The reigning National League Champions were basically two different teams last season. The New York Mets captivated a fan base that needed a lift with a run all the way to the Fall Classic, where they fell short against the Kansas City Royals. The incredible starting pitching that the Mets rode to the postseason got some help from the offense in the second half and that’s what was so unique about the season.
The Mets hit the All-Star Break with a 47-42 record, even though they had been outscored 312-310. Through those first 89 games, the Mets posted a team wRC+ of 85, with a .289 wOBA. That wOBA was tied for the second-lowest in baseball with bottom feeders like the San Diego Padres and the Philadelphia Phillies. Only the Chicago White Sox were worse offensively in the first half. The Mets hit the break with 75 home runs in 3,252 plate appearances.
In the second half, things could not have gone much better. The Mets went from 29th in wOBA to fifth in wOBA. They hit 102 home runs in 2,893 plate appearances. The addition of Yoenis Cespedes certainly paid dividends, but he wasn’t the only one. Curtis Granderson had a .386 wOBA after posting a .332 in the first half. Michael Conforto slashed .270/.355/.506. David Wright swung a good stick with a .277/.381/.437 slash. The Mets scored 63 more runs in 16 fewer games and went 43-30. The pitching was always there, but the team really took off with the influx of runs. In August and September, the Mets were 36-19 with a +82 run differential.
It will be helpful for the Mets that they only have one other big competitor within the division. The Mets were 11-8 against the Braves, Marlins, and Nationals last season and went 14-5 against the Phillies. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a similar setup this year with two clear bottom-feeders, the Marlins in the middle, and then the Nationals as the only challenger. However, it’s worth pointing out that the Mets went 47-29 against the NL East and only won 90 games last season. They were 28-38 against teams .500 or better, so beating up on the bums was their recipe for success. Is that sustainable entering this season?
Unlike several teams that have been profiled already, the Mets don’t have any statistical outliers. They won at home, as most good teams tend to do, they won within the division, and made a trade that enhanced the offense. Their Pythagorean win-loss record was 89-73, so just one game off of their actual results. Their BaseRuns record was exactly 90-72.
Projection systems are high on the Mets. With an elite starting rotation and basically the same group of position players, with Daniel Murphy swapped out for Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera at short, it’s hard to see a big fall from grace for this team. But, we’ve seen postseason hangovers catch up to teams in the past and wreak havoc the following season. With a young rotation and a bullpen that was pushed to the limit, what does 2016 have in store for the New York Mets?
Season win total odds:
BetOnline: 89.5 (-135/105)
5Dimes: 89.5 (-135/105)
Bovada: 89.5 (-115/-115)
Key additions: Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker, Antonio Bastardo, Alejandro de Aza
Key losses: Kelly Johnson, Daniel Murphy, Juan Uribe, Eric O’Flaherty, Jon Niese, Michael Cuddyer
It’s been an interesting offseason for the New York Mets. They waited about as long as they could to give Yoenis Cespedes three years at $25 million per, but it was painfully obvious that they needed his bat in the lineup. The way the team took off when he was added was really remarkable. Neil Walker came over in a straight one-for-one swap with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jon Niese.
Antonio Bastardo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Alejandro de Aza are all pretty smart signings. De Aza has some decent value in left field and will be a solid backup corner outfielder, with Juan Lagares in center field. Cabrera should be a defensive upgrade to Wilmer Flores and it will move Ruben Tejada to more of a reserve role.
In terms of losses, there aren’t many. Michael Cuddyer retired early, and the Mets will miss his production against left-handed pitching, but they have depth here. Juan Uribe was a great clubhouse guy and that will be missed. By acquiring Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores can be the replacement plan at third base if David Wright goes down again.
Why bet the over?
You’re not going to find a better rotation in the National League than this one and only the Cleveland Indians rival what the Mets have. This is the best rotation in all of baseball. The starting point is probably Jacob deGrom, the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year that actually had a better season in 2015. deGrom’s strikeout rate improved and he cut his walk rate significantly in his 191 innings. The natural progression would be for deGrom to cross the 200-inning plateau, thus making him a dark horse Cy Young Award candidate. Another season with a 2.75 ERA, a similar FIP, and a slightly higher xFIP will produce another five-win season and that’s a good front of the rotation starter.
A full season removed from Tommy John surgery, Matt Harvey is reportedly restriction-free this season. He threw 189.1 innings in the regular season and added 26.2 innings in the postseason. He showed no signs of slowing down and was pretty strong in the playoffs. Harvey’s elite arsenal is going to produce results. His strikeout rate was down a little bit last season, which is no surprise coming back from Tommy John with no rehab starts. Expect that to come back up this season. He’s another guy with five-win or more potential.
