Continuing in our look at the National League East next year, we now move to the Mets. Fresh off a collapse of historical proportions, the Mets missed the playoffs last year. But next year is a new year and the Mets have no intentions of giving up their goal of obtaining the division title. Let’s dig into a slice of the Mets and see what they’ve got going for them in 2008.
Offense: The Mets have a strong backbone offensively consisting of Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, David Wright, and Jose Reyes. Both powerful and efficient, they were second in the NL in batting average and fourth in runs scored in 2007. We won’t see any major changes going into 2008, save the loss of Lastings Milledge and the addition of Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. Schneider and Church are average players – nothing that will seriously bolster the lineup. In fact, Schneider may be the weakest spot in this lineup, ranking 24th out of 29 catchers (with over 300 plate appearances) in batting average and home runs. The loss of Milledge won’t be evident next season, but may be in a few years. We’ll likely see similar offensive production from the Mets next year – not quite at the top of the heap, but more potent than the average lineup.
Defense: The Mets return a very strong defense from 2007, where we saw both David Wright and Carlos Beltran win Gold Gloves. The rest of the crew brings above average defense and there’s no reason to expect that to change in 2008. Once again I have doubts about Brian Schneider, who guided the Nationals pitchers last year to a higher ERA while catching than their average ERA. Everywhere else the Mets are a strong fielding team, so they’ll be a very competitive team defensively, there’s no doubt about that.
Starting Pitching: The Mets’ starting rotation is going to be shaky. Sure, they have Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez, and Oliver Perez, but the results out of those three are far from guaranteed. Martinez has had issues staying healthy recently and has said he’ll retire if he has repeated trouble with his trick shoulder. Oliver Perez was quite good last year but there’s no way to tell if that was a glitch as he still has a losing record overall. Orlando Hernandez has been hit and miss and only won 9 games last year. They also lost Tom Glavine to the Braves. Now there’s talk the Mets want to land Johan Santana, but there’s doubt as to who the Mets would have to give up. Additionally, the Yankees and Red Sox have been labeled the front runners, and talks don’t seem to be going anywhere fast for any team. The Mets are not going to be competitive from the rotation without some much-needed help. During their collapse, their starters posted an 8.64 ERA. This is their weak spot.
Relief Pitching: Billy Wagner anchors the bullpen as the closer, and he’s every bit as effective as he has been over the past few years – definitely one of the elite closers in all of baseball. That’s about where the bright spot ends for the Mets – they have a couple decent arms in Scott Schoeneweis (who makes $3.6 mil a year??) and the recently acquired Matt Wise, but there are overall ERA issues. The bullpen posted a 4.03 ERA in 2007 – worse than the 3.28 in 2006. This is another area that is not particularly strong for the Mets, but they have potential.
Coaching: Willie Randolph returns for his fourth season as manager of the Mets. He doesn’t have a long litany of experience like some other managers in the NL East, but he has had success so far at New York. However, one has to think that his lack of success contributed somewhat to the collapse down the stretch. We’ll watch to see how Randolph and his staff recover from the historic choke of ’07.
Recap: While the Mets have strong hitting and fielding on their side, their pitching staff needs some serious help if they want to be serious contenders in 2008. We’ll have to watch them throughout the off-season and Spring Training to see what unfolds, but without some pitching help we see them struggling near the middle of the division.
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