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Playing Pepper 2010: New York Mets

Posted on March 10, 2010 at 2:41 PM
Filed Under: New York Mets | Playing Pepper
Last year before the season began, I posed five questions to a blogger for each team, so as to get to know the rest of baseball.  I focus so heavily on the Cardinals that sometimes the rest of MLB can pass me by.  That went very well, so much so that it spawned not only a postseason edition but was part of the impetus for the formation of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

So this year, I've brought 
Playing Pepper back, with a little bit of a twist.  Instead of five questions, I posed 10 questions, and this year every team got the same set.  Plus, tapping into those BBA connections, I sent them to every blogger representing that team in the BBA.

We'll try to do two a day in a general alphabetical order---ah, who are we kidding, we'll get them up when we get them up.

New York Mets
2009 Finish: 70-92, fourth in NL East

It's possible that I'll wind up being hurt before finishing this entry.  That would be par for the course for anything related to the Mets from last year.  If it could go wrong, it did, if a player could get hurt, he would.  2009 was a terrible year for a team just a swing away from the World Series just three years previous.  Call it the curse of Yadier Molina.

However, there are still tons of Mets fans willing to stick it out another year.  So read on to see what Steve from The Eddie Kranepool Society, Phil from Hoops Approved, Dave from The Mets Report and Kerel from On The Black had to say about 2010.

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C70: How was the off-season?  What kind of grade would you give it?

EKS: I'd have to say a D since the top needs for the team weren't addressed with the exception of adding Jason Bay and his home run stroke. The Mets needed to add a front line pitcher, a  #1 catcher, and improve the defense at 2nd base. Instead they've added a bunch of back end of the rotation and AAAA pitchers and a load of under study backstops. Management tried every which way to unload Luis Castillo but due to his awful contract they couldn't and they haven't either the stomach or financial where with all to cut him loose. What makes the infield situation worse is Felipe Lopez still on the market and Alex Cora has a $2mil contract. Omar Minaya tells Mets fans he wants to build a team through pitching, defense, youth and speed and then goes out and does the opposite. And you want to know why Mets fans tend to get angry?

HA: I was not very impressed with the Mets off-season. They signed Jason Bay, which was a positive, but he is merely a replacement for Carlos Delgado in the batting lineup. Outside of first base and catcher, management didn't add much positional depth, which is something that hurt the team greatly last year. The same thing goes for pitching. The entire rotation is riddled with question marks, including ace Johan Santana.

MR: I would give the Mets a "C+" for the offseason. I'm more optimistic than many fans though. They earned the grade by filling their biggest hole, a left fielder with power, by signing Jason Bay. There are still some deficiencies that weren't addressed  very well though: catcher, first base, and starting pitcher. That's what kept the Mets from getting a higher grade in my opinion.

OTB: I would give the Mets a C-. In my opinion the Mets had three major needs to fill: Starting Pitching, LF and 1b. They only adequately addressed one position (LF) with Jason Bay.

C70: What is the key to success for 2010?

EKS: Health. Pure and simple. As poorly managed as this organization is, if the key players stay healthy, the team will be a contender but with the huge disconnect between the medical and training staff with the front office, we have to hope for the best. 

HA: The key to success this off-season is how successful the middle of the starting rotation (Maine, Pelfrey and Perez) is. If Maine and Perez can perform at a level near their 2007 performances this team will be a Wild Card contender. If their performances replicate last season then this team is in big trouble.

MR: The key to success will be the Mets top players staying healthy this year. The 2009 season was filled with long-term injuries to key players and resulted in a 70 win season. The Mets need Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, John Maine, and even Oliver Perez to be healthy all season long this year. All of them spent significant time on the disabled list in 2009.

OTB: I think the key is starting pitching. Not just with the Mets but any team. The Mets are going to need very good years out of Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and Oliver Perez if they hope to compete for the playoffs.

C70: What will be the team's strength?

EKS: Good question. It's hard to say; again, it's back to health. If the eight regulars manage to stay on the field and in the lineup then the Mets will be as good as any team in the NL. If Kelvin Escobar is back to his pre-injury way and Bobby Parnell takes his game up another level then the bullpen is a major strength. Same with the starting pitching if Ollie Perez, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine live up to expectation the rotation could be strength. As you see there are a lot of "ifs" and "coulds" with this team.

