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Spring training means worn-out cliches, sun-burned Caucasians, and friendly players if you happen to go to a game in Arizona or Florida. It also means BB's annual season previews. We hope you enjoy them this year. We begin with the Mets.

You might think that the Mets would be a prohibitive favourite in the NL East after a 97 win season, with contributions from a core of young players that rank among the best in the majors. They shouldn't be.

So, why not exactly, Mr. Jones? First, they out-performed their Pythagorean, and in this case, I think the Pythagorean record (91-71) is a better reflection of where they were. Second, they may very well have real difficulty in the run prevention side of the game this year, due to Pedro Martinez' injury and a lacklustre defence.

The offence- outfield

Before we get started, a word of thanks to our sources. Chris Dial has done a fine job of defensive rating, and you will find ratings for the various Mets here. David Pinto has Probabilistic Model of Range ratings at his Baseball Musings website, which are also very useful. For offence, we will use Tangotiger's Marcel projections found on the Hardball Times website.

The Mets' outfield is anchored by Carlos Beltran, merely the best centerfielder in the game, with power, plate discipline, speed and fielding ability aplenty. At his sides will be some combination of Moises Alou, Shawn Green, Endy Chavez, and Lastings Milledge. There is the potential for an interesting offence/defence and left/right platoon at both corner outfield positions. Alou figures to get most of the work in leftfield. He has aged remarkably well, posting remarkably consistent offensive numbers throughout his late 30s. He is now 40, and we will see how good he has been to Father Time. Chavez is a fine late inning defensive replacement and occasional starter against right-handed pitching. Old friend Shawn Green has slowed down, and no longer throws well, as a result of injuries. He can still hit though, and figures to get more time than the young 'do-ragged Milledge. Milledge might do well in a platoon/late inning defensive substitute role, at least to begin the season. Funny how what goes around, comes around for Shawn Green.

Marcel projects 574 plate appearances for Carlos Beltran, 560 for Green, 438 for Alou, 408 for Chavez and 292 for Milledge. My estimate is that the Beltran figure is a little low (let us say 600), the Green figure is very high (I expect Green will get about 450 plate appearances), Alou is about right, Chavez is somewhat high (325 for Endy) and Milledge is about right. With those changes, here is the statistical package for the outfield, with Dial defensive rating being 2006 figures in runs saved/150 games:

Player Projected PA Projected BA/OBP/SLUG Dial
Beltran 600 .272/.362/.513 +10
Green 450 .275/.346/.451 -6
Alou 438 .291/.356/.513 -12
Chavez 325 .281/.328/.400 +25
Milledge 292 .273/.341/.435 none

Milledge was at least an average (if erratic) fielder, using other measures and by observation.

The infield

The Mets' starting infield is set: David Wright at third, Jose Reyes at short, Jose Valentin at second, Carlos Delgado at first with Paul Lo Duca catching. Wright and Reyes are among the most valuable young players in the game. Valentin had an excellent offensive and defensive season at age 37 in 2006; his backup in 2007 will likely be Damion Easley who can still hit but is a liability in the field. The amazing Julio Franco, who must have a ring before he retires, backs up Carlos Delgado. Ramon Castro will fill in for Paul Lo Duca as required, and bears more resemblance to Randy Knorr than Ken Huckaby. That is a good thing. Here are the 2007 Marcel projections and 2006 Dial ratings for the regular infielders:

Player Projected PA Projected BA/OBP/SLUG Dial
Wright 590 .312/.384/.536 -10
Reyes 625 .293/.338/.453 +10
Valentin 434 .238/.314/.432 +21
Delgado 571 .273/.366/.534 +3
Lo Duca 525 .291/.338/.406 -5

The offence overall

The Mets scored 831 runs in 2006. If the projections are right, they should score 20-25 more in 2007. Somehow I do not think so. I am not really comfortable with the assessment for the older Mets, and have them marked down for 830 runs again in 2007.

The defence

The keys to the defence are the continued good health of Jose Valentin, and the maturation of Lastings Milledge. If Valentin and Milledge are in the lineup, the defence should be just fine. On the other hand, a right side of the diamond of Easley, Delgado and Green for any length of time will not be good news for particularly right-handed pitchers on the Mets. The prospect of ground ball singles in the 3-4 hole, and runners on first and third over and over again, could get discouraging.