The best raw stuff may belong to Noah Syndergaard. Known as Thor, the 23-year-old dazzled in his first big league season with elite rate stats. His command was a little bit rocky at times, with a 1.14 HR/9, but that’s why his 2.91 xFIP is a good stat to look at. Even in hitter-friendly environments in Triple-A, his HR stats were better than that, so expect that number to positively regress this season. With an incredible arsenal, postseason experience, and improving secondary stuff, this guy may have the highest ceiling of the three. That’s simply terrifying for opposing lineups. You simply don’t have long losing streaks with three aces in the starting rotation. Depending on the improvement of his home run rate, we’re looking at a four-win pitcher on the low end.
For a change of pace, Steven Matz only throws 94-95, but the southpaw has a quality curveball and a decent enough changeup to get by. He’ll give teams a different look from the left side and will slot very nicely into this rotation. He only made six big league starts in the regular season and three more in the playoffs, but the potential was on display. He’ll probably be a 3.50/3.60/3.60 type of guy in ERA/FIP/xFIP, but that’s well above league average for a fourth starter. Health is the only worry, but the upside is clear.
Speaking of health, Zack Wheeler will return at some point his season. The waves of arms that the Mets have right now is just silly. Wheeler posted a 3.54/3.55/3.49 pitcher slash in 2014 before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. He won’t be back until July, in all likelihood, but he’s going to be like a Trade Deadline acquisition for a team using 43-year-old Bartolo Colon. It’s hard to find a better impact trade than that. Colon, in his own right, should be just fine as a fifth starter as he continues to defy most of the aging curve.
The Mets are never out of a game with these five guys and slumps and losing streaks just aren’t going to happen. The Mets lost seven straight in mid-June. Their other longest losing streak was five games. They didn’t lose more than three in a row outside of that. When you talk about season win total bets, you talk about consistency. Great starting pitching provides consistency. Consistency provides wins. Wins provide overs.
This is a really good group of quality, above average regulars. Yoenis Cespedes is 30 this season, but that won’t slow him down. He’s going to be the everyday center fielder for the Mets, but can play either corner, and he’s really morphed into an excellent hitter. His contact quality is really special and his power has been really impressive in some places that aren’t real great for right-handed power bats. A repeat of his 2015 season should not be expected, but he’ll still post a .260/.300/.450 type of slash line with some decent defense and a good amount of home runs.
David Wright is a big factor for this team. Wright has a degenerative back condition, so his career won’t last as long as other players. He’s going to be limited to 130 games, but there’s no reason he can’t be worth at least two wins, and possibly more, in that span. He’s also a leader for this team, so when he’s out there, he’s going to help. As long as his back holds up, he’ll provide value offensively and defensively.
Curtis Granderson gets a bad rap because he seemed to have a pretty swift decline from his days with the Yankees, but that’s unfair and also untrue. A down BABIP season in 2014 really hurt his offensive numbers and a return to normalcy bumped him up to a five-win player. He has good power, draws walks, and plays decent defense. He also took 11 bases last season.
There are a lot of guys here that can be impact players in small or large samples. Michael Conforto has a pretty good ceiling as a college bat with good power and solid barrel skills. Travis d’Arnaud is an above average offensive catcher that missed some time last season when the Mets were struggling offensively. Neil Walker has consistently been a good offensive player for the Pirates and now heads to a fairly similar hitting environment. There aren’t many weaknesses in the starting eight and the depth isn’t bad with Wilmer Flores, Alejandro de Aza, Ruben Tejeda, and Dilson Herrera.
The bullpen had some issues late in the year, but there’s better depth here with the addition of Antonio Bastardo and the acquisition of Addison Reed. Reed fits better in a setup capacity and Jeurys Familia allows him to work in that capacity for the Mets. Hansel Robles made 57 appearances last season and has a very lively arm that pushed him to the back of the bullpen last season. This is a strong group and Bastardo was a really great addition to the team.
World Series losers have done pretty well the following season. The Royals went back to the World Series and won. The St. Louis Cardinals made it to the 2014 NLCS after losing in 2013. The Detroit Tigers won the Central Division and went to the ALCS in 2013. The Texas Rangers were a wild card team in 2012. In 2011, the Rangers went back to the World Series and lost again. The 2009 Phillies were an NLCS participant the following year. The hangover hasn’t affected many teams of late.
Why bet the under?
As elite as this starting rotation is, there are a lot of question marks as well. None of the are performance-based, so it is simply an exercise in dealing with hypotheticals. Matt Harvey already had Tommy John surgery and he threw a lot of innings last season, even though the team and Harvey’s agent sparred over whether or not he should have an innings limit. Ultimately, Harvey’s competitive nature won out and he worked as much as he could. There’s always inherent risk in a post-Tommy John hard-thrower like Harvey.
Jacob deGrom has been just fine health-wise over the last two seasons, but the former college shortstop turned pitcher missed the 2011 season with Tommy John surgery. When you talk about heavy workloads, you talk about regression in command and control. These are all young guys in this rotation that are still trying to learn how their bodies react to prolonged seasons. Coming off of 191 regular season innings and a handful of playoff starts, will deGrom experience a dead arm period early in the season?
