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Friday, April 04, 2014

Mets Series Preview

After losing a pair of close games to the Cardinals, while taking one of their own, the Reds take to the road to face off with the New York Mets this weekend.  The Mets, clearly, are not the team that the Cardinals are.  I've only loosely paid attention to what has been happening, but apparently the Mets are in the middle of a terrible ownership situation right now that is limiting their payroll (among other things).  Despite what looks like (on paper) a competent front office headed by Sandy Alderson, they haven't been able to post a winning season since 2008.  

And they don't look particularly likely to break that trend this season.  Their offense projects to be in the same ballpark as the Reds' (i.e. not great), but their pitching looks much worse.  Without Matt Harvey for at least most of the season, they are relying on a few solid mid-rotation guys to make it through.  The stats to the right show only the first two days of play, but clearly the early returns haven't been good.  They opened their season with a sweep by the Nationals.

Citi Field

Park Factor (Runs): 0.96
Home Runs PF (LHB/RHB): 1.01/1.05

A few years ago, the Mets opted to move the fences in at Citi Field in hopes that it would play a bit more "fair."  This was particularly dramatic in left field, which now features a very reasonable power alley in left-center (above I've overlaid it on GABP for comparison).  Furthermore, what used to be enormous fences in right field have at least been made more even.  Interestingly, while the overall park factor has continued to skew pretty strongly toward pitchers, the home run park factor has increased over the past two years to actually favor hitters.  All other offense events are repressed, however, and so this is still a great place to pitch.  The fences are pretty fair, but it's close to the water and, this time of year, is relatively cold.

Position Players

I'm going to stick with projections this year, but will add a couple of columns showing 2014 data on the left of this table.  But at this point, with only two games' of data available, I didn't think it was worth the effort.

Some brief comments on the Cardinals series: 

Billy Hamilton seems to have struggled, but hit a couple of balls fairly hard.  It seemed like the Cardinals were cheating pretty badly on him when he was trying to bunt, so I think he's going to have to prove that he can actually hit the ball with modest authority before teams start to play their infielders in the dirt (rather than on the infield grass).  I do hope he can have a good game early on with the Mets so that we can all stop focusing on his o-fer

Joey Votto has been great these last two games, and it was terrific to see Todd Frazier break out with a big game.  Frazier currently has reached 10% of his 2014 home run total in 2% of the games. :)

This team's roster seems to be in a state of flux.  One of their excellent off-season signings, Chris Young, is on the disabled list with a quadriceps strain.  You also have some flux between Daniel Murphy, Eric Young Jr., and Andrew Brown between the second base and the left field job.  And there is the ongoing position dispute between Lucas Duda and Ike Davis.  

You can squint and see a solid offensive team, here.  David Wright is still a Stud, and Curtis Granderson, while perhaps more of a complementary player now, still has the potential to be a threat.  Both Duda and Davis have some offensive talent.  There are also a lot of weak performers in their lineup right now, at least on the offensive side of things.  Most nights, they're going to have to rely on the heart of their order for any offense they will get.

On defense, they have a brilliant centerfielder in Juan Lagares, but that's offset largely by Murphy posing as a second baseman.  Lagares probably fields well enough to earn his keep as a league-average player, but it's hard to hide him when so many of the others in the lineup can't hit either.


Bartolo Colon is fascinating.  Despite not having any velocity, the guy relies almost entirely on fastballs (four-seam, sinker, and cutter) and yet has somehow resurrected his career as a solid mid-rotation starter.  He turns 41 next month.  How does he do it?  Basically, he doesn't walk guys.  He doesn't strike anyone out either, and gets average groundball rates.  But it's enough.  He must paint the corners constantly.  The fact that he can get by with a repertoire like that gives me some hope that Tony Cingrani can keep doing what he's doing with his fastball.

Zack Wheeler is the other interesting name here to me.  He's a solid prospect (if he still counts as a prospect?) who logged 100 innings in 17 starts last season for the Mets.  He walks too many guys right now.  But the projections think he'll elevate his strikeout rate enough to be respectable.  He throws hard.  I'm wondering if the lack of a change-up or split against opposite-handed batters could be an issue vs. the Reds' lefthanders.

Dillon Gee had a very nice season for the Mets last year, but his peripherals didn't quite match his ERA...and hence the projections' skepticism.  I don't know much about Jenrry Mejia, but a glance at his FG page indicates that he's never thrown many innings before, often splitting time between starting and relieving in the minors.

The weakness of the Reds' injury-beleaguered pen showed its head in the game on Thursday.  Nick Christiani managed to get the job done, but Trevor Bell couldn't pull off the same trick.  Those guys wouldn't be pitching, and perhaps might not even be on the roster, if this bullpen is healthy.  I don't have a lot of faith in either of them, and can only hope that Marshall, Chapman, and even Broxton can get back soon.

The Mets' pen doesn't look particularly impressive.  It's kind of the place where old pitchers go.  I'd honestly forgotten that Jose Valverde ended up here, and Kyle Farnsworth (remember that year he had with the Rays not long ago?) and John Lannan seem to be hanging on here.  While the Reds' top 3 surviving pitchers are probably better than anyone the Mets have, the Mets probably have them beat in depth.  The good news is that no game vs. the Mets is ever really out of reach, because this pen is vulnerable.

The Mets look like a bad team.  Like any team in baseball, though, they can win any given series because it's baseball.  Still, I'm hoping for a nice rebound for the Reds against this weaker opponent, which will hopefully give them some momentum as they head back to face the Cardinals once again in their home opener.

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