sometimes get lost and lose confidence in himself.
It will be interesting to see how he handles his second full year in the majors. A sophomore slump usually comes into play with young players, but Pelfrey is too good to fall into that trap, one would think.
Livan Hernandez won the fifth starter job by default, because Freddy Garcia and Tim Redding were putrid this spring. Hernandez won't kill the Mets, but he is definitely not the answer.
Offensively, much has been made about the team’s inability to hit in the clutch in September and in October. Last season, when the team needed them the most, David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Delgado came up small in the big spot.
Statistically, these players had great seasons. Wright had 33 homers. Delgado had a second half surge, finishing with 38 homers and 115 RBI, and Reyes hit .297 for the season.
Still, those stats don't tell you about the clutch moments. With runners in scoring position, Wright hit only .243 last year, and with runners in scoring position and two out, Wright hit .247. That won't get it done.
Reyes' numbers go down as well with RISP. He hit .277 with four homers and 53 RBI in this spot, which is not good for leadoff hitter that is so adept at hitting the ball into the gap.
Delgado did well in these crucial situations, hitting .274 with 12 homers and 80 RBI with RISP. However, it was Carlos Beltran who excelled in pressure, hitting two points above his season average of .284.
What does this say about the Mets in 2009? It says that Wright and Reyes must begin to hit better in pressure situations if the Mets are going to go to the postseason.
A lot can and will be made about Luis Castillo at second base and Daniel Murphy in left field. However at the end of the day, if Reyes, Wright, Delgado, and Beltran fail to hit when needed, the Mets are going nowhere.
As for Castillo, he has a lot to prove in 2009. 2008 was the worst year of his career, batting .245 with three home runs and 28 RBI. For his own sake, Castillo was injured last year, but if he fails to reward the Mets for giving him a ridiculous four-year contract in 2007, the Mets will once again be kicking themselves.
If Castillo fails, expect to see either Nick Evans, who has been ripping it up in Spring Training this year, or the light hitting Alex Cora take over at second base.
Ryan Church has a lot to prove as well in 2009. Last year, Church suffered a series of terrible concussions that hampered his season.
Before getting accidentally kicked in the head by Yunel Escobar of the Braves last May, Church had 10 home runs and was easily the Mets’ MVP of the first half.
Church is a fine outfielder who eats up a lot of ground out there, and has a sweet swing from the left side of the plate.
If he is healthy, Church has the potential to be a 20-plus home run threat. However, the word “potential” will stick, especially if he can't stay healthy.
Murphy was all the rage last summer, when he batted .313 with two home runs and 17 RBI in 49 games. He will be the Mets left fielder in 2009, not Fernando Tatis, and it will be important for the former infielder to show he is not out of position this season.
If Murphy struggles in the outfield, the Mets may have to think about moving somewhere else, or platoon him with Tatis. Then again, sometimes it's better to leave a young player in the game and learn by doing.
As for his bat, Murphy is a good slap hitter, who does a great job working the count with two strikes. In fact, Jerry Manuel may slot him right behind Jose Reyes in the two hole at some point this year.
Some have unfairly compared him to Don Mattingly, but Murphy is years away from even being in the conversation. Remember, this is his first full year of major league ball.
Many a time have young kids come up and failed when it appeared the game was too much for them.
Johan Santana: 18-7, 2.56 ERA in 226 innings.
Mike Pelfrey: 13-10, 3.31 ERA in 202 innings.
John Maine: 7-11, 4.41 ERA in 186 innings.
Oliver Perez: 8-14, 4.96 ERA in 197 innings.
Livan Hernandez: 10-11, 5.56 ERA in 168 innings.
K-Rod: 32 Saves in 36 opportunities.
David Wright: .302, 31 home runs, 118 RBI
Jose Reyes: .296, 14 home runs, 67 RBI, 56 stolen bases.
Carlos Delgado: .267, 27 home runs, 89 RBI
Carlos Beltran: .289, 33 home runs, 119 RBI, 23 stolen bases.
Daniel Murphy: .276, eight home runs, 74 RBI
Ryan Church: .277, 15 home runs, 84 RBI
Luis Castillo: .268, one home run, 33 RBI
Are the Mets tough? Can the Mets mentally and physically perform when it matters the most?
Those are the most pressing questions that remain unanswered as we enter the 2009 season. The Mets have to be able to come up with the same kind of energy and enthusiasm for baseball as the Phillies and Florida Marlins if they are to win the NL East and get back to postseason.
My prediction: don't bet on it. They don't have enough starting pitching to get over the hump, and they are terrible at the art of clutch hitting.
I predict the Mets will be 85-77, tied for second place in the NL East.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?