Noah Syndergaard, like Harvey and deGrom, set a new career-high in innings pitched. For Syndergaard, his workload was closely monitored, perhaps more so than the other two, once he got to the bigs. His walk rate was way better in the bigs that it had been at any stop in the minors. It seems like that would be an area that could regress. With his home run problem, more walks means more multi-run dingers. That’s how you elevate an ERA in a hurry. His command is a work in progress and he could be prone to a sophomore slump if the league adjusts.
Steven Matz is great, but back issues bothered him last season and he also had trouble with a lat muscle. Matz lacks a third pitch and only had 35.2 regular season innings under his belt when the postseason started. Is that a guy you really want to count on? The promise is there, and so is the potential, but there’s risk involved here. Considering that there’s very little depth behind 43-year-old Bartolo Colon, the Mets may be a top-heavy rotation that struggles to fill out the back of the starting five. Logan Verrett is a decent swingman and Rafael Montero may still have some upside, but the Mets really need the top three to stay healthy because the back of the rotation is full of health and performance-related questions. Again, when talking about win totals, you’re talking about the need for sustained success, especially for these teams with higher numbers.
There’s decent depth on the position player side of things, but we do have to wonder which Mets offense we’re going to get. For the season, the Mets finished 20th in wOBA at .309 and had a 99 wRC+. That seems about right. A full season of Yoenis Cespedes should help, but it’s unclear what the team will actually get from David Wright and Curtis Granderson is on the wrong side of 35. Once again, it’s important to remember that this team played a lot of baseball last season. They coasted to the NL East title once Washington completely imploded, but there were a lot of injured guys that finished out the season on really strong notes. We’re talking about a team that really overachieved in the first half by being five games over .500 and a team that pummeled opponents over a long stretch in the second half.
One player that has not been covered much is Lucas Duda. Duda battled a back issue last season and there are some negative trends. His strikeout rate climbed and his batted ball distance dropped. He was also a very streaky hitter. He’s a decent defensive player, but a return of those injuries may zap some of his value and those red flags are cause for concern.
The Mets are benefactors of a weak schedule with the Braves and the Phillies 38 times. They do play the ultra-competitive AL Central in interleague play this year and really struggled against quality competition last season with that 28-38 record against teams .500 or better. To an extent, it feels like 90-72 was the best-case scenario for the Mets last season and their win total opens there this season? Sure, the starting pitching is fantastic, but these are young guys coming off of a long season and two of them have already had Tommy John, one is recovering from it, and one is 43. Several of the position players are on the wrong side of 30, including Wright, Cespedes, Granderson, Walker, Duda, and Cabrera.
The postseason hangover hasn’t bothered many teams lately. That’s true. But, the Mets are a unique situation in that they had a lot more young pitchers setting highs in innings than those other teams. Last season’s Royals, most of the guys that set some new innings thresholds were relievers and they managed to stay in tact. It’s a little bit different with starters, especially those that have had major operations. It’s not a be-all, end-all argument, but it has to be considered over 162.
Pick: New York Mets Over 89.5 (-115 – Bovada)
In doing these, I always look for reasons to bet the under first. Even though I start with the over section, my mind instantly gravitates to what a team’s worst-case scenario is. With the Mets, I honestly feel like their floor is 85 wins. This starting rotation is one of the best we have ever seen. The position player group is really solid and I like the Neil Walker pick-up quite a bit. The bullpen has some minor question marks, but that’s about the only weakness.
With two bottom feeders in the division, and four others in the NL, to feast on, along with a marginal Marlins team, the Mets have a friendly schedule again this season. It’s scary to think about the fact that this rotation has three elite starters in their primes, a guy like Matz coming up on his, and a guy like Wheeler waiting in the wings for his elbow to get healthy.
Take the over and don’t look back.
-END OF 2016 PREVIEW-
The New York Mets were hammered by over bettors last season and comfortably went over the number with their 79-83 season. Oddsmakers are asking the Mets to clear the .500 hurdle for the first time since 2008 to go over their win total this season. It’s not a surprise to see a win total like this because the Mets project to have one of the top starting rotations in the National League. The Mets allowed 618 runs last season, the fewest they have allowed since the strike-shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons. You have to go back to 1990 for a full season in which the Mets allowed fewer runs.
Unfortunately, the Mets also didn’t score many runs. They touched home plate just 629 times last season, which was a 10-run upgrade from the 2013 season. It wasn’t pretty for the Mets, who ranked 26th in wOBA, 21st in wRC+, 28th in batting average, 22nd in on-base percentage, and saw a major drop in production from David Wright. Citi Field’s pitcher-friendly conditions had a lot to do with it because the Mets scored 3.5 runs per game at home. On the road, the Mets scored 4.23 runs per game, but also allowed 46 more runs.