HA: The team's bullpen could be their biggest strength this season. If healthy Kelvim Escobar could be a dominant setup man, which is something the team hasn't had since Duaner Sanchez in the first half of 2006. I'm also intrigued by how Bobby Parnell performs, presumably as a seventh inning specialist. Lefty submariner, Jay Marshall, also has a decent chance at making the club. This should make it more difficult for opposing left-handed hitters to get hits in the later innings.

MR: The team's strength in 2010 will be their offense. If everyone is healthy, they'll certainly improve on their league-low 95 team home runs with Daniel Murphy leading the team with 12. I expect much more scoring than we saw last year, even in spacious Citi Field.

OTB: I think the strongest part of the team is there outfield (when Beltran comes back from injury). A potential starting outfield of Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and Jeff Francoeur is a very formidable outfield.

C70: What could be their Achilles' heel?

EKS: The front office especially the owner. Jeff Wilpon thinks he's a "baseball man" but he's really a guy who was born to wealthy parents. There is a lot of mistrust between the ownership/front office with the players and the fans and that has to be addressed and rectified. Also, if the team is in contention come the trade deadline will they pull off a deal that could put the team over the top to win a pennant or are there enough money concerns that would trump such a move?

HA: Centerfield could be the Mets' Achilles heel. This is no slight to Angel Pagan, but if Carlos Beltran is out for a prolonged amount of time the team's offense will really suffer. Pagan, himself, is injury prone and if he were to get hurt that would leave Gary Matthews Jr. in center, which would be atrocious.

MR: Starting pitching could be a big problem for the Mets. Fans were clamoring for reinforcements in the offseason and it didn't happen. The Mets are counting on Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, and Oliver Perez to have good seasons (which none had last year). Mets fans are very concerned that the rotation could get ugly.

OTB: The bullpen might be a potential problem. K-Rod struggled down the stretch last season and I don't think the Mets are really sure what they are going to do in the 8th inning yet.

C70: Who will be the team's MVP?

EKS: It will be between Johan Santana and Jose Reyes.

HA: I think the MVP of the 2010 Mets will be David Wright. Last season despite all the injuries to the team and to himself, David proved that he could maintain a positive attitude and put together a respectable season, despite the significant drop-off in power. I think his numbers will rebound greatly and he will make his perennial run at NL MVP.

MR: I expect Jose Reyes to be the team MVP for 2010. After playing only 36 games in 2009, I think he'll be back with a vengeance. I'm expecting 20+ triples, 18+ home runs, and 75+ stolen bases this year from Reyes. He's in the last year of his contract with a club option for 2011 at $11 million. If nothing else, he'll be motivated financially to put on a show this year.

OTB: David Wright. I expect him to have a bounce back year at the plate, specifically in the home run department. I recently asked my viewers how many HRs will Wright hit in 2010 and 55% say he will hit between 20-30 home runs. I agree, I think he will be in the 25 home run range. If he has healthy guys around him (Beltran, Bay, Francoeur) he could have a big year at the plate.

C70: Will a rookie make a significant impact on the team in 2010, and if so, who?

EKS: First guy I think of is Josh Thole if he makes the team out of spring training. Thole can hit but he is a catching neophyte. If he can prove his skill behind the plate this spring he could be a ROY candidate for sure.  The other is Ike Davis who if Daniel Murphy sputters or get injured could be up to play 1st base. I am also looking to see if RHP Brad Holt or RHP Tobi Stoner does enough in spring training to make the 12 man pitching staff.

HA: Josh Thole is a guy that I think has a shot at making a big impact this season if he can improve on his defense. It won't be long before the team realizes that Omir Santos and Henry Blanco won't suffice. If Thole continues to hit and shows that he can man the plate better in the minors, expect to see him in the big leagues midway through the season.

MR: I really don't expect any rookies to have a big impact in 2010 unless Rod Barajas isn't playing well. Barajas' contract is so low at $500k, that the Mets can just release him if he doesn't play well. That would leave the door open for rookie catcher Josh Thole. Thole hit .321 in 17 games last September and he's looking like the Mets catcher of the future. That future could be sooner than later if 34 year-old Barajas doesn't have it anymore.

