My Best Guess: Predicting the 2016 American League West

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(This is one post in a series of posts where I will be predicting the outcome of each MLB division. The final post will include full 2016 MLB postseason predictions.)

Last year, all the talking heads had the Seattle Mariners playing the Washington Nationals in the World Series. A complete swing and miss. Not even close. The Mariners sucked and the Nationals…well they kind of sucked too. For what it’s worth, I never thought the 2015 Mariners were going to make the World Series. I thought they had a weak bullpen. And as it turned out, they did have a weak bullpen and lost a bunch of close games during the season. And it didn’t help that Robinson Cano struggled while playing hurt for half the season. Houston finally emerged with a strong young core in 2015, after a calculated rebuilding process. The Rangers made a run in the second half and overtook the Astros to win the freaking division. The Angels lagged behind the two Titans from Texas and the A’s stunk. Here’s what I see in 2016:

AL West: 1) Houston Astros (x) 2) Texas Rangers (wc) 3) LA Angels 4) Seattle Mariners 5) Oakland A’s

Houston is my AL World Series pick. I love the addition of Ken Giles as their closer. Really bolsters that bullpen. Carlos Correa is going to get MVP votes. Dallas Keuchel could win Cy Young again. They even added Doug Fister on the cheap which is a nice get for their rotation. If they need another arm midseason, they will trade for it.

Texas is a close second to Houston in the AL West. They had the third ranked offense in 2015, so this team is in no way offensively challenged. They had bad starting pitching last season, but I love Yu Darvish being back from his TJ surgery. Plus Cole Hamels is a real strong veteran winner that they incorporated into their rotation at the trade deadline last season. I like their chances of being a well rounded club all season long in 2016, and I see them snagging a Wild Card spot.

I really don’t like the rest of the division. The Angels are such jerks for letting Mike Trout waste away in his prime. They got Andrelton Simmons! Hooray! Now they have the best defensive SS. He certainly doesn’t protect Trout in the lineup. And they needed another outfielder because the platoon of Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry doesn’t cut it for a winning team. Jered Weaver is throwing 79 MPH batting practice fastballs this spring and has a mild spine condition aka Stage 1 Wright’s Syndrome. The career of C.J. Wilson has long been over. RIP Angels. Mike Scioscia is not a fan of advanced metrics and all those “analyticians” as he calls them. Well this year even the conventional stats will say the Angels stink.

Mariners made tons of moves this offseason. I think they added a bunch of mediocre pieces to replace a bunch of mediocre pieces. No net improvement in my eyes. I like the Nori Aoki addition to the outfield and Adam Lind has some pop. They added a couple mooks to their bullpen. Everyone seemingly loves that they acquired Wade Miley from the Red Sox for their rotation. Umm Miley is back end of the rotation garbage. Last season they were the pre-season World Series favorite. Whoops! I don’t see them being in the race this season either.

Oakland loves making moves to fake compete. They acquired Khris Davis from the Brewers. They re-acquired Jed Lowrie for SS. They even copied the popular formula of building a stacked bullpen by adding Ryan Madson and John Axford among others. And I am pretty sure all those pen arms will be available at the trade deadline when Billy Beane is holding his annual reliever rummage sale. They stunk last year, and they gonna stink this season. They should have never traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester in 2014. Beane blew it. Moneyball baby!

 

Other Divisional Predictions:

American League East

American League Central

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The Great Backup Catcher Debate: Is Batting Above .200 Important?

I must say, I have thoroughly enjoyed the backup catcher debate that has raged across Mets camp this spring. A few weeks ago, we heard that the Mets were thinking about starting last year’s rookie backup Kevin Plawecki in AAA Vegas to give him the opportunity to “continue to develop”. The Mets know Plawecki is a talented young player, and as we all know, development is absolutely impossible at the major league level. We certainly don’t want him to accidently stunt his growth by inadvertently being a major contributor on the major league roster on a daily basis. It’s better to have him rotting away at the MGM Grand in Vegas playing slots and smoking cigs while Wally Backman threatens to assault a nearby blackjack dealer.

But once this story broke, a big question arose. It’s the same question the Mets have had their Analytics Department researching since we lost backup catcher Ramon Castro in 2009. By the way, as an aside Ramon Castro was kind of the original Big Sexy. Look at his ridiculous file photo:

Ramon Castro

Anyway, back to the question that has baffled the statistical experts working for the Mets: Is batting above .200 important for a backup catcher?

Somehow this obvious goddamn question has been a head scratcher for the Mets. Since 2009 our answer has been a resounding NO. We rolled with Mike Nickeas from 2010-2012 and his astounding .180 career average. Then in 2013 we brought in Anthony “Golden Chin” Recker. Anthony Recker absolutely raked in 2013 to the tune of a .215 batting average, but then he regressed closer to his career .185 mark over the next two seasons. Now he is on Cleveland. I will truly miss his signature 3 pitch at-bat where he fouled two fastballs back to the screen and then struck out on an outside fastball. Occasionally he would hit the big freaking dinger though. Gotta love the dinger. Plus he was sooooo attractive. Three time Metssiah award winner for NYC’s sexiest backup catcher.

