2008 MLB Preview: New York Mets
Manager: Willie Randolph
Arrivals: OF Ryan Church, OF Angel Pagan, SP Johan Santana, C Brian Schneider, RP Matt Wise
Departures: 1B Jeff Conine*, C Johnny Estrada, SP Tom Glavine, CF Chris Gomez, OF Shawn Green*, C Paul Lo Duca, OF Lastings Milledge, RP Guillermo Mota
Offseason grade: A
While the addition of Johan Santana gives the Mets the best pitcher in the National League, the rest of the rotation behind Santana is not as strong as the Mets' strongest competitor in the division, the Phillies.
Pedro Martinez had success in the five games he started in 2007, going 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA, and there's no reason to believe that Martinez can't put up those numbers over the course of a whole season...if he can stay healthy.
That's been a big if for him the last few years though.
If Martinez goes down, Mike Pelfrey—who the Mets somehow hung on to despite trading for Santana—likely would take over in the rotation.
John Maine and Oliver Perez put up nearly identical numbers in 2007, both going 15-10 with ERAs of 3.91 and 3.56, respectively.
The addition of Orlando Hernandez gives the Mets a nice veteran presence at the back end of the rotation, but, like Martinez, El Duque is injury-prone.
If Martinez and El Duque are injured at the same time, Omar Minaya will have to scramble to find an in-house replacement or make a trade. If healthy, the Mets have a very, very good rotation, but I would be surprised if Martinez and El Duque are healthy at the same time.
Starting rotation grade: B+
One of the most consistent things in baseball is how inconsistent bullpens are from year to year. The Mets appear to be set up (ha, get it?) well behind Billy Wagner with lefty Pedro Feliciano and righties Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez, who could finally return after not pitching since a July 2006 car accident.
Jorge Sosa is a solid long reliever who could take over for an injured Martinez or El Duque, but he's much better suited coming out of the bullpen. Joe Smith should improve off the good rookie season he had in 2007 and gives Willie Randolph an extra option for a late-inning righty, as his funky delivery makes him almost a ROOGY (Righty One Out Guy).
If Sanchez is back and 100 percent, the Mets should have a very good bullpen that theoretically shouldn't falter down the stretch.
Bullpen grade: A-
The top four hitters in the Mets lineup—Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran—are the good news.
Reyes is a dynamic leadoff hitter, Castillo is one of the best No. 2 hitters in the game, Wright is a superstar who will only get better, and Beltran will rack up a ton of RBI with those three hitting in front of him.
However, after Beltran, the Mets lineup becomes a question mark.
Carlos Delgado's offensive output has dropped significantly from 2005 to 2007, as his batting average fell from .301 to .258, home runs from 33 to 24, and RBI from 115 to 87. He will turn 36 in June and appears to be on the downslope of his career, never mind the fact that he could go down with an injury at any point.
Speaking of injury-prone players, no amount of urine on Moises Alou's hands seems to be able to keep him off the disabled list. When healthy, Alou is still a good hitter, sporting a .349 average in 87 games last year. However, Alou will be 42 in July, and is unlikely to hit .349 for a whole season because, well, he probably won't play more than 90 games this year.
If he does, the Mets will be very lucky, but they'll need to get a lot of production out of Ryan Church and Brian Schneider if Willie Randolph wants his lineup to have any credibility after the fourth or fifth spot.
Lineup grade: B
The Mets have two quintessential bench players in Damion Easley and Marlon Anderson. Both provide good bats in a pinch and can fill in ably for a game or two.
Along with Endy Chavez and Angel Pagan, the Mets have four capable replacements in case one of their starters gets injured. Willie Randolph will have a lot of flexibility with his bench and should use it often to keep his aging players healthy.
Bench grade: A
Amazingly, I've gone nearly a whole article about the Mets without mentioning their absolutely epic fail to end the 2007 season. And, now that I did and probably made a few of the Mets faithful go cry into their custom-made Jesse Orosco pillowcase, let me remind the rest of you sane Mets fans that 2008 will be different.
There will be no collapse, and the Mets will be competitive (and good) until the last day of the season. That's no guarantee that the Mets will send Shea Stadium off with a playoff appearance though.
Although, it's not like Shea Stadium deserves a nice send-off. That place just seems to validate Homer Simpson's claim that New York is a hellhole (and you know how I feel about hellholes).
But anyways, I digress. The Mets will be competitive and fun to watch down the stretch.
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