Both David Schoenfield and Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA have projected the New York Mets to finish in about the same place they finished last season. They are attempting to be realistic in their assessments.
We’re going to try another approach -- attempting to be optimistic.
As spring training opens, it feels like a good time to ask: What’s the best-case scenario for the 2014 Mets?
Let’s work off the presumption that a lot goes right. If that’s the case, how good can the Mets be?
We’ve conjured one scenario in which the Mets take their 74-88 record and flip it around to 88-74. That would make them a borderline playoff contender, which in a division with the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves seems like an ambitious outlook.
What needs to happen for the Mets to win 88 games? In the world of advanced statistics, that translates to their players combining for about 40 wins above replacement. (The reasoning on that can be found here).
We devised a way by which the Mets get there and noted it in the chart below. Here are some of the highlights:
David Wright plays like an MVP ... and he stays healthy
The Mets are not going to be an offensive juggernaut. They’re going to strike out a lot. They’re going to hit for a low batting average. They’re probably going to be very frustrating.
To be a contender, the Mets are going to have to get maximum production out of their best hitter, and that means David Wright is going to have to contend for the MVP Award.
Mets Wins Above Replacement
One Best-Case Scenario
Let’s remember that Wright is 31 and is near the end of his prime. But in a best-case scenario, he has at least one more year of greatness in him. If Wright can replicate what he did in 2012 and 2013, and stay as healthy as he did in 2012, he can be a 7-WAR player.
For the Mets to even be a .500 team this season, they’re going to need some players who haven’t been good in recent seasons to return to some form of respectability.
In a best-case scenario, that means that at least three players from this group -- Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Curtis Granderson and Chris Young -- turn back the clock a couple of years.
Tejada was a 2-WAR player in 2012. It seems reasonable, if we’re in hopeful mode, to give him 1.5 WAR in a bounce-back year.
Granderson averaged 4.3 WAR from 2005 to 2012. Let’s be optimistic and put him at 3 WAR. Young was a 5-WAR player in 2010 and 2011 because of a nice combo of power and defense. If he’s worth half that in 2014, the Mets made out all right with him.
You can change those around a bit if you like. Maybe you think Davis or Duda has some value and Young doesn’t. The idea is the same. If the Mets can get about 7-WAR from this quintet (and the other things on this list break right), they’ve done pretty well.
Zack Wheeler finds his groove
One of the things the Mets have going for them is that their starting rotation could be pretty good, even without Matt Harvey.
Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee closed the year strong. Bartolo Colon’s history is good, even if his age and girth are not. There are a couple of promising youngsters waiting their turns. In other words, there’s hope.
The biggest hope from that is the pitcher Buster Olney labeled the Mets’ linchpin, Zack Wheeler.
A rosy view of Wheeler’s 2013 season is that his lack of strike-zone command at times was the result of the jitters that come the first time through the major leagues.
We’ve seen four projection systems (Bill James, PECOTA, Steamer and Oliver) that give Wheeler a 2014 ERA between 3.50 and 4.12. But we remember similar sentiments on Harvey at this time a year ago.
We get that Wheeler’s not Harvey, but 80 percent of Harvey would be pretty good. Let’s give him that for 2014 -- 4 WAR.
Rafael Montero is a Rookie of the Year candidate
It sounds like the Mets are going to give Rafael Montero a shot to be in their starting rotation, whether it be at the start of the season or not long thereafter.
Montero had a 2.51 ERA, a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 5-to-1, and a homer allowed every 22 innings in 64 career minor-league appearances. He’ll likely be capped at 190 innings, given the Mets' shutdown history, but let’s work off the idea that he pitches 150 really good innings in the major leagues. When we say really good, we’re thinking 12 wins and a 3.00 ERA. Best-case, that would make him a 3-WAR pitcher.
The bullpen comes together well
Terry Collins spoke of having a bullpen in which he could unleash multiple hard throwers in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings with the likes of Gonzalez Germen, Vic Black and Bobby Parnell, a la the 2013 Cardinals.
In fairness, there are no Carlos Martinez’s or Trevor Rosenthal’s in this mix. (Perhaps that would change if the Mets were willing to plug Noah Syndergaard into the role of eighth-inning guy, but that’s another subject for another time.) But let’s work off the idea that the Mets' bullpen fares well, or at least considerably better than the one that ranked 15th, 15th and 12th in the NL in ERA over the past three seasons.
In a best-case scenario, Parnell is fully healthy and Black progresses to the point of being a poor man’s David Robertson. Kyle Farnsworth channels the success that LaTroy Hawkins had in 2013, Carlos Torres picks up where he left off, and Scott Rice and Josh Edgin learn from their mistakes to become competent specialists.
The rest of the bullpen, with fill-ins such as Jeff Walters and Jeurys Familia, contribute a little here and a little there without causing too much damage. The entirety of the relief corps nets 4-WAR.
What are the chances? You tell us
One of the great things about spring training is the optimism that comes with the belief that this could be a good year for your team.
But we haven’t found that many believers heading into 2014.
Do you buy into our best-case scenario? Share your thoughts in the comments.