OTB: I don't think so. The Mets have some young players that are on the fringe of being big league players but I don't know if anyone is ready just yet.

C70: Who will be the breakout player for the team?

EKS: Mike Pelfrey. There is too much talent there for him not to breakout. Hopefully he has matured emotionally and has learned how to get batters out in the big leagues. A 1-2 punch of Santana and a breakout Big Pelf would make the NL East a very interesting division.

HA: Despite the criticism of late I believe Daniel Murphy will be the breakout player this season. I really believe that the competition at first base will light a fire under Murphy and I wouldn't be surprised to see him produce a 15 HR/80 RBI season.

MR: I believe the breakout player for the Mets will be Mike Pelfrey. He just turned 26 years-old and he's got 80 career starts under his belt. Pelfrey was the Mets first round pick in 2005 and he's coming into this year having lost 25 pounds with a new training plan. I really think he's going to prove that he can be a successful #2 in the rotation.

OTB: I don't know if anyone will have a "breakout" year but I'm looking for Jeff Francoeur to bounce back and return to his form of 2006 and 2007. I recently did a blog post where I stated that Jeff Francoeur is one of the keys to success in the Mets offense this season. He needs to have a big year.

C70: Which player will drop off the most from 2009?

EKS: Luis Castillo who is only losing more and more range at 2nd base.

HA: Luis Castillo is a prime candidate to drop-off in production in 2010. Last season he hit for an impressive .302 batting average, however according to the New York Daily News' Adam Rubin, his average was somewhat inflated due to a number of ground outs that were ruled sacrifice bunts. Don't be surprised to see his average dip down to the .260 - .270 range.

MR: I'm torn on this question because I don't think there's any chance that Luis Castillo will play as well as he did last year. But I don't think Jason Bay will be able to duplicate the 36 HR 119 RBI's that he had with Boston last year. Citi Field is too big and Bay doesn't have the lineup around him that he did in Boston. I expect Bay to play well, but not to rival the season he had last year. I think he'll have about 29 HRs and 90-95 RBIs.

OTB: Luis Castillo had a nice 2009 but I don't expect him to do that again.

C70: Who is the most likely player to be dangled as trade bait?

EKS: Daniel Murphy. If he does get dealt, I hope goes to a team that appreciates hard work and a great attitude because the Mets front office sure doesn't.

HA: If he has a productive first half in Triple A, I think it's possible the team could ship Fernando Martinez away in a package for possibly a legitimate number two starting pitcher. It seems that Fernando is anxious to make it to the big leagues and there doesn't appear to be an opening in the near future unless the team parts ways with Jeff Francoeur next season.

MR: Angel Pagan will probably be trade bait this year. He played really well in CF in 88 games last year while Beltran was hurt. He hit .306 with 39 extra-base hits and 14 SB. He can definitely play every day for someone, but it likely won't be the Mets when Beltran comes back from injury in May.

OTB: I think we will hear names like Fernando Martinez, Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell mentioned in trade talks at some point.

C70: What will be the team's final record and divisional standing?

EKS: This Mets team could be anywhere from an 80 win team to a 90 win team. I hate to straddle the fence here but in all honesty the Mets could finish anywhere from first to last in the NL East.

HA: I predict that the Mets will finish with an 82-80 record, which will be good enough for third place in the NL East.

MR: The Mets will likely finish at or near 85-77. That should be good enough for second place (behind the Phillies) and maybe a shot at the wild card. It hurts to pick the Phillies to win the division again as a Mets fan, but they're too good and adding Roy Halladay doesn't help matters. The Marlins and Braves appear to have taken a step back and the Nationals look to be better than last year. That combination should make 85 wins good enough for second place in the division.

OTB: If healthy, I think the Mets will win between 80-85 games and finish in 2nd or 3rd place in the division. As currently put together, I don't think the Mets are a playoff team. They might be in the wild card race coming down the stretch but realistically I think the Mets need to improve their starting pitching and they need some power from the left hand side of the plate.

My thanks to all these guys for chipping in.  The Mets seem to be a team that it's tough to get a feel for--health is such a major factor for them, and the spring hasn't been completely kind in that regard.  If they are healthy, though, they'll make some noise.

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