But Recker has not been our only offensive force backing up behind the dish. We had pig face Juan Centeno. He hit a cushy .164 in parts of 3 seasons (2013-2015) with the Mets. And now we have our most recent backup nominees: Johnny Monell aka “Mr. Vegas” and 2016 nominee for best spring training name Raywilly Gomez. Monell has a .161 career batting average and Raywilly Gomez has never had a major league AB. We just invited him to Spring Training like we were having a damn backup catcher picnic. And he’s not even going to win best spring name because that honor is going to pitcher Stolmy Pimentel.

Why oh why do we keep carrying these awful mooks on our major league roster? How are we still debating whether or not to carry Kevin Plawecki? Plawecki had a bad rookie season offensively. He struggled. He really did. When Travis d’Arnaud came back in 2015 it made a huge difference for us. But did I mention Kevin Plawecki struggled to the tune of a .219 batting average in his rookie season? For all you scienticians out there, you’ll notice that average is over .200. It’s infinitely better than every other person we’ve given the job to over the last 6 years. If Plawecki failed to develop any further and was a lifetime .219 hitter, he would be the best backup catcher we’ve had this decade. The Mets do realize backup catchers play all the time right? Stop the madness! Just give Plawecki the job and stop trying to make Raywilly Gomez happen. It ain’t happening.

My Best Guess: Predicting the 2016 American League Central

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(This is one post in a series of posts where I will be predicting the outcome of each MLB division. The final post will include full 2016 MLB postseason predictions.)

The 2014 Royals lost in the World Series to the Giants, but they brought back roughly the same team in 2015. The robot projection computers have disliked the Royals the last three seasons. They disliked them before their 2014 World Series appearance. They picked against them in the spring of 2015. For some reason, the robots are still picking against them in 2016. Jesse Spector wrote a great article attempting to explain why this is the case. Although the robots are self-aware, they don’t yet know how to love, and they clearly don’t know how to detect the Royals “it factor”. It seems resilience, determination, and experience “Do not compute”. I think despite the skepticism of the robots, most experts predicted they would make the playoffs in 2015 by winning the AL Central. Then of course, we saw that they didn’t just make the playoffs. They got back to the World Series and won it all. Despite all their spending, the Tigers struggled with injuries and bad luck in 2015. The Indians have a young pitching staff that rivals the Mets staff, but they are lacking in the offensive department. The White Sox spent a bunch of money on free agents prior to 2015, but their season turned out to be a mess. The Twins didn’t spend anything per usual and were mediocre. Here’s what I see in 2016:

AL Central: 1) Kansas City Royals (x) 2) Detroit Tigers 3) Cleveland Indians 4) Chicago White Sox 5) Minnesota Twins

You can’t bet against Kansas City. They are young, they just won the World Series, and they have repeat potential. I know they lost Ben Zobrist. I know they lost Johnny Cueto. But Ian Kennedy can eat innings, and they were never wowing anyone with their rotation anyway. They have the same pesky grind it out offense, and an even better pen with Joakim Soria back in the fold. They’ll take the division again. 

Detroit sucked last year. But they had injuries, an awful bullpen, and bad luck. I like what Jordan Zimmerman and Justin Upton do for their rotation and lineup respectively. Cameron Maybin had a career year in 2015. Maybe he figured something out. Francisco Rodriguez can still finish games with the best of them which will help their pen which was dogshit last season. I see them getting more production from Victor Martinez this year. And my boy Michael Fulmer is going to come up and have an impact in their rotation or bullpen. The Mets have been breeding strong arms, and this guy is supposedly the real deal. That being said, the Tigers will be behind the other Wild Card teams and miss the playoffs. 

Cleveland has that deadly rotation with Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco. A sort of Mets lite rotation. But they didn’t fix their problems on offense in my opinion, and Michael Brantley could be out for a stretch to start the season due to offseason shoulder surgery. I suppose they did add former Mets Juan “Hog Show” Uribe and Marlon “Biogenesis” Byrdman. But they needed a big bat. They pulled a Mets 2014/2015 in the offseason. We added old deteriorating Michael Cuddyer last offseason, when we really needed an actual big bat. Then we got Yoenis Cespedes midseason. Maybe they will do the same thing and have a big second half.

The White Sox are completely out. Sell sell sell! They are going to blow it all up midseason. White Sox Executive Vice President Ken Williams better pick up a copy of Windy Shitty: Theo Epstein’s Guide to Tanking in Chicago. They had a mediocre pitching staff last season and big time problems on offense. And a roll of Todd Frazier duct tape mixed with some Brett Lawrie crazy glue ain’t gonna patch the holes in this sinking ship. Plus DH Adam LaRoche just pulled a Michael Cuddyer by surprise retiring with money still on his contract. No matter how quickly they patch them holes they just keep opening up. Maybe they will spend that extra LaRoche money on another big bat to keep patching their crummy lineup. But I think it’s more likely they are posting a “Chris Sale for Sale” sign at the trade deadline. Book it.

