2009 NEW YORK METS PREVIEW
New York enters 2009 with very high hopes. With the financial advantages that the Mets enjoy, missing the playoffs isn’t considered acceptable by the notoriously demanding New York sports market. Missing the playoffs in consecutive years is even worse. However, that’s what happened last season. An inconsistent bullpen coupled with a few high profile players struggling led to the downfall of the Mets as they finished 89-73 and missed the playoffs. Even worse, divisional rival Philadelphia won the World Series.
However, things are definitely looking up in 2009. GM Omar Minaya went out and addressed his bullpen issues head on, grabbing JJ Putz from the Mariners and signing Francisco Rodriguez to a big contract. There shouldn’t be any issues in the bullpen this year. Meanwhile, the Mets cast aside a couple of ageing players as Pedro Martinez, Damon Easley and Billy Wagner bowed out of the spotlight. The Mets are confident entering the season that 2009 will mark a return to October baseball.
The Mets’ rotation is headlined by Johan Santana (16-7, 2.53 ERA, 34 starts, 234 IP, 206 K), who is one of the elite pitchers in all of baseball. Expect another huge year from him. Behind him, flamethrowing lefty Oliver Perez (10-7, 4.22 ERA, 34 starts, 194 IP, 180 K) will look to improve upon his solid 2008. The rotation is further bolstered by the presence of John Maine (10-8, 4.18 ERA, 25 starts), whose absence late in the season last year was a serious blow to the Mets’ playoff hopes. Mike Pelfrey (13-11, 3.72 ERA, 32 starts, 200 IP) quietly had a very successful season as well and should continue to provide good depth. The 5 th spot will be up for grabs between Tim Redding (10-11, 4.95 ERA, 33 starts, 182 IP), veteran Freddy Garcia (who was injured almost all of last year) and Jonathon Niese, who started three games late and is considered to be an excellent pitching prospect. Redding is the favorite to retain his position but an impressive camp from Niese could earn him a spot on the Opening Day roster. Overall, the Mets have a great rotation as long as they all remain healthy and are the best in the division.
The Mets’ bullpen was an albatross last season due to injuries and ineffectiveness. However, Rodriguez (2.24 ERA, 62 Saves, 77 K) has long been one of baseball’s best closers. Expect K-Rod to lock down the ninth inning this year. Furthermore, JJ Putz (3.88 ERA, 15 SV, 56 K) is also an excellent closing option after years of experience in Seattle but will handle the 8 th inning. The Mets have a huge luxury in having two experienced closers at the back of their bullpen and should definitely have a much better season protecting the lead. This is the most upgraded part of the team in 2009.
The Mets have a very solid infield. Third baseman David Wright (.302, 33 HR, 124 RBI, .390 OBP, 15 SB) is one of the best in baseball at his position and should again be excellent this year. Shortstop Jose Reyes (.297, 16 HR, 68 RBI, .358 OBP, 56 SB) is improving his patience at the plate and is a great leadoff hitter. First baseman Carlos Delgado (.271, 38 HR, 115 RBI, .353 OBP) started slowly last season but came on strong at the end. He is still an excellent cleanup hitter. Second baseman Luis Castillo (.245, 3 HR, 28 RB, .355 OBP, 17 SB) will look to bounce back from a poor season last year. If he doesn’t, the Mets are pretty thin behind him. Catcher will also be somewhat of a question mark for the Mets. Brian Schneider (.257, 9 HR, 38 RBI, .339 OBP) and Ramon Castro (.245, 7 HR, 24 RBI, .312 OBP in 52 Gm) will split time but neither is a major threat behind the plate. Despite the question marks at two positions, this is one of the best infields in the National League thanks to the star power on the corners and at shortstop.
The Mets have some question marks in the outfield as well. While centerfielder Carlos Beltran (.284, 27 HR, 112 RBI, .376 OBP, 25 SB) is excellent in all facets of the game, the corner outfield positions are worrisome. Right fielder Ryan Church (.276, 12 HR, 49 RBI, .346 OBP in 90 Gm) is a solid contributor when healthy but he suffered two concussions last season and his durability will be a constant concern. In left field, young Daniel Murphy (.313, 2 HR, 17 RBI, .397 OBP in 49 Gm) is one of the Mets’ top prospects. He will likely platoon with veteran Fernando Tatis (.297, 11 HR, 47 RBI, .369 OBP), though Murphy could earn more at bats if he starts the season hot. Jeremy Reed (.269, 2 HR, 31 RBI, .314 OBP in 97 Gm) will also provide good depth. However, Beltran is the only player whose durability or experience isn’t a concern, meaning that the Mets might have to seriously consider finding another outfielder before the trade deadline this summer. Despite those concerns, the presence of Beltran all but assures that the Mets will boast a solid outfield.
Regardless of the outfield issues, the Mets still have a top quality team. Their pitching is much improved from last season and their offense will still be very productive. If Castillo can re-establish himself as a constant threat to get on base, the Mets could have a swift and dangerous lineup that could be capable of scoring in a myriad of ways.
The Mets will face some tough competition in their division, especially from the defending World Champs, but they have the best team on paper. Furthermore, the improvement in their bullpen makes it very easy to predict great things for the Mets this year. Expect the presence of K-Rod and Putz to turn the bullpen into a productive unit while the starting pitching should again be very effective. Couple that with a very good offense and the Mets look like the National League East favorites. Expect the Mets to win 95-100 games this year and return to the playoffs.
By Matt Baxendell
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