Featured Post: 5 Reasons for Mets Optimism in 2015

lucas duda david wright daniel murphy

An MMO Fan Shot by Marc M. (Not4)

On the heels of a 79 win season, the big question on everyone’s mind is whether the Mets, as constructed, can win enough to compete for a playoff spot. I agree with many on this site that David Wright’s health could be a huge determining factor on the ultimate success or failure of this team. It is tantalizing to imagine his returning to some facsimile of his former self where he has averaged through his career a line of .298/.377/.494/.871, wRC+ of 134, compared to the pretty feeble .269/.324/.374/.698, wRC+ of 100 that he posted last year – production that I believe was significantly impacted by a bum shoulder that he battled throughout the year.

While Wright’s performance, or lack thereof, can have a dramatic impact on this team, I do not subscribe to the notion that the 2015 season is lost without a bounce back year from Wright. In fact, I remain concerned enough about the health of his shoulder that I am preparing for the worst and assuming that we will not be able to provide solid production out of 3B in 2015, though I am obviously hoping for the best. Big picture, if the 2014 Mets team could win 79 games, I believe there are at least five reasons to really be optimistic about the 2015 Mets, even if Wright is not healthy enough to play or produce as he has in the past:

1. Outfield Production

Even assuming that Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson put up similar production as they did in 2014 (though I am expecting more out of Lagares), the big difference obviously is the addition of Michael Cuddyer in lieu of Chris Young and Eric Young, Jr. The Youngs combined for 603 PAs last year, which is roughly a full year’s worth of plate appearances and gave us the following production:

  • Chris Young had 287 PAs (63 starts) for the Mets, hitting .205/.283/.346/.629 with a wRC+ of 81;
  • Eric Young had 316 PAs (67 starts) for the Mets, hitting .229/.299/.311/.610 with a wRC+ of 77.

By contrast, over the past 4 seasons, Cuddyer has hit .299/.356/.503/.859 with a wRC+ of 124. Expanding it to 6 seasons, it is .288/.349/.488/.837 with a wRC+ of 120 and over 9 seasons it is .283/.350/.475/.825 with a wRC+ of 117 – so we are not talking about a fluke here. The increased production from this one OF slot, coupled with the impact of simply having another legitimate bat in the lineup instead of the Youngs, is likely very meaningful.

2. Shortstop Production

Ruben Tejada had 419 PAs (101 starts) for the Mets, hitting .237/.342/.310/.652 with a wRC+ of 89, 5 HR and 34 RBI. There is no meaningful sample size to go on with Wilmer Flores. His performance in the minors is promising, but not particularly germane. I’d argue that his 101 PA in 2013 are similarly not particularly germane because he was playing on a bad ankle and it was a small sample size. His overall line last year in a whopping 274 PAs (another SSS) is nothing special, but certainly an upgrade over Tejada. If we break it down further, though, and focus on his production when Flores was regularly starting beginning with August 2nd, his production looks a lot more promising. Again, although this accounted for 2/3 of

Flores total PAs last year with the Mets, it is still a very small sample size of 181 PAs, in which he hit .266/.306/.426/.732 with an wRC+ of 106. I believe that is more indicative of what we will see from him (and perhaps even better), which translates to 15+ HR and 65+ RBI and a very meaningful improvement over what we got from the SS position last year.

3. Catcher Production:

A tale of two halves with Travis d’Arnaud. If he can simply continue what he did in the 2nd half of 2014, for the full year 2015, that is also a meaningful upgrade at the C position. He was that putrid the first half before getting sent down and seemingly figuring it all out – 1st half: 145 PA, .180/.271/.273/.544 with a wRC+ of 53!, 3 HR and 9 RBI; 2nd half (after being recalled on June 24th): 276 PA, .272/.319/.486/.805, with a wRC+ of 128!, 10 HR and 32 RBI.

4. Starting Pitching Production

Obviously, the addition of Matt Harvey is potentially huge and the same thinking that applies to d’Arnaud also applies to Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom.

zack wheeler strikeoutsWheeler was actually interesting in that his standard stats took a huge jump forward, but the more advanced stats do not bear out the improvement as much. In the first half, Wheeler was 3-8 with an ERA of 4.25 in 17 starts; whereas in the second half, was 8-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 15 starts. Wheeler’s K% and BB% slightly improved in the 2nd half, but the big drivers to his improvement were a 44 drop to his BABIP and stranding a higher percentage of men on base, plus going a little deeper into games which allowed him to see a couple more batters each game. I’d also argue that the “eye test” showed a pitcher that was much improved in the 2nd half, with a real need for him to still become more efficient so he can go deeper into games.

DeGrom did not get called up until mid-May, and following his promotion his first 7 starts were a bit of a mixed bag – some very good, mixed in with some good and average and a real clunker. Overall he logged 7 starts, 41 IP, 0-4 record with 4.39 ERA (his actual pitching was better than these numbers look). But starting with his June 21st start, he was pretty dominant over his final 15 starts, with 99.1 IP, a 9-2 record, a 1.99 ERA and solid improvement in his K% and BB%. While it is hard to count on him to be as dominant for an entire year (though I am hopeful he will be as he seems to really understand the art of pitching), a full year of a somewhat regressed deGrom is another pretty big boost to this team (compared to the production we got from that spot from Jenrry Mejia, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and deGrom’s first 5 starts).

Harvey is obviously another big boost, though it is probably unrealistic to count on him to pick up where he left off (although, again, I am hopeful that he’ll be better than expected as a full 18 months will have passed since his surgery by the time he picks up a ball in ST and almost 20 months by the time he throws his first regular season pitch.) Either way, the improvement over Gee/Niese will be meaningful and potentially really meaningful.

5 Bullpen Performance

jenrry mejiaThe back end of the bullpen was just brutal during the early part of last season, as Terry Collins relied on washed up veterans (who could have been useful as middle relievers but were out of their depth closing out games). But once Mejia, Jeurys Familia and Vic Black stepped in, the back end of the pen suddenly became a true asset. In addition to the actual blown saves and losses early in the year, it is impossible to fully account for the impact that a bad bullpen can have on a teams’ collective confidence and performance. Having a back-end of a pen you can actually rely upon for a full season will be another big boost for this team.

Of course, implicit in this optimism is the assumption that several players will produce at or around last year’s levels, including the aforementioned Lagares, Granderson, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy and Bartolo Colon, Gee and Niese (or their eventual replacements, which could include Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Matt Bowman). Like all assumptions, this assumption carries some risk but in each case, it seems that those assumptions are pretty reasonable and have a good chance of occurring – some will no doubt underperform and some will likely outperform last year. But on the whole, assuming a repeat of repeatable years (as opposed to career years, other than Duda, but given his age and progression, did not feel like a one-time occurrence) does not seem out of line. Most importantly, even assuming no upgrade in third base production compared to last year, it is not hard to believe that the above five reasons for optimism could easily generate an additional 5-10 wins in 2015.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader Marc M. (Not4). Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to us at  FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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