The starting rotation

With Pedro Martinez out until at least the All-Star break after rotator cuff surgery, the Mets rotation lacks, to put it kindly, shape. Tom Glavine turns 41 before the season starts but is, I guess, the "ace" of the rotation. Too bad that it is 2007 instead of 1997, but the noticeable uptick in his K rate to a healthy 6.0 in 2006 suggests that he may have a season or three left in him. El Duque follows him, and can probably be counted on to remain an adequate pitcher in his (ahem) late 30s, provided his neck injury turns out to be minor. Behind these two are a number of possibilities: John Maine, Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, Philip Humber, Chan Ho Park, Dave Williams, and Aaron Heilman.

Maine seems likely to be a league average starter. Heilman, coming off surgery for right lateral epicondylitiis (a.k.a. tennis elbow), probably would be, if the club converted him to the rotation instead of using him in the bullpen. As for the others, "potential" is the operative word. Pelfrey was a first round pick in 2005, who first pitched pro ball in 2006. He looks very good, but has a grand total of 14 AA and AAA starts. Ideally, he would throw half a season in triple A. Humber is coming off Tommy John surgery and has even less higher minor league experience than Pelfrey. If it were my club, I would be wanting Humber in the pen and Heilman in the rotation in the not so distant future, but old habits die hard.

It is easy to imagine a positive scenario for the Mets pitching situation. The season begins with Glavine, Hernandez, Maine, Heilman and Park or Williams in the rotation, Oliver Perez in the bullpen as a long man, and Pelfrey in the rotation and Humber in the bullpen in triple A. By June, Perez and/or Pelfrey are ready to take the place of Park/Williams, and with luck, not long afterwards, Humber is ready to assume the set-up role. Anything Pedro Martinez contributes would then be gravy. As an "Air Pig" in the Chinese astrological system, I believe all of this can happen. For more literal people, the appropriate sign is the question mark.

The bullpen

The Mets have a good and deep bullpen. Billy Wagner is their closer, and a fine one he is. From the right side, Duaner Sanchez had an excellent year in 2006 ended prematurely by a shoulder separation sustained in a car accident while Guillermo Mota had an off-season. Heilman and Alay Soler will likely join them. Not so old friend Scott Schoeneweis and Pedro Feliciano join Wagner (Feliciano/Wagner, hmm...Light My Fire, Valkyries?) as the portsiders in the pen.

The modified Marcel pitching projections

I have taken some liberties with the Marcel pitching projections found in the Hardball Times; the modified projections are marked with an asterisk on the chart below. So, why already? I have reduced Glavine's ERA from 4.2 to 3.75 on the basis that it is consistent with his projected peripheral statistics and his proven ability to be better than average with runners on base. I have increased Maine's and Pelfrey's innings on the basis of the unusual extent of the opportunity for a young pitcher. I increased Maine's ERA from 4.2 to 4.7 on the basis that this is consistent with his peripheral statistics and history. I have reduced Park's innings on the basis that it shouldn't take the Mets more than 75 innings to figure out that they have better options. I have increased Heilman's innings, and projected modestly reduced performance numbers, on the basis that I expect to him make some starts over the season. Wagner's projected K/G and ERA, 9.3 and 3.20, might be a misprint. He's had 3 straight years with K/G in the 11-12.5 range and ERAs in the 1.5-2.25 range. There is no reason for that to change significantly. I have reduced Schoeneweis' ERA and improved his performance numbers to reflect his change to the weaker league and the fact that he will likely not start as he did in 2004.

Pitcher IP ERA K/G W/G HR/G
Glavine 180 3.75* 5.3 3.0 0.9
Hernandez 153 4.82 7.8 3.2 1.2
Maine 150* 4.70* 6.9 3.6 1.4
Pelfrey 140* 4.50 6.7 3.5 0.9
Williams 106 5.05 5.9 3.3 1.4
Park 75* 5.15 6.5 3.7 1.1
Perez 127 5.07 8.6 4.6 1.4
Heilman 101* 4.10* 7.5* 3.3* 0.9*
Wagner 69 2.20* 11.5* 2.9 0.9
Sanchez 61 3.84 6.9 3.5 0.9
Feliciano 55 3.93 7.2 3.4 1.0
Schoeneweis 58 4.25* 6.4 3.8* 0.8
Humber 26 4.15 6.9 3.5 1.0

That totals 1300 innings with an ERA in the 4.3-4.35 range. Objectively, I estimate that the Mets will allow about 4.7 runs per game or 760 runs in the season. Subjectively, I expect Pelfrey to be much better than the projection, and allow the Mets to maintain last year's pace of about 4.5 runs allowed per game.