Minnesota was .500 last season. They supposedly had an extremely “lucky” season by all advanced metrics and standards, and it still wasn’t good. They added a first basemen from Korea Byung-ho Park but not much else. I don’t expect much from them.

Other Divisional Predictions:

American League East

My Best Guess: Predicting the 2016 American League East

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(This is one post in a series of posts where I will be predicting the outcome of each MLB division. The final post will include full 2016 MLB postseason predictions.)

I made some good calls and some big blunders in my 2015 MLB predictions. In the AL East, I sold all my shares in the Yankees and Red Sox before the season. The 2015 Red Sox were bad so I was right on that pick. However the Yankees made the playoffs, so I was way off on that one. Other than the Rays, the AL East teams all share the common strength of big time offensive firepower. The Red Sox went so big on offense in 2015, that they forgot you actually need competent pitching to compete. The Yankees lacked a true ace, and it hurt them in the Wild Card game. The Blue Jays scored more runs than any other team in the league and added David Price at the deadline to lead their playoff push. The Orioles lacked the starting pitching and hitting to compete with their division rivals. The Rays had the pitching advantage but couldn’t hit. Here’s what I see in 2016:

AL East: 1) NY Yankees (x) 2) Toronto Blue Jays (wc) 3) Baltimore Orioles 4) Boston Red Sox 5) Tampa Bay Rays

I bet against the Yankees in 2015. I thought the Senior Citizens Brigade aka Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran would decline into oblivion. I was dead wrong. A-Rod and Tex are so back. I won’t be betting against them this year. I think the three headed monster in the bullpen (Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances) can be historically good. The Yankees lacked an ace. And now they may have one in Luis Severino. Masahiro Tanaka had a torn UCL that would normally require TJ surgery. But seemingly he has a magic elbow with the mutant regeneration powers of Wolverine because it’s no longer an issue. He’s probably going to have a Cy Young caliber season too because they are the damn Yankees.

Toronto had the best offense by a ton. Now they have Troy Tulowitzki for a full season. They won’t be far off from their 2015 team offensive production. Hell they might surpass it. They did lose David Price though and replaced him with a bunch of mediocre starters namely J.A. Happ and Jesse Chavez. But Marcus Stroman is back and ready to emerge fully next season. I suppose they can always add a starter during the season if necessary, but they plan to just outscore everyone like last season. That strategy should work well for them again and lead to a Wild Card berth.

I think Baltimore is going to mash with Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis, and Pedro Alvarez. They had the 5th ranked pen in 2015, and it is still strong with Darren O’Day coming back. Yovani Gallardo probably is a downgrade from Wei-Yin Chen but not by much. I think they will battle with their division rivals for much of the season but are ultimately inferior to the Yanks and Jays.

Boston added arguably the leagues best starting pitcher in David Price and the leagues best closer Craig Kimbrel aka Dr. Kimbrel. But I’m still not sold on their rotation. Clay Buchholz stinks. I’m not a fan of Joe Kelly. Donald Trump told me Hanley Ramirez at 1B is going to be a disaster. Pablo Sandoval got paid, and has seemingly decided to channel his inner Homer Simpson by gaining enough weight to qualify for disability. It’s a really ballin move. But it sure as hell won’t help the Red Sox win a championship. The Big Papi retirement tour is going to yield a lot of crappy plaques and gift baskets, but I don’t think it will end with a playoff appearance. I just don’t see it.

I don’t get why Buster Olney and others are bullish on Tampa Bay. Chris Archer is a stud, and they have good young pitchers. But their rotation was 11th in ERA last season, and they still only managed to finish around .500. Their offense was anemic though. They tried to address that by adding Corey Dickerson to their OF and Steve Pearce for a 1B platoon. But they are competing against the two top offenses in the league in the Yankees and Jays. I’m not buying into the Rays. I think the Yankees and Jays will remain at the top all season long with the other three teams looking to avoid the cellar.

Death To Depth: Penny Pinching Wilpons Place Ruben Tejada On Waivers

For all of Spring Training, the Mets beat reporters have been saying the Mets plan to cut Ruben Tejada, trade Alejandro De Aza, and demote Kevin Plawecki. And all Spring I have been doubting their claims. Curse my damn logical brain. I forgot about the Wilpon trump card. Saving a couple of goddamn shekels. Ruben has been placed on waivers. His days as a Met are numbered. Why? Tejada was due 3 million bucks. They are dumping him before the season starts to get out of paying his salary. They are probably even getting out of paying his NLDS medical bills. Uh oh, I thought the Coupon Wilpon days were over. Nope. Don’t let the Cespedes signing fool you. The penny pinching is back. Hell it never left. Sic semper altitudo! Death to depth! Say no to depth! The team is full. Vote Soup/Monell 2016!

