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83 Wins? I’m taking the over!!!!

 With Opening Day so close you can almost smell the ballpark hot dogs, it’s time to look at the Mets chances this season.  For fans of all teams, hope always springs eternal this time of the year, even more so this year for Mets fans.  After years of frustration and disappointment, we are primed to re-join the ranks of the baseball elite.  It seems like oddsmakers have them pinned for 83 wins this season.  I know a lot of statistical analysis goes into people like Baseball Prospectus creating those projected win totals, but I’m just not buying that we are only 4 wins better than last year. I think there’s really two simple reasons why the Mets will improve by more than 4 wins this season.

We will get more wins out of our starting pitching. Last year, nine pitchers started a game for us and got us 57 wins.  Here was the breakdown (I’ve only counted wins earned as a starting pitcher):

Pitcher                       GS                      W      
Colon                          31                       15
Wheeler                      32                       11
Niese                           30                        9
de Grom                      22                        9
Gee                              22                        7
Dice K                         9                          2
Montero                       8                          1
Mejia                           7                          3
Torres                          1                          0

The Top 5 remains almost the same, with Harvey slotting in for Wheeler.  Do I think Colon wins 15 again this year?  No, I don’t. But I don’t think 12 is out of the question, and if at his age he’s “lost it”, I think the Mets will be quick to dump him and bring up either Matz or Syndergaard, or promote Montero from the bullpen. Colon’s spring numbers had me a little concerned (0-3, 7.02 ERA, 1.68 WHIP), until I looked back at the previous 2 years. Apparently Bartolo knows these games don’t count.  In 2013, he was 1-2/6.30 ERA/1.60 WHIP.  In 2014 it was 1-1/5.28/1.24.  My feeling is that as a very veteran pitcher, Colon knows he only has so many bullets in the barrel and doesn’t want to waste any during the spring.

I’m also fairly confident that Harvey wins more games in 2015 than Wheeler did in 2014.  For one, Harvey is a better pitcher.  If you read my pre-Opening Day post last year, I said one of the keys to the Mets success would be for Wheeler to take that huge step up the way Harvey did in 2013.  Sure, Wheeler pitched great in the 2nd half of the season, but did you ever get the feeling his starts were “must see” events?  No one started saying, “It’s Wheeler Day”.  Personally, I was more excited for de Grom starts.  I don’t think it’s out of the question for Harvey to win 15 games, even with his soft innings cap.  Strasburg won 15 his first full season back from TJ surgery, and as anyone who was at their match-up at Citi in 2013 knows, “Harvey’s better!!!!!!”

Niese is like the perennially underachieving student I seem to have in class every year, the one who I know has the ability but can seem to do no better than low 80s.  Having gotten 30 starts in last year, Niese should have had more than 9 wins.  I’m willing to give him 11 this year because the talent is there for 11 or more.

de Grom has done nothing this spring (3-0, 2.08 ERA, 25 K in 26 IP, only 4 walks, 0.73 WHIP) to suggest he was a one year “flash in the pan”.  With a full year ahead of him, I don’t think 12 wins is unreasonable. And if Gee stays healthy (and on the team), he has the talent to win 10 games (in the 2 years he’s gotten 30+ starts, he’s won 13 and 12 games).

If you’ve done the math, that’s 60 wins from our top 5 starters, as compared to 51 last year.

While I’m talking about wins from starters (for all you sabremetricians out there, I know, I know, wins is an old school stat), I decided to look at how many wins from starters the playoff teams got as I thought the 57 the Mets got was awfully low.

Team                          Wins                     Wins from starters     
Angels                          98                                68
Nats                              96                                70
Orioles                          96                                68
Dodgers                        94                                76
Tigers                           90                                 68
Cards                            90                                 64
—————————————————————————–
Royals                          89                                 61
A’s                                88                                 62
Giants                           88                                 56
Pirates                          88                                 55

The six division winners averaged 69 wins from the starters, while the four wild card teams averaged 58.5.  If the Mets can get 60 from their starters, they’ll be in a good position to claim a wild card spot.

Another thing I was curious about was what percent of Mets wins were earned by the starters.  The starters accounted for 72.2% of their wins.  For the six division winners combined, it worked out to 73.4% (with the Dodgers being the highest at 80.9% and the Angels being the lowest at 69.4%). For the four wild card teams, it was 66.3% (with a high of 70.5% for the A’s and a low of 62.5% for the Pirates).  So as one would expect, the very good teams have their starters earn a high percentage of their teams’ wins.  In that aspect, the Mets were right where they needed to be. (For comparisons sake, the three worst teams in baseball, the D’Backs, Rockies, and Rangers only had their starters get 65.5% of their wins).

Our offense will be better. This reason is a lot simpler and requires me to throw out far less stats.  The Mets won 79 games last year with one player (Duda) having a career year, and 2 players (Wright and Granderson) having very sub-par years (okay, maybe Grandy’s was only sub-par, but David’s was definitely very sub-par). I know Murphy was an All-Star, but his numbers were pretty much in line with what you’d expect from him, and the fact he was chosen as our All-Star really speaks to a lack of any other choice.  We got no production from the catching position prior to d’Arnaud’s recall from Vegas.  We got nothing from SS for most of the year.  Flores over the course of a full year will be a tremendous upgrade from Tejada.  In about 100 fewer ABs (259 vs. 355), Flores only had 5 fewer RBI than Tejada (34 vs. 29). Plus, Tejada struck out a ton ( 73 K), while Flores only had 31 (which over 600 ABs only projects to 72 Ks).  Lagares looks like he will improve on last year’s numbers, as you hope any young player will do, and Cuddyer is an upgrade to the lineup as well. I think just from an offensive point of view, we are four games better than last year.

Certainly the schedule does the Mets no favors, with them having to play the AL East this year, and of course 18 games against the Nats. But while the Nats have great pitching, they are showing that right now, they have some questions on the offensive side of the ball.  Scherzer, Strasburg and Company can’t pitch shutouts every night.  But they do also get to play two of the (projected) weakest teams, the Phils and Braves, 18 times apiece as well.

Finally, I think you can’t underestimate the impact of Harvey’s return.  I know he only pitches every fifth game, but he just seems like a guy who HATES to lose.  Some players just by their presence make the rest of the team better.  I believe Harvey is one of those guys.  And though the spotlight shines bright on everyone who plays in NYC, in Harvey you have someone who is willing to stand in that spotlight and perhaps shield some of his teammates from it.

If I were a betting man, and I am, I would bet the over in a heartbeat on an 83 win season.  I think the Mets will win 88 games this year and earn a wild card, and wouldn’t be surprised if they hit that magic number of 90.  It’s time to believe again!

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