The totals

You read it here first. The Mets score 830 runs, allow 720 runs and win 92 games and the NL East title. Billy Wagner finally gets hot in the playoffs and they ride his arm (and those of Glavine and Pelfrey) to a World Series championship. But, don't bet on it, OK? I am pretty sure that the Braves will be better, and the Phils may be. The Marlins are probably a couple of years away.

Key players for the Mets this year: Jose Valentin, Lastings Milledge, Tom Glavine and Mike Pelfrey.

New York Mets 2007 Season Preview | 18 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
AWeb - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 09:33 AM EST (#163876) #
Ah, season previews. Finally, a look at how teams actually are constructed rather than hypothetical discussions.

The starting staff for the Mets looks just terrible at first glance, but since you went optimistic with the pitching and pessimistic with the hitting, the overall assessment seems to be fair. Unlike some other goods teams, however, it's easy to imagine a disaster of a year for the Mets if the pitching implodes. They seem to have a unique mix of the old and the young. Assuming Hernandez's age listing at 38 is dubious like many seem to, the Mets might not have a starter in his 30's until Pedro returns. I have to think that's very rare.

Mick Doherty - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 01:04 PM EST (#163879) #

Is Tom Glavine a Hall of Famer? I think it's a silly question -- the answer is "yes, of course!" -- but when you look at his career Most-Similar Pitchers on BBRef, you see Jack Morris, Tommy John and Dennis Martinez in the 1-2-4 slots, while Jim Kaat is #7.

Personally, I'd think all four of those most-similars -- except maybe Martinez -- should go in before Glavine stays out. Anyone else?

SheldonL - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 01:06 PM EST (#163880) #

Their pen is really good (Burgos, Feliciano, Wagner, Shoeneweis, Mota, Sachez) and there'll be some healthy competition for the last spot. But their rotation is not as bad as people are making it out to be!

Glavine clearly is their number 1 guy until Pedro gets back. I don't think Orlando Hernandez is worthy of the number 2 spot; he pitched terribly in '05 and in '06 with Arizona. Yes, his 20 starts in a Mets uniform were very good, but I would be very cautious in my expectations of the oft-injured 38 year old. I really like John Maine; they protected him by sending him out on 5,6 days rest to face weaker hitting teams but he really held his own in the playoffs(2.63 ERA in 3 starts). There's just way too much potential in Oliver Perez to make him a long guy at 26! I think he gets a spot in the rotation and a good two months to show what he can do; he too pitched well in the playoffs. What was most impressive in that he gave up only 3 walks in 11.2 innings - certainly an accomplishment for him.

The last spot is up for grabs between Chan Ho Park, Heilman, Dave Williams and Jason Vargas...the winner will have 3-4 months to earn it when Pedro comes back. Park pitched well(average) laast year but alot better than he has since signing that monster deal. If he can replicate last year's performance, that's a good #5 pitcher. Heilman (like Downs) has been lights out as a reliever but it's a shame that a team desperate for good starting pitching can't recognize what they have in him as a starter(if he loses out, he completes the bullpen). Williams is a wild card(much like Towers); if he can forget about the horror that was last season and get back to where he was, he would be the ideal #5 guy. Lastly, Vargas is young and last year was just a bump in the road. They were smart to pry guys with high upsides like him and Perez. The cost is low but the benefits could be excellent. I think they shouldn't rush young guys like him, Pelfrey and Humber. Let them each have a full season in triple A and then let them force you into making decisions.

With an offence like that in the NL, you can afford to take gambles on pitching!

Manhattan Mike - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 01:22 PM EST (#163881) #

Well analyzed! 

I wonder how much momentum the Mets can carry on from last year - after all, they have, far and away, the best hitting in the NL (there's no one close to them even). If Milledge matures, he can prove to be a potent force in the Mets outfield, with a lot of the tools that Alex Rios possesses. 