So are we just handing minor league SS Matt Reynolds the opening day job until Cabrera returns? Maybe. Is Eric Campbell aka Soupman going to start at 3B with Wilmer Flores at SS? Dear god no. But probably yes. This is a bad baseball decision. Sure, unproven minor league SS Matt Reynolds could wind up being good. But why in God’s name are we holding SS tryouts during our 2016 championship run season? There’s absolutely no reason to release a competent backup middle infielder especially considering the lack of supply across the league. If his performance this spring or during the season was bad, that would be a different story. But he is raking at the dish this spring.

Ruben is going to get claimed immediately. Not by one of the worst teams in the league. No he’s going to wind up on the Cardinals who just lost their SS Jhonny Peralta to injury. Or perhaps even…the Dodgers! That’s right folks. The Utley/Tejada Odd Couple buddy comedy is that much closer to becoming a reality. If they team up, I’m sure they will become best good friends.

I really can’t believe the Mets are doing this. By “this” I mean voluntarily getting rid of depth to save a few pennies. It’s not even about Ruben. He really isn’t even that good. I have had problems with Tejada for years. He’s been arguably my number one Mets scapegoat through the dark times (2009-2014). But my problem was always with the way he was used. He’s been the Mets day one starter at SS since like 2011. We used him like a starter when the team sucked, and he’s really a reserve infielder on a good team. Finally we build enough depth to use him in the right role, and we are essentially releasing him to save a couple million bucks. Squeeze those pennies Fred and Jeff. Squeeze them real tight.

This is a developing story, and Ruben is not technically gone yet. But he’s definitely packing his bags. If Alejandro De Aza is next on the chopping block and Kevin Plawecki starts the season in AAA, I am going to lose my mind. So long Ruben. We will never forget our last memory of you getting absolutely demolished. Also, see you in the playoffs when you’re playing for one of our chief NL rivals. I’m sure that won’t come back to bite us.

2016 Mets Season Preview: We Watched, Now We Win

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We are three weeks away from the Mets Opening Night game in Kansas City. A fitting matchup that pits us against the team that ended our 2015 season. The team that celebrated their first World Championship in 30 years as the Mets watched from the dugout. Our fans watched the celebration at Citifield and on television. It stung. Even when I think about it now the series still stings. It has left a scar that Mets fans will bear forever. But the experience will make the team stronger and unite the players in their mission to bring the franchise its first World Championship since 1986. And thanks to Sandy’s offseason personnel maneuvers, we are in a great position to get back to the Fall Classic in 2016. And this time, I think we will have the experience and talent to get the job done.

Infield and Catching Preview:

Despite being a team built on elite pitching, the Mets continue to subscribe to the mantra “offense is the new defense”. This is especially true in the infield. That being said, the Mets replaced Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores up the middle with Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Walker and Cabrera are below average defenders. But Murph and Flores were so much worse. Murph and Flores really set the floor as far as advanced defensive metrics are concerned. Just brutal. So it should be nice to have experienced and near competent defenders up the middle for 2016. And I absolutely love having Neil Walkyear. In the contract year, when the payday is on the line, players are almost always at their best.

Asdrubal Cabrera is pretty much a shortstop impersonator at this point in his career. And he’s already back in New York getting platelet-rich plasma therapy on his knee and sleeping in an MRI machine. That being said, he should eventually return even if it’s not for Opening Day. And when he does he will represent an upgrade over Wilmer at the position. Plus, the guy has averaged nearly 17 dingers a season since 2011. He’s a real major leaguer, and I fully expect him to be a major contributor in 2016.

2016 is a huge year for Lucas Duda. He’s been one of the most productive offensive first basemen in the sport over the last two seasons. Top 10 in Wins Above Replacement at 1B. Top 10 in OPS. But up until the arrival of Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline last year, Duda had to be the big presence in the Mets lineup. Lucas had to be the guy. And Duda just never excelled in that spotlight. Well he doesn’t have to be that guy anymore. Now with Cespedes in town for a full season, Duda can be just another piece in a fairly stacked lineup. I expect big things from the gentle giant. He needs to continue to hit lefthanded pitching like he did in 2015. He needs to improve his approach against the breaking ball. Duda has two more seasons before he hits free agency. If he wants to cash in, he could really help his chances by improving upon his 2014/15 campaigns.

I have absolutely no confidence in David Wright and his ability to stay on the field. He has spinal freaking stenosis. My grandmother has spinal stenosis. David is dunzo. The doctors have no confidence in David’s ability to magically overcome this degenerative condition. The Mets loaded up on infield depth, seemingly signaling the organization has no confidence. Wright even appears to have no confidence. When they ask him about his injury, he just shrugs and says “I’m just taking it day by day”. I hope we make the playoffs and David is feeling strong enough to play at that time of the year. That’s my only hope for David this year. Other than that I expect nothing from him.

Travis d’Arnaud has been “Mr. Glass” his entire career. It’s always something with Travis. Baseball Reference projects he’ll have just over 300 ABs, which certainly represents a bearish forecast reflecting his injury history.

