The rest of the NL East are scattered throughout the projections. The Washington Nationals are tied for the highest over/under with 90 wins, the Atlanta Braves are at 86 wins, the aging Philadelphia Phillies are at 81.5 wins and lastly, the depleted Miami Marlins are slated at 64.5 projected wins, second to last in the majors.
As for the Mets, this 2013 number is almost identical to the 74.5 wins they were projected by Las Vegas in 2012.
This prediction is a good indicator of the current state of the team. The Mets are a talented team, but they are a very young team. Much of that talent has yet to come to fruition.
The team has improved its prospects for the near future this offseason, most notably acquiring potential future stars in pitcher Noah Syndergaard and catcher Travis d’Arnaud. But the Mets also lost 233.2 innings of NL Cy Young Award worthy pitching in R.A. Dickey, who was included in the package for those two prospects.
The team also released Jason Bay, whose tenure in New York was nothing short of a disaster.
But while the long-term plan seems to be slowly crystallizing, this year’s team still has plenty of question marks.
The biggest knock on this team is in the outfield.
Going into camp, the best name in that group is Lucas Duda. In the first couple of games this spring, Duda has been an embarrassment, striking out in almost every single at-bat. It is far too early to write him off, but the quick emergence of players like Collin Cowgill and Marlon Byrd help offset Duda’s troubles for now.
Still, outfield remains a huge weakness, and a number of players in spring training will have to step up for the rest of the season.
If the Mets plan on reaching 74 wins, they will certainly need outfielders to overperform. Another piece of the team that needs to improve quickly is the revamped bullpen, which was terrible last season.
However, there is also good reason to believe this team can reach the projected 74 wins.
The strength of this team is starting pitching, as the Mets boast a deep rotation from top to bottom.
The ace is Johan Santana, who should be fully recovered after being shut down late last season. After that, the pickings include a budding ace in Matt Harvey, the consistent lefty Jon Niese, a newcomer in Shaun Marcum and another fully recovered player in Dillon Gee.
Santana may become trade bait mid-season due to his large contract, but that leaves room for the team’s other future ace, Zack Wheeler.
The rotation must stay healthy and eat up innings. This will take pressure off the struggling bullpen, as well as keep the Mets in many games.
Yet there is another large factor to consider if the Mets are to reach 74 wins: the strength of the division.
The Nationals won the division, and they, along with the Braves, should contend for that this season, too. The Nationals acquired Dan Haren and Denard Span, and the Braves lost Chipper Jones but added the Upton brothers.
Both teams retained the core of their successful 2012 teams, and there is no reason to believe either team will regress this season. More importantly, this will cut into the Mets’ win total.
As for the Phillies and Marlins, they are less difficult competition.
The Phillies are talented but old, and many of their stars are still recovering from serious injuries last season. The Marlins had a horrible 2012 season, and traded every respectable player not named Giancarlo Stanton for prospects. While their farm system is now very deep, the 2013 Marlins may approach 100 losses.
With a significant number of games against this old Phillies team and a depleted Marlins squad, the Mets could rack up a number of divisional wins against both teams.
In the end, if the Mets are to approach 74 wins they will need a lot more to go right for the team than in the past. It is certainly not impossible, as they have a superb rotation and a solid infield led by David Wright. But the weakest link is by far the outfield, and that will haunt the Mets for a number of games this season.
Final Analysis: If they do go over, it won’t be by much. Seventy-four is a good number for the Mets this season.
They are not bottom-feeders anymore, but they are not quite contenders either. Strong starting pitching has an immense impact for a team striving to avoid long losing streaks, but it comes down to the offense and bullpen to back them up. If everything goes perfectly they may even contend for one of the two wild-card spots, but for now, a 74-win goal seems fairly realistic.