The fences are moving in at Citi Field this season in an effort to create more offense. The right center field fence has been moved in 10 feet and the left center field seats are 10-15 feet closer. It remains to be seen if this will help the home team or hurt the home team, but I’ll dive into that and more in my look at the Mets.
This is a team that has a very high ceiling because of the pitching staff and an offense that could be better than people expect. When looking at win totals, it’s important to isolate the teams that have potential to improve. Teams that are lined at or around their best-case scenario are not worth betting overs. Similarly, teams that need a lot of things to go right are not worth betting overs. Teams that have potential to be a lot better than projected are not good under bets. The Mets have potential to boom or bust, so this is a number that merits quite a bit of discussion and a lot of research.
Oddsmakers at Atlantis Sportsbook opened the Mets win total at 81. Westgate Superbook posted 81.5 two days later and the offshore market opened there as well with BetOnline at 81.5. 5Dimes is also at 81.5, but with heavy juice on the over. The line is the same at Bovada.
Key additions: Michael Cuddyer, John Mayberry Jr.
Key losses: Taylor Teagarden, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jeremy Hefner
He’s not included here because he was not involved in a transaction, but the return of Matt Harvey from Tommy John surgery is bigger than any free agent pickup or trade that could have happened this season. Michael Cuddyer was an interesting signing for the Mets, who gave up a compensation pick and then signed Cuddyer to an average annual value below the $14.1M attached to the qualifying offer.
There aren’t many big additions or losses for the Mets, which is why some people are undecided on the Mets. The front office has decided to bank on a young, improving rotation and a lineup that has a lot of flaws. Had the Mets made some impact offseason moves, their outlook would be a lot more concrete. Instead, they are one of the most perplexing teams in the lead-up to the season.
Why bet the over?
The starting rotation is going to be good and has the potential to be great. Matt Harvey returns from the long process of rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and joins a rotation that wound up being pretty good without him. Harvey’s first 237.2 innings at the Major League level were spectacular. He was just 12-10 (pitcher record is irrelevant) with a 9.88 K/9, a 2.16 BB/9 (which was 1.56 over 178.1 IP in 2013), and a 2.39 ERA, 2.33 FIP, 2.84 xFIP. In other words, Matt Harvey is really good and he got better from year one to year two.
Unfortunately, Harvey missed all of 2014. The silver lining is that Harvey had his surgery early enough in 2013 that he should be ready to go for the Opening Day starting rotation for the Mets. Velocity is usually the first thing to come back after Tommy John. It’s the command and control that take a little bit of time. Thankfully, Harvey’s command profile is so good that even a slight regression due to rust and injury shouldn’t affect him too badly. The Mets may monitor his innings and workload, but whatever Harvey gives them will be well above average.
Jacob deGrom is the reigning National League Rookie of the Year. He wound up 9-6 over 22 starts with a 2.69 ERA and a 2.67 FIP, which would suggest that his performance is sustainable. deGrom posted a solid 3.35 K/BB ratio and struck out over 25 percent of the batters that he faced. Batters swung and missed nearly 12 percent of the time against deGrom and his fastball was one of the most valuable pitches in the league. There’s a bit more on deGrom on the other side of this bet, but you can peg him for a sub-3.50 ERA and another strong season in the rotation. deGrom was almost an afterthought in an organization with prospects like Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard, but he was really solid last season and people may have slept on him. They won’t anymore.
Zack Wheeler’s peripherals paint a Picasso of what he is capable of. Wheeler had great swing-and-miss rates on most of his pitches and really buried hitters when he worked ahead in the count. Unfortunately, Wheeler’s first-pitch strike percentage was only 54.4 percent, which is well below league average. There are easy things for Wheeler to clean up. He needs to pitch ahead and he needs to smooth out his mechanics from the windup. Wheeler walked nearly 11 percent of the batters he faced with the bases empty. He was much cleaner and much sharper from the stretch. Eleven of the 14 home runs that Wheeler allowed were solo shots. Another year of experience and better refinement will help Wheeler progress and he could be this season’s breakout candidate.
Reliable innings to protect young arms are vitally important and the Mets have that in Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese. Both players come with risk. Colon will turn 42 in May and Niese has dealt with shoulder pain off and on over the last two seasons. He still threw 187.2 innings and posted a 3.40 ERA with a 3.67 FIP. Niese is a ground ball guy that cut down on his walk rate and he’s a good back-end starter. Colon will be pushed to the back of the rotation by the influx of young Mets arms, but he is what he is. A 200-inning guy that won’t hurt you. Noah Syndergaard will be knocking on the door for some innings and they could come at the expense of Colon or Niese, if the shoulder starts barking again.
Moving to the offensive side of things, the Mets dealt with a lot of injuries and a revolving door of infielders as they tried to figure out who they can rely on. There are a few players that shined last season and nobody was better on the Mets than Lucas Duda. Duda crushed 30 home runs with a .349 OBP and a .361 wOBA. He was average defensively, but his offensive prowess carried him to a three-win season.
