Most analysts have the Mets already penciled into third or fourth place in the NL East for 2014. They are looking up and down at team rosters, giving their projections based on the players on those rosters. A roster is simply a list of names. It can’t tell you if a player is going to have an up year or a down year. It can’t tell you if a player is going to get injured or not. It can’t tell you if the guys on that roster have the heart and determination it takes to win a championship.
So while the analysts make their predictions based on names on a roster because those names are associated with “better” baseball ability, there is really no telling what can happen over the course of a 162 game season.
With the loss of Matt Harvey for 2014, and the amount of question marks on the Mets roster, ESPN recently predicted the Mets to have one fewer win in 2014. It seems that many have less faith in the 2014 Mets than they did in the 2013 Mets.
How can that be?
Heading into 2013, the outfield was in dire straights and the Mets were entering the season on the heels of trading away 20-game winner, R.A. Dickey. Nobody projected Harvey to have the type of season he did, so how can anyone think that the Mets are just as bad or even worse off heading into 2014? It just isn’t true.
How can the Mets win 85-90 games in 2014 and quiet the doubters?
The same way teams have been winning games for over a century: with solid pitching, getting on base, and timely hitting. It doesn’t matter who is on the roster if the team can’t accomplish those things.
The Mets have to break the game down incrementally into it’s simplest form: innings. They have to treat each inning as if it is a mini-game. The goal is to win more innings than your opponent. Many think the Mets are obsessed with on base percentage—well, they are, but it’s for good reason. If nobody gets on base, how can a team score runs? The most fundamental aspect of scoring runs is first getting on base.
All but one team that made the playoffs was ranked in the top ten for on base percentage in 2013—the one team that wasn’t in the top ten was the Pittsburgh Pirates. Also, keep in mind that seven out of the top ten teams in the league in walks made the postseason in 2013. While the Mets’ team philosophy may not be seem like the best fit for the current players on the roster, they are right with regard to walks and on base percentage contributing to overall team success.
The Mets were tied for third in the major leagues with strike outs in 2013—1384 total. That number was good for one in every four at-bats. The Mets also had the sixth-lowest on base percentage in baseball last season (.306). If they are to be competitive in 2014, they have to turn this around.
How easily we forget that in 2012, the Mets were on pace at one point in the season to win over 80 games. They were winning games with solid pitching and timely hitting. That’s the classic recipe for winning baseball games. The Mets were ranked as high as ninth in the MLB Power Rankings and Mets fans started to believe that there could be a playoff run in the future. However, after the All-Star break, the team never did get back on track. I’m sure one of Terry Collins‘ goals in 2014 will be to get off to a hot start like the Mets did in 2012, but keep his team motivated and finish the season just as strong as it starts.
The Mets also received virtually no offensive output from the catcher position in 2013. In 2014, this trend should change. Travis d’Arnaud should be the starting catcher out of camp, and should easily be able to out-perform the Mets catchers from 2013. He will inject at least fifteen home runs into the lineup over the course of the season, and the healing process for the fans that were heart-broken after another disappointing 2013 season will begin.
If the Mets players play to their potential, they can be a very dangerous team. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of question marks around this team. But if these guys come together, and we see Curtis Granderson and Chris Young return to form, Ike Davis get back to hitting bombs, David Wright and Daniel Murphy keep doing what they’re doing, Zack Wheeler and d’Arnaud take a step forward, and if the pitching staff can keep the Mets in games, we may have something special.
If the analysts projections were correct every year, then what would be the point of playing the season out? They could all save us a lot of time and hand out trophies based on rosters. However, this is not a contest for putting together the best roster on paper, this is about winning ball games. The Mets can win over 85 games in 2014 if they stick to the winning formula: solid pitching, getting on base, and timely hitting…oh, and stay healthy.
There is a lot to look forward to in 2014 as Mets fans. There are some exciting young prospects on the way and if the Mets stay healthy, they are going to sneak up on a lot of teams this year. This is going to be an exciting season of Mets baseball.