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Friday, April 1, 2011

Mets Opening Day Still Special

Despite everything going on off the field, I can't wait for the season opener tonight against the Marlins. Now the trick is to see how long the positive vibes last. Can I make it past the first batter, Jose Reyes, poster child for the financial woes that plague the team? Let's look on the bright side - at least he's still a Met - for now.

But the second batter will also pose a challenge. What's Willie Harris doing in the spot instead of Angel Pagan? It brings back memories of last year's Opening Day lineup, when Mike Jacobs batted cleanup. That lineup also featured Gary Matthews Jr. starting over Pagan.

At least Jason Bay should be back soon, and the bar is set pretty low for him to improve over last year's six homers.

Along with Bay, there are too many question marks to be confident about the lineup. Who knows how healthy Carlos Beltran will be. Who is the real Pagan - the one with an OPS of .845 in the first half of 2010 or the one whose OPS fell to .678 in the second half? Josh Thole hit .301 in August, but just .216 in September. And Brad Emaus is a complete mystery, though at least he has the advantage of not being Luis Castillo.

As for the pitching, Johan Santana made 29 starts last year with a 2.98 ERA. What's the best we can hope for this year - 12 starts and a 4.00 ERA?

But Oliver Perez and John Maine also made a total of 16 starts, with one win from Maine and none from Perez. Throw in Pat Misch's six starts with no wins and Jennry Mejia's three starts with no wins, and that makes 25 starts with a grand total from the starters of one win.

So if you look at Chris Young and Chris Capuano as not just replacing Johan, but also Ollie and Maine, suddenly this year's rotation looks competitive with last year's. Jon Niese could take a step forward, R.A. Dickey could take a step back, and Mike Pelfrey will probably do his usual step forward and step back within the same season.

The bullpen could be pretty good. Francisco Rodriguez had a better year in 2010 than most gave him credit for (on the field at least) and he's had a strong spring. The Mets so far appear to have plenty of options for the other relief roles.

It's too bad that Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi are gone, but you never know how things will go with middle relievers. Perpetual Pedro is no longer perpetual at the moment, landing on the Yankees' DL. And in Takahashi's Angels' debut, he gave up a homer to none other than Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur.

As for Terry Collins, I look at him as more of a referendum on the front office dream team - the first big move and a particular favorite of Paul DePodesta.

So far, I'm cautiously optimistic on both Collins and the front office, though with regards to the latter, I'm not buying that they're so smart they don't need a big-market budget.

Prediction: 83 wins - unless there's a fire sale at the trade deadline. Let's Go Mets!

How will the Mets do this season? Tell us what you think.

1 comment:

Uncle Mike said...

Mets' biggest advantage: Aside from the Phillies, the NL East is weak, so they could poach a few games and possibly reach those 83 wins without a major trade-deadline acquisition.

Mets' biggest disadvantage: They are still in the same division as the Phillies (who thrilled their chilly, snowed-on fans with a walkoff win this afternoon), and have to play them 18 times; and the rest of the NL is pretty well balanced, meaning that 83, or even 88, wins might not be enough to win the Wild Card and make the Playoffs.

Bottom line: Everyone presumed, going in, that 2011 was going to be a rebuilding year. If the Mets don't look like a bunch of buffoons on the field (regardless of how they look in the boardroom), it will be seen as a step up. Which means, come November, it's entirely possible that Met fans could be more satisfied with how their season ended than Yankee Fans may be with theirs. But don't bet on that.