Daniel Murphy posted a decent .289/.332/.403 slash line for the Mets with 13 steals. He’s a bat-to-ball guy, so sabermetrics don’t rate him all that highly because of a below average walk rate, but high average guys have value, especially with some decent walk rates from other Mets players. Murphy just makes contact and finds holes. He scored 79 runs last season and was one of the few players to avoid injury throughout the course of the season.
David Wright posted a league average season with a .269/.324/.374 slash. An ailing shoulder zapped Wright’s power ability, but he is one season removed from posting a .307/.390/.514 slash with a .391 wOBA and a 156 wRC+. The third baseman was 4.1 wins worse than the season before. It’s not hyperbole to say that Wright is not just the key to the offense, but the key to the team as a whole. He’ll never be a 30 HR guy again, but if he starts walking again and can get back to 18-20 homers, he’s going to significantly increase his value because he’s still a decent defender at third.
Juan Lagares can go and get it in center field, though the new ballpark dimensions may mitigate some of his fielding value. He was slightly above average thanks to a .341 BABIP, but the Mets have asked him to steal more bases this season than the 13 he swiped last year. Adding some additional baserunning value to his defensive value may allow him to crack the four-win plateau in his third full season in the bigs.
A terrible first half for Travis d’Arnaud gave way to a much better second half. d’Arnaud posted a .217/.292/.354 slash in the first half. In the second half, d’Arnaud abandoned the patient approach and swung away. He walked four percent less, but also struck out six percent less, and slugged .474. A poor .259 BABIP could improve this season and d’Arnaud may be a quality sleeper at catcher in your fantasy league and he could take a big step forward this season.
The Mets added Michael Cuddyer in right field for some extra pop and presence. Cuddyer enjoyed some huge years in Colorado thanks to the Coors Field dimensions, but he still has the ability to put the bat on the ball and make things happen. Curtis Granderson still walks and hits for power, so he’s a valuable player, despite his awful splits and low batting average.
Wilmer Flores is one of the “X-Factors” for the Mets this season. Flores puts bat to ball, but he doesn’t walk and has shown limited power at the Major League level. He’s also a question mark at shortstop. However, there is some value in his skill set and his .323/.367/.568 PCL-inflated slash line from Triple-A Las Vegas suggests that there’s still offensive development left.
The Mets bullpen was in a state of flux most of last season, but Jenrry Mejia enters the season as the unquestioned closer and Bobby Parnell will be back from Tommy John surgery early in the 2015 season. Jeurys Familia was solid in middle relief and Carlos Torres was a nice addition over 73 appearances.
Why bet the under?
The hype is justified about the Mets starting rotation, but there are a significant amount of question marks that can cause the Mets to severely underachieve. The starting rotation is the strength of the team and the offense is probably going to be below league average unless David Wright takes a big step up to his previous performance.
We’ll start with Matt Harvey, who is coming off of Tommy John. Harvey had a great, lively fastball, but he also relied heavily on a slider-curve combination to keep hitters off-balance. Nearly 32 percent of Harvey’s offerings by PITCHf/x data were sliders and curve balls in 2013. That a bit of a concern because those add additional torque on the elbow and there’s always risk involved with coming off of major surgery.
Jacob deGrom had a great season, but the strikeout rates that he enjoyed at the Major League level seem like a bit of an anomaly because those were not present at the minor league level. deGrom may have changed up his arsenal or sequencing, but it’s unlikely that he can replicate last season’s strikeout rate, if you believe his minor league track record. Fewer strikeouts will mean a lower LOB%, which means a higher ERA. With a Mets offense that will struggle to score runs again, any run prevention decreases are going to have an impact.
That brings us back to Zack Wheeler, who has immense promise, but has a major platoon split problem. Lefties posted a .353 OBP off of Wheeler last season and a .335 wOBA. Not all wOBAs are created equal, but Ben Zobrist is an example of a .335 wOBA. So is Aramis Ramirez. Wheeler’s problems are mechanical in nature and those can take time to be fixed. His walk rate is concerning and consistency has been an issue. Also, Wheeler struggles to work deep into games because he pitches into a lot of deep counts. That brings the middle relievers into the fray and the bullpen is one of the Mets biggest question marks. Wheeler, in his current state, is a good pitcher. Is a good pitcher good enough to propel this team to more wins?
David Wright is 32 now and has played a lot of games, likely through a lot of injuries. Shoulders are a tricky thing for hitters and if his power is truly gone, it’s hard for him to help the Mets offense. He’ll still hit for a decent average and probably walk at a good rate again, but the Mets don’t have many guys that are going to turn baserunners into runs scored. Wright’s average batted ball distance dropped by over 25 feet last season. Was that the shoulder or aging? It’s hard to tell, but it’s easy to have a pessimistic view of Wright for this season.
