Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mets avoid Sports Illustrated jinx this year

Last year, Sports Illustrated picked the Mets to win the World Series. We know how that turned out. Subway Squawkers got the opportunity to get an advance look at predictions for the locals in SI's MLB preview issue, which comes out Wednesday.

I don't think I am spoiling any surprises to reveal that SI does not foresee a Fall Classic for this year's Met squad. But they don't see the Yankees in the World Series, either, predicting a battle between the Rays and (ugh) the Phillies. (For a look at SI's Yankee predictions, see Squawker Lisa's piece.)

SI sees the Mets finishing fourth with only 79 wins. I don't think this is the most outrageous prediction, unfortunately. I had the Mets at 81 wins in third at the start of the spring in my prediction for HeaterMagazine, and recently upped that to 83 wins in predictions Lisa and I made for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. (Though after today's double debacle with Johan Santana and Oliver Perez turning in miserable outings, just after Mike Pelfrey did the same, I am tempted to move my wins prediction down again.)

But I do take issue with some of the analysis surrounding SI's Mets prediction, such as:
"It's hard to envision the creaky Mets, losers of 92 games a year ago, reestablishing themselves atop the NL East without [Ike] Davis and [Fernando] Martinez arriving and thriving as everyday players."
This statement could well be accurate, but it does not have much to do with 2010. While I do think Davis could take over first base at some point this season, the same is not true for Martinez, unless Carlos Beltran fails to return or Jeff Francoeur or Jason Bay gets hurt. Nothing Martinez does would likely make up for the loss of any of these outfielders, especially Beltran and Bay.

While SI pins the Mets' hopes on two rookies who might well have no impact this season, they say nothing about Jenrry Mejia, who actually could go north with the team.

For each team, SI spotlights one "player to watch," and that player for the Mets is Daniel Murphy, an odd choice, considering they are also predicting doom unless Davis takes over at first. SI quotes Howard Johnson as saying that Murphy could double his home run total.

Last year, Murphy hit 12 homers. If Murphy hits 24 homers, the Mets will be better off, but with injured stars making comebacks and a pitching staff in disarray, Murphy would not make my top ten of "players to watch."

SI also offers a "modest proposal" for each team, and for the Mets, the proposal is modest indeed - consider giving the fifth starter role to 35-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

The way the Mets' rotation has looked this spring, I can see them giving opportunities to someone like Dickey. But then the season will be like last year, when Pat Misch, Nelson Figueroa and Bobby Parnell ended up in the rotation. Of a 70-win team.

One bright note - this year's candidate for the SI jinx is the Phillies.

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