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I’m inclined to agree with this prediction because Travis has never shown once that he has the ability to put together a full season. That being said, I expect him to be one of the most productive offensive catchers in the league when he is on the field. He hit 12 home runs in just over 200 ABs last season. On the defensive side, his pitch framing has been praised. However, he struggled to throw out base stealers in the playoffs. He will need to improve that in 2016. And if d’Arnaud does somehow find a way to remain healthy and gets 400+ ABs, I fully expect him to be in the All-Star conversation.

Outfield Preview:

The Mets 2016 outfield has the potential to be among the most productive units in the league. Retaining Yoenis Cespedes was obviously huge. He’s a gold glove LF who will be trying his hand in CF for a full season. His defense in CF hasn’t been ideal over a small career sample size. But he’s a freak athlete, and he’ll be fine. And he’ll more than make up for any defensive shortcomings at the dish. I don’t expect him to match his career high 35 home runs from last season. I don’t expect him to bat .291. I expect him to regress to his career averages of around 25 home runs and around a .270 average. Which should make him the best hitter on the team by far. And as we saw last season, he’ll make everyone around him better. He’s just that kind of intimidating lineup presence.

Other than actually having him on the team, the best part about signing Cespedes is that it takes the pressure off of Michael Conforto. Remember in December when the Mets were planning on betting their entire 2016 season on a sophomore outfielder? Thank god that never came to fruition. Now Conforto can develop at the major league level. If he excels, then we are going to have an elite offense. If he stumbles…we can still have an elite offense. Conforto looked fantastic in his rookie season. He grinded out every at bat like a veteran. Unbelievable pitch recognition. The metrics said his 2015 defense in LF was acceptable. But we’ll have to see how he fares over the course of a full season. We will also expose him to more lefthanded pitching this season. And again, if he struggles against lefties we have the luxury of playing Juan Lagares in CF and Cespedes in LF.

Curtis Granderson was the Mets offensive MVP over all of 2015. On this there can be no debate. He came back from a shitty 2014 debut and shined in the leadoff spot. He hit for power, he drew walks, and he was even nominated for a gold glove in RF. His 2015 season at the plate was among the best of his career. I expect a regression offensively. However, I still expect him to remain among the Mets most productive hitters and biggest power threats. Pray for health. He’s going to be 35 come Opening Day. We need him at the top of the order to get back to the dance.

Bench Preview:

Depth. We finally have it. Thank the old gods and the new. Am I worried about “Mr. Glass” Travis d’Arnaud? No not really. Because we have another young developing stud in Kevin Plawecki. He wasn’t very good last year. He hit .219. But he was a rookie, and he’s going to develop and grow in 2016. The other Mets beat writers keep saying he should start the season at AAA. They are insane. He will start at the major league level, and he will wind up playing all the time when Mr. Glass goes down.

Wilmer Flores is our super-sub. And by that I mean Flores is now our starting SS because Asdrubal is injured. Or is he our starting 3B with Wright being hurt? That is why teams need depth. Your super-sub becomes a starter every other week all season long. That’s how they make a goddamn living. But assuming Cabrera and Wright eventually come back, Wilmer is going to be busy filling in at every infield position. He’s never played 1B at the major league level. He stinks defensively at SS, 2B, and 3B. I’m guessing that trend will continue at 1B. That being said, he’s the only real proven major league insurance we have for Duda, Wright and Cabrera. So hopefully two of those three starters are healthy at any given time all season long. Just cross your fingers because the lack of real depth at 1B/3B is probably our most glaring weakness. One injury to Duda and we are in a bit of trouble. Did somebody say Soup?

Speaking of Soup, Eric Campbell is likely to make the Opening Day roster now that Cabrera is hurt. You want a preview? Here’s your preview: Soup sucks.

Ruben Tejada is still here. With Cabrera and Wright injured, Wilmer Flores is playing 3B and Tejada is the starting SS. And Wilmer is going to play quite a bit of 3B considering Wright hasn’t logged a single Grapefruit League inning thus far. The Tejada trade rumors continue to persist. I think they are BS. He just won’t go away. We keep trying to get rid of him. The competition we bring in at SS doesn’t matter. No matter how big a guy might be, Ruben takes him on. You beat Ruben with your legs, he comes back with a glove. You beat him with a glove, he comes back with a bat. And if you beat him with a bat, you better finish him, because he’ll keep comin’ back and back until one of you is cut.

The Mets backup outfielders are starting caliber. This is the best crop of backup outfielders we’ve had in years. A real two-headed platoon monster on the bench waiting to be unleashed. Juan Lagares is going to start against lefties. I imagine he will come into games for defense almost every night. Alejandro De Aza is going to be the primary lefthanded hitting pinch hitter off the bench. Juan Lagares can really hit lefthanded pitching. Alejandro De Aza can really hit right handed pitching. Kirk Nieuwenhuis could never really hit any pitching. The upgrade is going to be so significant. If somebody gets hurt, we will have actual productive starters to slide in. I’m so grateful. And I also call BS on the De Aza trade rumors.

