With Spring Training underway and the roster more or less solidified, let’s take a look at how the team might fare this upcoming season. After splurging on free agents this past offseason (comparatively, obviously), how do the 2014 Mets stack up against the 2013 version? We won’t know the actual answer till October, but who wants to wait that long? This article will compare the offense, while a pitching comparison will follow in due time.
To make the comparisons, I studies three separate projection systems, then calculated the average of each to get a “final” projection, then compared it to each player’s 2013 stats. I used the projections from ZiPS, Steamer and Oliver. I chose those three, or rather, I didn’t choose others because: Marcel is very basic, Bill James is unreliably optimistic, CAIRO is just Marcel with a few more factors and CHONE is no longer publically accessible. PECOTA relies on historical comparisons, but I find that unreliable because the game was far too different in the past to base today’s projections on it. The scope of baseball has changed dramatically.
This is all my opinion. If you swear by Marcel or CAIRO, bully for you. They are all valid, and sometimes very accurate. However, for reasons stated above, I prefer the three I’m using. You can bone up on ZiPS and Oliver here, and on Steamer here. Pay close attention to how they extrapolate playing time.
I will present a small chart for each of the twelve players to likely get the most playing time. Around the infield with David Wright, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and the three first basemen: Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Josh Satin. I’ll go around the outfield with Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares, Chris Young and Eric Young, Jr. I’ll finish it with Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores.
The charts will show each of the three projections for the player, the average of the projections and the 2013 line for comparison. Enjoy.
Thoughts: ZiPS is not a fan. It’s projecting a DL stint, it looks like, but what I find strange is that the loss of playing time isn’t going to affect his home run total. I find that odd. ZiPS likes Wright to regress as a hitter just about all around, except his home run rate will increase, since his total is right around normal but his plate appearances drop. That seems like a very rare scenario. There’s a regression expected from each projection, but ZiPS is hinting at such a slide that it could cost the team a handful of wins if it bears fruit. If Steamer and Oliver prove to be true, it should be another All Star season for the Mets captain with a few MVP votes sprinkled in.
Thoughts: I’m an unabashed, unapologetic Tejada supporter, so I’m encouraged by these numbers, as they all predict Tejada to be better than last season, though Oliver doesn’t expect much of an upgrade. I do think each projection is pretty light on the OBP. We’ve all seen Tejada in 2011 and 2012 show pretty good plate discipline and display enough hand-eye coordination to enable him to see lots of pitches and hit with two strikes. I think he can be a .270/.335/.350 hitter with a doubles total in the low 30’s. A line like that, however, will still require him to maintain an above-average defensive season to be a real contributor.
Thoughts: It’s just Danny being Danny. Remarkably consistent, I do think if Murph was ever going to top 15 home runs, this would be the season so long as the middle of the order bats meet expectations and he sees a few more fastballs. There’s not much to add.
Thoughts: Confirming what we already surmised, Satin as an everyday player would be exposed. He does show moderate power and a good walk rate, and it comes as a surprise to no one that he’s best suited as a platoon partner. He could be the first to lose his job, however, as Flores can do everything he can, and more, but with a much higher ceiling. He might not even come north if Omar Quintanilla and Wilfredo Tovar have good springs.
Thoughts: Not one projection thinks Ike will finally figure it out. Oliver thinks he’ll be downright useless. I’d like to see Steamer be correct here, obviously, but even if that proves to be the case, is that really what we want? Isn’t that settling? Provided good health everywhere else, it might behoove the Mets to maybe leave Flores down in extended to start the year and get full time reps at first base. You know. Just in case.
Thoughts: Yikes. Not as productive as Ike and half the defense, even though Ike is a tad overrated with the glove himself. I’m starting to like the idea of getting Flores real first base reps more and more.
**Marlon Byrd‘s 2013 Mets stats. It’s who Granderson is replacing in the lineup and Grandy didn’t have a 2013 to speak of, anyway.
Thoughts: The problem with projections is that they don’t factor in a hitter’s approach and they put more weight on most recent seasons. We can lament these projections and try to justify it by telling ourselves that at least he’s not Jason Bay, but it certainly looked for all to see that he changed his approach in Yankee Stadium. He hit .272/.344/.484 as a Tiger, and that would be pretty darn good along with 25 home runs and plus defense in left field.
Thoughts: Even with these numbers, Lagares would contribute positively because his defense is so good, he’d prevent more runs in the field than he’d cost at the plate. That said, even though I’d take .260 with 35 extra base hits, he needs to improve his plate discipline. I’m sure he can do that based on his improvements in the high minors in 2011 and 2012, and that could conceivably make him an All Star.
Thoughts: The good news, for those who put stock in WAR and it’s value, is that Young will earn his $7.5 million in the current marketplace, even with these numbers. However, most expect more, and rightfully so. If Young can hit .240/.330/.420 with his plus defense and ability to steal bases, he could be a very productive player. If he remains unable to hit right handed pitching, the platoon experiment needs to begin as soon as possible, lest he really hurt the offense.
*These numbers are only Young’s Mets numbers, not including his time with the Rockies.
Thoughts: These numbers are pretty consistent across the board and really are very good numbers for a fourth outfielder. Young has great baserunning ability and defensive versatility and will give the Mets a huge late-inning advantage. If he finds himself in a starting role, he’ll be exposed.
***John Buck‘s 2013 numbers. TDA’s 2013 was much to small a sample size.
Thoughts: On the plus side, TDA should have no problem providing more offense from the catcher’s spot than Buck did for the Mets. However, the numbers are still lower than what we all hope for him. It’s still only his rookie season and his scouting reports all laud tools that speak to much better numbers in the future. He’s raked in the minors as recently as 2011 and 2012, but his ability to stay on the field will make or break him.
There are no 2013 stats for Flores. Too small a sample size, plus a majority of those plate appearances were hindered by injury.
Thoughts: Like TDA, Flores isn’t expected to hit the ground running. The majors are a big adjustment, but again like TDA, Flores has all the tools to become a big time hitter. Based on his minor league performances, I see a better OBP for Flores, even if he maintains a .260 batting average. Playing time might be a big issue for Flores, and I advocate getting him regular playing time. If he can’t crack a starting job with the big club, he should get regular plate appearances in Vegas and work on his defense. He may not have anything more to prove offensively at the minor league level, but he needs a position and regular playing time.
Overall: The Mets seem primed for an improvement offensively. While a downgrade/regression is projected for Wright and Granderson (compared to Byrd), the Mets will see increases in production at shortstop, first base (assuming Ike gets the majority of the starts), center field, catcher and Chris Young represents an upgrade over Eric Young, Jr.’s 2013 campaign. EYJ, as the fourth outfielder, would be an upgrade over Duda’s 2013 as the fourth outfielder.
Last season, the Mets had a record north of .500 after Wheeler was called up to replace Shaun Marcum. Add Marcum’s ineffectiveness with Jon Niese and Dillon Gee‘s slow starts, and the Mets were in a big hole almost immediately. But if the offense does improve and the pitching meets expectations from the start, the Mets could compete for a Wild Card spot. We’ll take a look at said pitching in the next and last installment of Using Projections to Project the 2014 Mets.