Lucas Duda’s power explosion may be sustainable with the changes in dimension at Citi Field, but he went from 15 homers to 30 homers and most of his plate discipline peripherals stayed the same. The Steamer projection system is offering up a 21 percent decline for Duda in wRC+ for this season. That would be crippling to this offense.
Juan Lagares accounted for 28 defensive runs saved last season. As a team, the Mets saved 17 runs defensively. d’Arnaud was the biggest culprit at -15 DRS, but this is where Michael Cuddyer comes in. The Mets, on the whole, are average defensively with the exception of a few outliers on both sides. David Wright is also a good defender. Michael Cuddyer is a terrible defensive outfielder. Wilmer Flores is shaky at shortstop and he’ll be there for a full season. Daniel Murphy is a bad defender at second. That’s why strikeouts are so important for the Mets defense. It’s why a guy like deGrom can ill afford to drop from a strikeout standpoint.
The defense is a big concern. The bullpen is a big question mark with some guys that battled injuries and others that outpitched their advanced metrics. The offense has some worries. The starting rotation is not bulletproof. Playing on the Mets over is likely a play against the rest of the NL East. Washington will win more than 90 games. The Marlins are a team I like. The Braves and Phillies will not be good. Which way do you go?
Pick: Over 81.5
I’m a believer in the David Wright bounce back and I also believe that the Braves will be much worse than people expect. The Mets have a good young starting rotation that should be among the league’s best rotations. Noah Syndergaard will be an impact arm later in the season and the possible development of Zack Wheeler can turn the Mets from a .500 type team into an 84 or 85-win team.
I don’t think the Mets fly over this win total and I like the Marlins for the second wild card more than the Mets. I think the Mets come very close to this number on either side. But, I do like the upside of the starting rotation enough to lean to the over. I’m a bit concerned about the dimensions changes at Citi Field and what that may mean for the pitching staff, but they miss bats and have upside. Except for deGrom, I don’t think any Mets hurler pitched at his absolute best last season and that means there’s growth potential.
It’s not as strong of a play as the Marlins over or the Braves under, but the Mets should be good enough to claw their way just over this number.
-END OF 2015 PREDICTION-
For the fifth straight season, the New York Mets finished below .500. In the National League East, 74-88 was good enough for a third place finish in 2013, the highest the Mets have finished since 2008. The Mets are still in search of their first winning season at Citi Field. After a string of nine straight seasons from 2003-2012 with nine-figure payrolls, the Mets dropped to around the $70M mark in 2013 and will hover in the mid-$80M range this season.
The 2013 season was the Mets worst offensive performance in a full season since 1992, when they scored just 599 runs. Last season, the Mets managed just 619 runs and had the National League’s second-lowest wOBA at .297 and second-lowest slugging percentage at .366. The Mets managed just 3.3 runs per game at home, a big discrepancy from the 4.33 runs per game they averaged on the road. The additional road offense helped the Mets to a 41-40 record away from Citi Field, which wasn’t nearly enough to counterbalance their 33-48 home mark.
Partially because of the inept offense, but also because of the park dimensions, Citi Field was the second-toughest environment for run scoring last season according to ESPN’s Park Factor metrics. It’s 330 down the right-field line and 335 down the left-field line, with a rather interesting wall configuration in right field that extends as far out as 415 feet. Citi Field is known as a pitcher’s park, something that the Mets are going to rely on as they look to improve this season.
There’s some love for the Mets in the betting market as the number posted by most sportsbooks has either moved or been juiced to the over. 5Dimes.eu, Bovada.lv, and BetDSI.eu are all at 73.5 with juice on the over ranging from -120 at BetDSI to -135 at Bovada. BetOnline has the Mets at 74 with the over juiced at -120.
Key additions: Bartolo Colon, Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth
Key losses: Justin Turner, LaTroy Hawkins, Frank Francisco, David Aardsma, Scott Atchison
On paper, the Mets certainly look like an improved team. Bartolo Colon will add a stable veteran presence to a rotation that used 12 different starting pitchers last season. Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth are veteran, buy-low guys coming off of poor seasons. They’ll replace the four bullpen arms that the Mets lost with LaTroy Hawkins, who was closing at season’s end, and veterans Frank Francisco, David Aardsma, and Scott Atchison.
Curtis Granderson and Chris Young will retool an outfield that was in desperate need of production after Marlon Byrd left via trade last season. Mets outfielders accumulated 7.0 fWAR in 2013, but half of that was courtesy of Byrd. Even with Byrd, the Mets got a .302 wOBA from their outfielders, the third-lowest mark in all of baseball. Neither Granderson nor Young will hit for a high average, but they walk and have some power, which is valuable.
The Mets spent some money to add an influx of veterans alongside some of their younger players. The Mets best additions may come during the season with prospects like Noah Syndergaard, Wilmer Flores, and Rafael Montero.
Why bet the over?
