New York Mets 2011 MLB Preview: Middle of the Pack in NL East
Previewing the 2011 MLB season, we’ve already named the Phillies, Yankees, and Red Soxthe top World Series favorites. We’ve already looked at the NL Central, and this week we’re looking at the NL East. We’ve already covered the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins. Today we’ll look at the New York Mets; Thursday: Washington Nationals.
Off-Season Moves: The Mets lost lefty-specialist, and workhorse, Pedro Feliciano, who finished the last three seasons as the major league leader in appearances, to free agency. They also lost left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, who went 10-6 with a 3.61 ERA and eight saves combined over 12 starts and 41 relief appearances. New York also acquired two bottom of the rotation-type guys with a lot to prove in righty Chris Young and lefty Chris Capuano. The biggest Met-killer in recent history, outfielder Willie Harris, was also brought in.
Strengths: The Mets led the NL (fifth in the majors) in steals, with 130 in 2010. Newly-named center fielder Angel Pagan led the team with 37 steals, and though he missed some time, shortstop Jose Reyes stole 30. Third baseman David Wright (pictured above) added 19 bags. That team speed — along with some help from the spacious Citi Field — allowed the Mets to hit 40 triples, good for third in baseball.
Defensively, the Mets are also very strong, finishing 2010 with a .986 team fielding percentage. The only real question mark in the infield is at second base. That job is still up for grabs, primarily between Luis Castillo and Daniel Murphy, but Brad Emaus could be a factor. Castillo is probably the best defensive second baseman, but new manager Terry Collins has stated he sees more value in offense at the position, which would seem to give Murphy an edge. That feeling comes from the fact that he’s got a strong defensive first baseman, sophomore Ike Davis (pictured below).
The outfield should be solid as well, anchored by Pagan in center, with Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran in left and right respectively. Bay is entering his second year with the team and should be more comfortable and Beltran is making the tranisiton to right from center due to mobility issues stemming from knee problems. Pagan can cover enough ground to limit any liability the other two may represent.
Weaknesses: With ace Johan Santana out until mid-season while recovering from shoulder surgery, the starting rotation looks very suspect. Until Santana returns the rotation will probably shape up like this: Mike Pelfrey (15-9, 3.66), Jonathan Niese (9-10, 4.20), R.A. Dickey (11-9, 2.84), Young (2-0, .90) and Capuano (4-4, 3.95). Both Young and Capuano are coming back from injuries. Young started just four games last season and Capuano started nine — including his first since 2007. Aside from those two, the big question is whether or not the 26-year-old Dickey can repeat his performance from last season — his breakout year.
Aside from the stolen bases and triples, the Mets were awful offensively in 2010. They ranked 22nd in the majors with a team batting average of .249 and 25th with a .314 OBP. They also ranked 23rd in both home runs and RBI with 128 and 625 respectively. So they steal bases when they get on, they just have trouble getting on.
Summary: While he may never hit for the power he used to, Bay seems like a lock to hit way more than the six home runs he did last year. He also drove in a mere 47 runs, the lowest number of his career. If he can come even close to the player he was — something like 15-20 home runs and 80-100 RBI — the Mets will be an entirely different team offensively. With Santana out half of the year, the Mets aren’t contending for anything, in the division or otherwise, but they could improve on last year’s 79 wins. I’m predicting 83 wins, good for third place in the division, but well out of the race.