I personally have a hunch that the Mets would be thrilled if Glavine produced a 3.75 ERA (even in the pitcher-friendly NL East parks) and El Duque posted anything close to a 7.8 K/9 average.


dp - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 01:26 PM EST (#163882) #
Perez will open the season in the rotation from everything I've heard.  There are no plans to move Heilman to the rotation- I don't agree with this, but the Mets had a great pen last year and probably want to keep as much depth there as possible.

Last season's formula wasn't pretty but it worked.  The team would try to get a starter to go 5 or 6 innings, a lot of times the starter would get shelled/injured, then the 'pen would shut the other team down for the final frames while the offense went to work.  The thing people forget is just how poor the Mets rotation was last year- Pedro was a non-factor, Glavine was good, Traschel was mediocre, and beyond that, there was Maine, who was good but couldn't go that deep into games.  They haven't lost anyone significant from that squad- the only hits have been Bradford and unsung hero Darren Oliver.   They have more upside in the rotation this year- Maine could build on last year's success, Perez could channel some of his previous greatness, Humber and Pelfrey are both rated highly (Goldstein at BPro actually ranked Humber higher this year).  The biggest problem will be sorting through all of these guys, which will probably take much of April/May, but the division is weak enough to allow them the option.  They're not planning on Pedro coming back, but he seems determined to try.

The offense was amazing, and it isn't unrealistic to expect Wright, Reyes and Beltran to get better (Beltran played through some injuries last year).  LF and 2B were black holes last year, as Floyd couldn't get his bat going amidst all the injuries.  Matsui/Woodward/Hernandez were horrid until Valentin took over 2B.  Even if Valentin regresses, the production from 2B will improve.   You've got to expect a decline from Lo Duca and some dropoff from Delgado, but the corner OF mix of Green/Alou/Endy/Milledge/Ben Johnson should offset this. 

I don't take too much issue with your conclusion; this was a nice article.  I wanted to give you the (realistic?) Mets Mantra of Hope.  The biggest thing we have to be afraid of is the team being on shaky ground at the trade deadline- visions of Kazmir haunting us and all, and the Mets having several high-ceiling prospects in the chamber...
ramone - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 01:32 PM EST (#163883) #
Perez is getting knocked around pretty good in the spring training game today.  I know it's early, but the Tigers are all over him so far in the second inning.
Gerry - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 01:35 PM EST (#163884) #

Mike, I need to confirm your runs allowed calculation.  In the second last section you say the Mets will allow 760 runs but in the final section you say 720.  Is that because of Pelfrey?  If so that would be 40 runs better over approx 20 starts which would take his 4.50 ERA down to around 2.  Am I missing something?

Mike Green - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 01:57 PM EST (#163885) #
Gerry, the "weasel word" in my piece was "about".

Subjectively, I think that Pelfrey will have an ERA of about 3, from the get-go.  I really like him.  I probably should have said why.  Aside from his size and stuff, his 2006 splits show a pitcher far into the most beneficial quadrant, that of very high K and GB rates.  His control is good enough.  Put in him a favorable environment (a pitcher's park in the weaker league), and there is little reason that he should not succeed.
Wildrose - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 02:39 PM EST (#163886) #
Good job Mike. You'd have to wonder if that's a championship rotation though , if the Jays are not in contention  come July, A.J. Burnett ( who will almost certainly exercise his out clause after 2008) may be  a good fit with this squad. 
dp - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 03:16 PM EST (#163888) #
Mike, did you get a chance to see any of Pelfrey's starts for the Mets last year?  His fastball was amazing, good movement, and heavy.  But they were sitting on it b/c his offspeed stuff wasn't really working.  OTH, I remember that being the case a lot with him.  Supposedly, they're working with him on some more breaking stuff for this season.  He and Humber have me excited...Humber's situation reminds me of McGowan in that they're both highly regarded guys who may sneak up on people b/c of their injury situations.  I'm hoping they both wind up dominant.

Perez- I'm not really worried about a start in Feb, unless the Mets really are having open auditions for the rotation spots decided in March...

One thing I don't recall you mentioning in your write-up is how amazing Endy was in the field last year.  If the Mets have any combination of Endy/Beltran/Milledge/Johnson in the OF at the same time, that's 3 CFs roaming a large OF.  It's similar to the Jays' situation with Rios/Vern/Sparky, but the Mets trio will be better, though they'll play together less often.