For starters, the Mets weren’t very good last year and this number is right around their win total from last season. Dillon Gee was the only starter to make over 30 starts in the rotation, followed by Matt Harvey, who made 26. Harvey’s loss is definitely a big deal, as he’s one of the best young arms in the game. He swears he will pitch this season, but the Mets are definitely going to use extreme caution with their prized right-hander. With Colon, who has been extremely durable over the course of his long career, the Mets are going to have some semblance of stability in the rotation.
Behind Colon, there’s Jon Niese, whose MRI results came back clean earlier in Spring Training. What Niese lost in strikeouts, he gained in ground balls last season. His strikeout rate fell below average for the first time in his career, but his ground ball rate climbed back over 51 percent. He also lowered his HR/FB percentage down to 8.2 percent, which is quite good. Niese remains a solid starter and if he’s able to stay healthy, he should return to being worth more than two wins.
Zack Wheeler doesn’t seem to be getting enough respect because of the other great young arms all around MLB. Up until the Harvey injury, Wheeler was overshadowed by his rotation mate, but the limelight will now shift to the 23-year-old righty. Wheeler struggled with his control last season with 46 walks in 100 innings. What people don’t seem to realize is that Wheeler had high walk rates in the minors too. The difference was that he also struck out an inordinately high number of hitters. That didn’t translate to the Majors last season, even though he still averaged mid-90s with his fastball. Due to his control problems, Wheeler was very reliant on the fastball, throwing gas over 70 percent of the time. Getting ahead in more counts will open up his assortment of breaking pitches.
Because the Mets weren’t good last season, Wheeler could learn on the job and that experience will be invaluable for the upcoming season. He has good veteran support around him and will probably be the third or fourth starter, so there won’t be a whole lot of pressure. Expectations aren’t particularly high for this team, despite GM Sandy Alderson’s “win 90” comments. Wheeler should continue to improve and a top four of Colon, Niese, Gee, and Wheeler is a pretty formidable group.
Someone will be a placeholder for Noah Syndergaard in the fifth spot. The group of hopefuls includes Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lannan, and Jenrry Mejia. Carlos Torres made nine starts for the pitching-strapped Mets last season out of his 33 appearances, but he will open the season in the bullpen. He exhibited excellent control with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.41. Matsuzaka and Lannan are two guys looking to get their careers back on track. Matsuzaka made a handful of starts for the Mets last season and Lannan, once the Washington Nationals Opening Day starter, made 14 poor starts for the Phillies last season.
Mejia is the most interesting of the group. He had a procedure to clean up some bone spurs in his elbow that he had been pitching through. Over seven seasons in the organization, Mejia has only made 140 appearances and 85 starts. He simply can’t stay healthy. His five-start sample was rather impressive, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.75 and a ground ball rate of 58 percent. Guys that strike hitters out and induce ground balls can really have success. Health is the big concern.
This is a pretty good rotation that gets overshadowed because of the other rotations in the NL East. The Braves and Nationals have very strong rotations, the Phillies have Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, and the Marlins have wunderkind Jose Fernandez. The Mets rotation posted a 3.68 ERA and 3.67 FIP last season and very similar home/road FIPs. This is an underrated group that had a ton of trouble staying healthy last season. A healthier group this season won’t turn the Mets into a contender, but they will be in line for an improved record.
The bullpen will be led by Bobby Parnell, who carried over his success as a setup man into the closer’s role. Parnell had 22 saves with plus command in his 49 appearances before running into a herniated disc. The important that is that it wasn’t an arm injury and Parnell should have a clean bill of health entering 2014. Behind Parnell is a very young, very raw, but talented group with a lot of upside.
In the mix for the setup role are Jeurys Familia, Gonzalez Germen, Vic Black, and the loser of the rotation battle between Torres and Mejia. All of these guys show the ability to strike out at least one batter per inning and most of them posted very strong home run rate numbers, aided by Citi Field. There aren’t any household names here, but there’s some raw talent that will hopefully be dominant more often than they struggle.
Also in contention for the setup role are Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde. Both righties have had their share of troubles in recent years, with health and performance, but they get a fresh start in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. Farnsworth saw a drop in strikeouts and a spike in home runs last season that led to some inflated numbers. Valverde lost all semblance of command last season and will try to recoup some kind of value for the Mets.
David Wright remains the leader of the Mets. One of the game’s best players when healthy, Wright provides great value offensively and defensively. In seasons where Wright has played at least 100 games, he has averaged 5.3 fWAR per season and even chips in with some stolen bases. He’s a legitimate top player in this lineup and may be underappreciated because of the team he plays for.
Curtis Granderson succumbed to injuries last season and had his worst year in the Major Leagues, playing in just 61 games. The silver lining for Granderson is that his injuries were fractures to the arm and hand, so they shouldn’t have any lingering effects as he inches towards his mid-30s. Leg injuries would be more cause for concern. Moving out of center field should help Granderson’s defense with less ground to cover. He’ll add some pop to a lineup that needs to replace Marlon Byrd’s production. Chris Young will also help in that area. Young has a pretty sharp platoon split, so he may wind up seeing the majority of his time against lefties, but he’s a power and speed guy could do better back in the NL.