We also have 2B Dilson Herrera and SS Matt Reynolds waiting in the wings at AAA.

Starting Rotation Preview:

The starting pitching is our everything. It’s what we are built upon. One rotation, under Warthen, unhittable, with power and strikeouts for all. Our rotation of studs has a chance to be the best single season staff of all time. That’s not an outrageous claim. That’s not Mets fan bias. It is a fact. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard are absolute horses. I’m not going to sit here and make career predictions for them even though it’s so tempting. That is way too hard to project and dependent on way too many factors. But I fully expect Matt Harvey, in his second season coming off TJ surgery, to dominate the NL. We’ve seen this happen historically with pitchers in their second year back from TJ. Plus he’s re-incorporating his deadly slider into his repertoire. Mike Petriello from MLB.com wrote a great article showing how the spin on Harvey’s slider improved over the course of last season as he became more comfortable on the mound. Harvey made slider related adjustments towards the end of July in 2015. The results?

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Bottom line is expect big things from a healthy Harvey.

Jacob deGrom has been the best pitcher on the team the last 2 seasons. I hope the 2015 workload and playoff innings have no effect on his 2016 performance. If he’s able to overcome any workload related fatigue, then he should be a Top 5 NL pitcher and Cy Young candidate. Noah Syndergaard has a chance to be the most dominant pitcher on the staff. The guy throws a 100 MPH with pinpoint control. Sports Illustrated included Thor on their list of Top 5 pitchers at risk of injury in 2016 as a result of his increased workload in 2015. Don’t even click the link and read the article. Just pray that we are blessed for once. Light your candles for Thor.

Steven Matz looked fantastic in his few regular season starts and postseason appearances. I think he’s an early favorite for NL Rookie of the Year. He’s another injury risk because of his size and delivery, but it’s okay. Why? Because once again we have the depth. We have Big Sexy Bartolo Colon gobbling up innings. We have our other elite hard throwing stud Zack Wheeler on the mend from his TJ surgery but expected back in June/July. We even have reinforcements in AAA in the form of Logan Verrett and possibly Sean Gilmartin if he doesn’t make the Opening Day bullpen.

Bullpen Preview:

I think our bullpen presents the single biggest risk of derailing our quest to return to the World Series. Nobody is worried about Jeurys Familia. He was among the most dominant closers in the game last season, and he should be again this season. But there is always injury risk and behind him we lack a viable tested 9th inning option. I love Antonio Bastardo and Jerry Blevins as late inning lefthanded relievers. But they are not closers. Bastardo is more likely to be a full inning option as he has had success against righthanded and lefthanded hitters in his career. But he’s not an elite late inning option. Addison Reed has closing experience, but he’s never been consistent. He spent time in the Diamondbacks minors league system last season for Christ’s sake. I think Hansel Robles has the best chance to break out in 2016 and serve as a top setup man. He throws 95+ consistently and his secondary pitches looked better as the season went on. By not acquiring a late inning reliever other than Bastardo, the Mets have made a big bet on Robles in 2016. If his command improves he should be a strong late inning weapon. But again I’m saying “if”. The bullpen is the only area where we are full of “ifs” outside of Familia. Luckily bullpens across the league are typically big “ifs”. So we have a lot of company in that department. Erik Goeddel may also make the team although he has battled spring injuries. Former Brewers closer Jim Henderson has also had a strong spring, but we would need to add him to our 40 man roster if he’s going to make the Opening Day team.

2016 Prediction:

I see the Opening Day 25 Man Roster as:

Starters: 1) C Travis d’Arnaud 2) 1B Lucas Duda 3) 2B Neil Walker 4) SS Wilmer Flores 5) 3B David Wright 6) OF Michael Conforto 7) OF Yoenis Cespedes 8) OF Curtis Granderson

Bench: 9) OF Juan Lagares 10) OF Alejandro De Aza 11) C Kevin Plawecki 12) SS Ruben Tejada 13) IF/OF Eric Campbell

Rotation: 14) SP Matt Harvey 15) SP Jacob deGrom 16) SP Noah Syndergaard 17) SP Steven Matz 18) SP Bartolo Colon

Bullpen: 19) CP Jeurys Familia 20) RP Antonio Bastardo 21) RP Jerry Blevins 22) RP Addison Reed 23) RP Hansel Robles 24) RP Erik Goeddel 25) RP Sean Gilmartin

My prediction for the season is that we will win the NL East, and we will win the World Series. For the first time in a long time, Vegas doesn’t even consider that a bold prediction. The main reason for my confidence is obviously the starting pitching. It’s so elite. I don’t think a single team in the league can possibly match it. I think we are going to beat up on the weak NL East teams (Marlins, Braves, Phillies), and ultimately we will outplay the Nationals down the stretch, yet again. Are the Cubs better than they were last season? Yes. Am I afraid of the Cubs? No. We destroyed them in the NLCS and I am confident we can do it again. Pitching wins championships. Unfortunately in 2015, we got beat by experience. Now we have the pitching and the experience. I think the 2016 Mets are deep and built to overcome injuries. Sure we need to get lucky. You always need luck. But in 2016, I think we have about as good a chance as we’ve ever had to win it all. If the Mets have me feeling confident, I can only imagine how confident the players must be. And I think that confidence combined with the overall talent on the roster will bring us to the next level. But no matter what happens this season, as Opening Day approaches the 2016 Mets have me feeling as confident as former Jets LB Bart Scott. See you in Kansas City this April.