BTW- Anyone know where Chris Woodward wound up?  He wouldn't be bad to have stashed at AAA.  He had a nice '05 for the Mets, but was bad last year.

Magpie - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 03:41 PM EST (#163891) #
I don't think the NL East is a weak division at all; I think there are four teams who have good reason to believe they can win this thing (and a discussion of one of them appears in these very pages tomorrow!).

The Mets probably had the best offense in the league last year - the Phillies and Braves outscored them slightly, but not by much, and Shea is not a great place to hit. I don't think either of those teams have done much to improve their offenses, and there's a good chance that Alou and Green will contribute more to this years Mets than Floyd and Nady did last year.

But that rotation gives me the shakes. The Hall of Fame was invented for players like Tom Glavine, and as long as he can crank up the heater to 85 mph he can retire major league hitters. But he's the only guy they can seriously count on. I actually like El Duque, Chan Ho, Oliver Perez, but none of them are going to start 30 games; they'll be life or death to start 20. They absolutely have to have some young pitchers step up and do things they've never done before.

You know, like Verlander and Papelbon last year.

It surely can happen. I'd just hate to be counting on it.
Mike D - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 03:41 PM EST (#163892) #

I know you're not the author of the Marcels, but that is just an extraordinarily pessimistic projection for Jose Reyes.  It may be a dozen years before he posts another sub-.800 OPS.  I just can't see somebody with his talent and pattern for improvement taking a major step back in his age-24 season.

Great preview, Mike G.

Mike Green - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 03:50 PM EST (#163893) #
I didn't see any of Pelfrey's starts.  Here's a summary of different views of Pelfrey's difficulties with his breaking ball last year.

Chavez is definitely overqualified defensively as a leftfielder, as the Dial rating above would attest.  
Mike Green - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 04:07 PM EST (#163894) #
I tend to agree with Mike D that the projection for Reyes is pessimistic.  He's only 23 years old.  He strikes out rarely.  He will take a walk.  He's got speed aplenty.  He switch-hits and without much differential between the sides.  He has developing power. 

I understand that projection systems (and Marcel is not alone) have him regressing from his 2006 performance as a result of 2005 and 2004.  His BBRef comparables are not very similar with only Edgar Renteria sharing most of his traits, including the age 23 development.  Reyes has more speed, more power and was 10 months younger than Renteria during his breakout year.  I wonder if projection systems take into account month of birth for very young players. 

Anyways, subjectively, I would have Reyes at .300/.350/.450. I would not be surprised at all if he did much better than that.

VBF - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 04:45 PM EST (#163896) #

BTW- Anyone know where Chris Woodward wound up? 

Yep, I believe he signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves.

SNB - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 08:39 PM EST (#163899) #
I should admit that this is entirely subjective and based on just a few games, but I was not at all impressed with Billy Wagner last year. I went down to New York for a week in April and caught a couple of Mets games along with a Jays-Yanks game, and if I recall correctly, the Mets won both games in the bottom of the ninth due to a Wagner implosion. Admittedly I didn't follow him at all through the rest of the year, but when I finally did begin to watch Mets games again in October, I again saw him struggle. My impression was that he'd lost some of his stuff, although he was still crafty enough to make it out of most jams; still, if I was the Mets, I think I'd be worried how long he can live off smoke-and-mirrors.

Again, it's only based on a few games, and everyone has rough patches over the course of the season. However, I don't have a huge amount of confidence in Wagner, especially given his age.

dp - Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 09:31 AM EST (#163906) #
Thanks for the link to that post on Pelfrey- very encouraging.  I think the performance of Milledge and Pelfrey in their call-ups last year soured people on them (the typical NYC fan anyway).  My reaction was the opposite- Milledge has the quickest bat of anyone you'll see and the ball just explodes off of it.  One of him, Gomez or Martinez will go eventually, though I wonder if by the time Martinez is ready, they wouldn't be better off dealing Beltran...

Mike Green - Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 10:02 AM EST (#163908) #
Matthew Carruth's article on pitchers in today's THT is a must read for insights on pitchers who changed in 2006, including Pedro Feliciano.

My Diamondbacks season preview will be coming in a few weeks, and Carruth's analysis of the mystery of Jose Valverde is similar to mine.
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