New York Mets: 10 Bold Predictions for the 2011 Season
There isn't a lot to look forward to when it comes to the New York Mets in 2011. There are more questions than answers surrounding this team right now, and with the lawsuit stemming from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme hanging over their heads, fan morale is at an all-time low.
Well cheer up Mets fans! It's Spring Training, and with it comes a clean slate. Will the Mets win the World Series this season? Probably not. Can they win the World Series? Sure they can; any team can. That's why it's a clean slate.
So let's take a look at 10 bold predictions for the upcoming 2011 season and the New York Mets.
1. Jason Bay Will Bounce Back With 30 Home Runs and 110 RBI
Bay's first season with the Mets was filled with disappointment. He hit just .259 with six home runs and 47 RBI before going down for the season in July with a concussion. He had as many triples as he did homers. That's not Jason Bay's game.
He's a career .278 hitter, which is nothing to write home about, but he averages 30 homers and 105 RBI each season.
Even in a down season, Bay was able to post a positive WAR of 1.4.
If the Mets are going to have any chance this season, Bay will have to step it up, and I think he will. He's a professional athlete and listening to talk of how the Mets wasted their money isn't going to fly with him.
According to manager Terry Collins, Bay will bat fifth behind Carlos Beltran and ahead of Ike Davis.
9. Jose Reyes Will Steal 50 Bases, Get a New Contract From the Mets
Jose Reyes IS the Mets offense, every Mets fan knows that. Entering the final year of his contract, Reyes has said he wont negotiate a new one during the season and the Mets have not approached him about a new one yet.
But just because Reyes has said he wont talk during the season, doesn't mean he'd reject a deal if the Mets came to him with one during the season. For that to happen though, Reyes has to have a good season.
When Reyes is having a good season, he's getting on base and he's stealing bases. Reyes will steal at least 50 this season, something he hasn't done since 2008 when he stole 56.
In fact, from 2005-2008, Reyes averaged 64.5 stolen bases. He set the Mets single-season record of 78 in 2007.
Despite the high stolen base numbers, Reyes is not a high OBP guy. The highest OBP he posted during that span was .358, which was good for 65th in baseball. That means that when Reyes gets on base, he makes it count.
If Reyes is getting on base and scoring runs, showing he's healthy and productive again, the Mets should approach him with a multi-year deal, and Reyes should listen.
8. R.A. Dickey Will Repeat His 2010 Success
Dickey was one of the brightest spots of the Mets' 2010 season.
For a guy who didn't even make the team out of Spring Training last season, to then get called up on May 19 and finish the season with 11 wins and a team-best 2.84 ERA is impressive. But does anyone realize just how good Dickey was last season?
Dickey, 36, made 26 starts last season. 18 of the 26 were quality starts (6 IP, 3 ER or less). His three shutouts came against the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies, hardly the weakest offensive teams in baseball.
If the Mets are going to contend in 2011, it has to start with their rotation. Dickey is a big part of that, and with a full season's worth of starts, Dickey will end the season as the Mets' best pitcher.
An increase to his ERA isn't out of the question, given the fact that teams now have a book on him, but 15 wins wouldn't surprise me at all.
7. The Mets' Bullpen Will Be One of the Best In Baseball
Last season, the Mets were fifth in the NL in reliever's ERA (3.59), mainly thanks to resurgent performances from Bobby Parnell, Manny Acosta, and Elmer Dessens and the reliable Pedro Feliciano.
The Mets lost two big bullpen pieces to free agency, Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi, but have some big talents in Spring Training.
The Mets' Rule-5 pick, Pedro Beato, is impressing a lot of people with an explosive arm and excellent movement. A self-described "power pitcher," Beato will need to be kept on the 25-man roster for the whole season or be returned to . It's early, but Beato has a great chance to make this team.
Also in camp, Manny Alvarez is trying to apply his great minor league stats to the big league club. In three minor league stops last season, Alvarez went 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA. He struck out 84 batters in 78.2 IP, while walking only 12. His 2010 performance was by far the best of his minor league career, so we'll see if he can duplicate it against better competition, but if he can, the Mets will have another great power pitcher.