Weekly Roundup: The Big Guns Debut

The Big Guns Debut:  After holding them back for the first two weeks of Spring Training, the Mets finally unleashed the big guns. Harvey, deGrom, Thor, Matz and Big Sexy all toed the rubber this week and for the most part they looked great. Harvey and Thor were firing bullets and lighting up the radar guns. Matz and Colon looked really sharp getting their work in. deGrom seemed a tad rusty. But their performances this week are ultimately irrelevant. The bottom line is they are back.

Asdrubal Dead/Granderson Pink Eye Survivor: I wrote about the downfall of Asdrubal Cabrera on Friday. His patella is strained. He’s back in NYC getting treatment. So long Cabrera. He’s dead. Valar Morghulis. See you in two weeks aka six months. Curtis Granderson also somehow survived his battle with pink eye with his vision intact. Seven blessings to us!

Game Notes:

On Monday, the Mets played two split squad games. The Mets first squad won 7-3 over Detroit. Bartolo Colon, Josh Smoker, and Jeurys Familia all pitched well. The other squad lost 9-4 to the Cardinals. Steven Matz was nasty in his debut.

On Tuesday, the Mets lost 5-4 to the Braves. Matt Harvey hit 99 MPH in his spring fucking debut. Rafael Montero pitched like shit and got re-assigned to minor league camp this week. In the last 12 months, Montero’s arm has seemingly deteriorated. Oh well.

On Wednesday, the Mets tied the Yankees 4-4. Jacob deGrom got his work in and Antonio Bastardo blew the game. And the Grandyman returned.

On Thursday, the Mets won 7-2 over the Cardinals and Noah Syndergaard was fire. Ruben and the Benchwarmers shined. In fact Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, and Ruben really shined all week. This was the game where Asdrubal hurt his knee. He’s gone now. It was a pleasure knowing him.

On Friday, the Mets lost 9-5 to the Nationals. Matz pitched poorly on short rest and minor league mook Duane Below got rocked.

On Saturday, the Mets lost 14-9 to the Cardinals. It was the springiest spring game that ever sprang. Errors all over the place. Pitchers getting shelled. Stolmy Pimentel (he’s some Faceless Man on the Mets) hit Cardinal Stephen Piscotty on the forearm, and then umpire Angel Hernandez tossed him from the game because his next pitch was up and in. Angel Hernandez sucks. Also Jim Henderson pitched great. Really making a case for a spot in the pen.

The highlight of the game was when Keith Hernandez went on a rant about how great his vacation was going to be this week. Then he proceeded to leave the booth, and upon returning he announced to everyone that he went to the bathroom and got lost on his way back. Keith is in midseason form.

On Sunday, the Mets won 11-0 over the Marlins. Harvey was lights out through 4 innings. Familia was dominant in his inning of work. They were also in midseason form. Let’s just start the damn season already. Ruben was 2 for 3 with 3 RBIs. Just raking and daring the Mets to trade him. And on a related note Dilson Herrera fouled a ball off his knee and left the game limping. Another infielder bites the dust. Hopefully his flight to Panama City for the World Baseball Classic Qualifier is refundable #PrayforDilson.

Other Notes:

Cespedes Loves LF: Yoenis Cespedes this week said “If I had the choice, I would stay in left field. But I will play where the team needs me.” That was of course reported as “Cespedes prefers LF, Uncomfortable in CF”. Just remember the quote above when it’s thrown in his face later this season.

Mejia Conspiracy Plot Thickens: Jenrry Mejia held the much awaited “Steroid Conspiracy Theory” press conference with his lawyers. His legal team alleged MLB hacked Mejia’s social media accounts and blackmailed him in an effort to force him to turn in his supplier and other guilty players. They even alleged MLB said if Mejia didn’t turn in other players they’d “go out of their way” to find a 3rd positive test. Highlight quotes included:

Mejia: “In the name of God everything will be resolved.”

Lawyer: “This is dirty cop tactics. You can’t say I’ll take away your livelihood if you don’t turn other people in.”

Mejia: “My mother is a nurse. The first time I tested positive was when she injected me.”

MLB released a statement saying every word from Mejia and his legal team was BS. And I’m sure every word was. That being said, I’d love to see Mejia get vindicated like Ryan Braun only to return and test positive again immediately. Classic juicer tale.