Glove-first, bat-second center fielder Juan Lagares rounds out the outfield. He has tremendous value for the pitching staff while covering the spacious outfield at Citi Field, even if his bat doesn’t come around. There’s some promise there as he has a lot of raw talent, but even if the offense doesn’t take a step forward, his legs and arm are a weapon in center field that will save the Mets some runs.
Around the infield besides Wright, Daniel Murphy took a nice step forward last season at second base. Following up strong 2011 and 2012 campaigns with a little bit more power and some stolen bases, Murphy racked up 3.0 fWAR and above average production for a second baseman. Ike Davis hit 32 home runs in 2012 before falling off the face of the earth last season. The potential is still there, it just didn’t show through last season. Lucas Duda will also be in the mix for at bats at first and will also see some outfield playing time. The best thing that can be said about Ruben Tejada is that he plays passable defense and could improve on his batting average after a horrible BABIP last season.
The strength of the Mets, as it is for so many NL East teams, is their rotation. It’s a quality group that could feature five above average starters, even without Matt Harvey. If Harvey and Syndergaard are in the rotation by August or so, this is a team that could finish the year real strong.
Why bet the under?
The Mets have been plagued by injuries over the last couple of seasons and that seems likely to continue. In two of the last three seasons, David Wright has missed time. The Mets offense isn’t great to begin with, but losing Wright would hurt it that much more. This looks like an offense that will strike out quite a bit and walk a fair amount, but this team doesn’t have many high-average hitters on it.
Outside of Granderson, the Mets will get below average offensive production from center and right field. Granderson’s production is a question because he’s trending downward. His swing and miss rate has been way up over the last two seasons, he’s approaching his mid-30s, and Citi Field is far less friendly to lefties than Yankee Stadium. They’ll be below average at shortstop and probably first base. Travis d’Arnaud is a question with the bat as well, but his defense will give him value. This offense will have a lot of problems scoring runs again this season. Any time you get a substandard offense, you’re asking a lot of a pitching staff. While it’s a strength, it’s a strength that is somewhat mitigated by the other teams in the NL East. They have similar rotations with equal or better offenses.
How much does Bartolo Colon have left in the tank? He’s exhibited elite command, possibly the best in baseball, but he’ll be 41 in May and Citi Field doesn’t suppress power the way that O.co Coliseum does. He’s a fly ball pitcher that throws over 80 percent fastballs, so any drop in command could be hurtful. Dillon Gee’s FIP was 4.00 after a 3.62 ERA because he stranded 77.9 percent of his baserunners. For a below average strikeout guy, that’s unlikely to continue. Will Jon Niese manage to stay healthy? The signs aren’t encouraging that he already had a MRI a couple weeks into Spring Training. Can the Mets rotation be as good without Matt Harvey’s dominant numbers? Leaning towards no seems like the smart bet on both of those questions.
The bullpen is a huge question mark, in size 48 font with bolded and underlined text. Outside of Parnell, nobody is really proven for the upcoming season. Farnsworth and Valverde are on the wrong side of 30 and the young guys that miss bats also miss the strike zone. There’s a lot riding on Parnell’s health because the Mets have no replacement closer worth trusting.
The Mets are one of the few teams not expected to get better according to the oddsmakers. Even the Astros and Marlins saw growth in their win total number compared to last season’s results. A few teams that seemed to have overachieved have lower totals, but the Mets were a bad team last season that isn’t expected to get much better. That’s possibly worth considering, although some of the win total numbers haven’t been very well thought out.
Ultimately, this is a team with a good rotation, a below average lineup, a below average bullpen, and an average-to-below-average defense. When you can pitch, but can’t hit, it’s not easy to win games. The Phillies and Marlins seem better and the Nationals look poised to be a few games better than last season as well.
Pick: Under 73.5 (+120, BetDSI)
I’m going to go contrarian here despite all of the love for the Mets. The pitching is undoubtedly promising and the rotation, if it stays healthy, will be pretty strong. But offense is going to be hard to come by. A lot of their pitchers have injury concerns and there’s a little bit of depth there, but a lot of below average arms in the wings until Syndergaard is ready. The reason people are going over is because of the potential for the rotation with Syndergaard, Wheeler, and potentially Harvey if he comes back. Syndergaard has just 54 innings at Double-A under his belt, so he’ll hardly be polished if he gets the call. Regardless of what Harvey thinks, it’s very hard to see the Mets costing him another year of development to bring him back and have him need Tommy John surgery and miss all of 2015 as well.
It’s not a very strong lean, but at the plus money price, it has to be considered. This team has a lot of holes, a lot of health concerns, and a bullpen that’s going to spoil the rotation’s work on a fairly regular basis.