Replacing a guy like Feliciano, who led the Majors with 92 appearances last season, isn't easy, but it's not overly difficult either. The Mets will have Tim Byrdak, Taylor Tankersley and Oliver Perez competing to fill the role, and all three are most than capable of keeping left-handed batters in check, which is very important in the NL East. The Mets CANNOT let Perez make this team, but even they have to admit he does have his uses.
The situation surrounding closer Francisco Rodriguez could be an issue though. If he finishes (not saves), 55 games, his $17.5 million option will vest. It's been rumored the Mets will try to prevent this from happening, but MLB union chief, Michael Weiner, has met with Mets ownership and was assured that the team will not try any funny business.
The Mets will find themselves in more hot water if they try to hold K-Rod back for the sake of saving some money. The Mets need to give their fans a competitive team, and if they ignore the financial implications and let K-Rod finish however many games he needs to for them to do so, they'll have a great bullpen.
6. Ike Davis Will Win a Gold Glove at First Base
In 147 games last season, Davis established himself as a fan-favorite in Queens. He led all rookies with 19 home runs, collected 138 hits and drove in 71 runs, but it was his defense that was truly impressive.
He led all NL first basemen with a 10.1 UZR and a .993 fielding percentage. He did commit nine errors, so that will have to change, but who could forget his highlight reel catches tumbling over the dugout railing?
This kid has a ton of potential, and it's not all offensive. At just 24 years old, the Mets might have a first baseman capable of filling the position for years to come, and with big names like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder set to hit free agency in 2012, the Mets can feel comfortable with Davis.
What could go against Davis here is the fact that the Gold Glove is basically awarded to whoever has the highest fielding percentage or the biggest name. Davis could finish the season with the former, but developing into the latter will take some time.
5. The Mets Will Have Four Starting Pitchers With Double-Digit Wins
As of today, the Mets starting rotation consists of Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese and Chris Young. The fifth spot could come down to a competition between Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee, with Oliver Perez and D.J. Carrasco being the long shots.
Last season, Pelfrey (15), R.A. Dickey (11), Hisanori Takahashi (10) and Johan Santana (11) posted double-digit wins. Takahashi is gone to free agency and Santana is likely out until at least the All-Star break. That leaves Pelfrey and Dickey as the only returning double-digit winners from last season.
This season, the Mets will have four.
Last season, Pelfrey jumped out to a 10-1 record over his first 18 starts, but faltered in July, bounced back in August and was so-so in September. Needless to say, it was an up and down season for Pelfrey. Pelfrey isn't going to strikeout a lot of guys, as he pitches to contact, but in a stadium like Citi Field, and with what should be a solid defense behind him, Pelfrey should be able to get to 15 wins again.
Dickey impressed every Mets fan last season, and I've already said he'll do it again. With a full season's worth of starts, Dickey should be able to duplicate, or surpass his 11-win season from 2010.
Jon Niese led the team with 148 strikeouts last season. This season, he'll pretty much be the only strikeout pitcher in the starting rotation. He went 7-4 with a 3.43 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in his first 18 starts last season before succumbing to the increased workload of his first full season. He has good command (2.39 K's for every walk issued) and a good cutter to keep the right-handed batters in check. Niese won nine games in his first full season. There's no reason he can't win 10 or 11 in a pitcher's park.
The wild card in this scenario is Chris Young, who could prove to be the Mets' best offseason acquisition. If he can stay healthy and give the Mets 25-30 starts, there's no reason he can't win at least 10 games. A predominantly fly ball pitcher, Citi Field will again play a role here. Shoulder issues limited his work in each of his last three seasons, and the strength of his elbow has also been an issue. But Young says he's healthy and ready to pitch. If that's the case, he could become one of the best No. 4 starters in the National League.
4. Jose Reyes Will Steal 50 Bases, But Angel Pagan Will Lead The Team
Earlier, I predicted that Jose Reyes would steal 50 bases and get a new contract. Well, a slight amendment to that slide: Angel Pagan will lead the team in stolen bases, and thus, steal more than 50.
Angel Pagan's 2010 performance was eye-opening. He led the team with a .290 BA, scored 80 runs and stole 37 bases. He was caught stealing nine times.
The Mets have always been a speedy team and are generally amongst the tops in the league when it comes to stolen bases. If the Mets are going to be as bad as everyone seems to think they will be, they'll need to get on base and manufacture runs. To do so, they'll use their speed.
At the top of the batting order, manager Terry Collins has already said he wants to play Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan to take advantage of that speed advantage. Collins is an aggressive manager and he shouldn't be afraid to turn either player loose to try and swipe a base.
Reyes would be the first choice to lead the team in stolen bases, but Pagan is the bold choice, and thus my pick.
3. Carlos Beltran Will Hit 15 Home Runs, Drive in 45 in First Half, Get Traded
The last time Beltran had that kind of production in the first half of the season for the Mets, he finished the season with 27 home runs and 112 RBI.
The bold prediction isn't that Beltran will get traded, as that seems to be just a matter of time anyway, but the production he'll have prior to the All-Star break is the bold part.
I am a supporter of the move to right field for Beltran. I think it will allow him to stay healthy and keep the wear and tear on his knee to a minimum. A healthy Beltran in the middle of the Mets lineup should afford him plenty of RBI chances. The power will be the real question.
A 15 home run, 50 RBI performance in the first half of the season will earn Beltran a one-way ticket out of New York, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. The Mets should be able to get a decent haul of prospects for Beltran in that case, and Beltran should find himself on a contending team for the second half of the season.
But again, as with most Mets this season, "health" is the name of the game.
2. The Mets Will Not Finish Last In the NL East
This prediction isn't particularly "bold" and it's mostly in response to the numerous people who are telling me the Washington Nationals are a better team and will pass the Mets in the standings.
Why a picture of Livan Hernandez you ask? Because he's the Nationals' Opening Day starter. I'm sorry, but I don't care what Hernandez did last season. Teams with Livan Hernandez as their No. 1 starter don't win many games, no matter how many $126 million contracts they give out.
There's no way to convince me that the Nationals have a better starting rotation (Hernandez, John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Jordan Zimmerman and Tom Gorzelanny) than the Mets.
The Nationals do have an excellent crop of young talent, but there's almost no power in that lineup. Their two offseason acquistions, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche might not combine for as many home runs as Adam Dunn hit for the Nats in 2010.
Nyjer Morgan is one of the fastest players in baseball and a big stolen base threat, but his .319 OBP last season does not impress me, and neither does his .253 BA.
Ian Desmond is just 25 years old, but he can't hit right-handed pitching (.257/.295/.369) and his defense is atrocious (.947 fielding percentage).
Danny Espinosa seems to have a leash a mile long and probably wouldn't even start on most other teams, not to mention his 26 percent strikeout rate in three major league campaigns.
Ryan Zimmerman, Werth and LaRoche are all great players, but do they represent a considerable advantage over David Wright, Ike Davis and Jason Bay? Or Angel Pagan, if you prefer?
With a questionable bullpen and an uncertain closer (they seem unwilling to give Drew Storen the nod), I don't see where this team has more talent than the Mets.
1. The Mets Will Win 85 Games, Finish Third In the Division
Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has to go the Mets' way for this prediction to come true, but that's what makes it so bold.
I've said it once, and I'll say it again: the key word for 2011 is "health."
If David Wright keeps up his production, Jason Bay bounces back, Jose Reyes stays healthy and gets on base, and the starting rotation holds up, the Mets can be a great team.
Basically, to win 85 games, every other prediction I've made has to come true.
If the Mets stay healthy, you're telling me they can't improve by six games from last season? I'm not buying it.
It won't win them a division, and probably won't get them a Wild Card either, but it would be nice to see the Mets finish above .500 heading into an offseason where they'll have some money laying around to spend.