Death to Depth: The cries from Mets reporters to cut Ruben Tejada, trade Alejandro De Aza, and demote Kevin Plawecki continued this week. I have no idea why. Sic semper altitudo! Death to depth! Say no to depth! Adam Rubin said we are looking to trade for a backup catcher. What? We aren’t confident in Johnny “Mr. Vegas” Monell? Vote Soup/Monell 2016! “Making the Mets Crappy Again!”

Bryce Harper Endorses Bat Flips, Goose Gossage Endorses Old School, Paul O’Neill Endorses Trump

img_2788-4So MVP Bryce Harper was featured in an ESPN the magazine article yesterday. It was about how marketable he is and how he wants to be THE MLB star and blah blah blah. Same old storyline. The charismatic best player in the game wants to be a cultural icon. But the real headline? Bryce is “tired” of baseball’s BS unwritten rules. He’s done with the stupid code.

“Baseball’s tired. It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do. Jose Fernandez is a great example. Jose Fernandez will strike you out and stare you down into the dugout and pump his fist. And if you hit a homer and pimp it? He doesn’t care. Because you got him. That’s part of the game. It’s not the old feeling — hoorah … if you pimp a homer, I’m going to hit you right in the teeth. No. If a guy pimps a homer for a game-winning shot … I mean — sorry.”

And that ladies and gentlemen, is something I can get behind. I don’t care that it’s Bryce Harper leading the charge. Hell I’d follow Alex Rodriguez in a crusade against baseball’s BS unwritten rules. The unwritten rules and the elderly owners/old timers that insist on keeping them in place have been my biggest problem with the sport for years now. The anti-bat flip propaganda. The takeout slides, retaliation pitches, and other unwritten league sanctioned rules that have existed forever. The prospect of abolishing those rules could not excite me more. And I can easily see why Bryce wants to end them. The most obvious reason being he doesn’t want some jealous pitcher hitting him in the head with a baseball. That would derail the endorsement money train pretty damn fast. But his most recent dance with the unwritten rule book happened when his teammate and notorious old school a-hole Jonathan Papelbon choked him out last season. It all happened because Bryce publicly talked about how he didn’t like a retaliation pitch Papelbon made in a game against the Orioles earlier in the season. He didn’t like it because it makes him an obvious future target. Pap didn’t like the fact that Harper took that opinion to the media. So obviously the old school handbook says players should settle such a dispute with a very public televised assault. Just insane and disgraceful behavior.

And of course in a completely unrelated, unplanned ESPN interview with Goose Gossage that dropped on the same day, Goose went on an absolute tirade in defense of the old school way.

“Bautista is a f—ing disgrace to the game. He’s embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto. Cespedes same thing.”

Well thanks for that Goose. Gossage says bat flips are a disgrace but in the 70s the old timers said the same thing about his hideous Fu Manchu. And you got to love 1) How overtly racist this tirade is 2) That current Latin players essentially come out in defense of the old school Goose position.

That’s right. Mexican-American Giants reliever Sergio Romo chimed in on Bryce Harper’s original comments saying,

“Don’t put your foot in your mouth when you’re the face of the game and you just won the MVP. I’m sorry, but just shut up.”

Jesus Christ Sergio please don’t feed into this notion that this is solely about bat flips and make it a pitchers vs. hitters debate. Before he was banished for life, Jenrry Mejia battled the mound footstomp criticism for a full season. Jose Valverde used to celebrate after a save and dealt with all the old school critics his entire career. The old school way is a crusade against anyone who is different and doesn’t follow the fundamentalist interpretation of baseball’s non-existent unwritten rule book. And if Bryce Harper plans to lead the new generation of ball players in rebellion against the tyrannical old coots like Goose, then I will call my banners and join the charge.

Other Notes: Yoenis Cespedes had a fantastic reaction to the Gossage criticism asking the reporter (through his translator) who the hell is Goose Gossage? Then adding “Is he a pitcher?” He then said,

“Whenever a pitcher strikes someone out, they get to celebrate too and have their moment and revel in it. Why can’t the batters get a chance to enjoy their success, too?”

I’m sorry Yoenis but baseball’s unwritten rules aren’t based on any modern logic. Maybe they were based on something at the time they were created, but they sure as hell don’t make sense any more. Kind of like some of the amendments in the Constitution. Speaking of the Constitution, this week former Yankee Paul O’Neill got the shout out from Donald Trump at a rally. Then Johnny Damon came out in support of Trump. We have Gossage screaming about the disgraceful behavior of Latin players and O’Neill/Damon endorsing Trump and his Mexican border wall. I must say, all these former Yankees coming out in favor of racist policies and saluting fascist presidential candidates really helps me back up some past claims I’ve made about the Yankees and their fans. If Derek Jeter shows up at a Trump rally I’m pretty sure Babe Ruth will roll over in his grave and Yankee Stadium will spontaneously implode.

Asdrubal Cabrera’s Body Sent Back to NYC And Like That, Poof…It’s Tejada


The greatest trick the Mets ever pulled was convincing us we had a new Shortstop and like that, poof. It’s Ruben. 

Should we trade Ruben? I hear the Cardinals are interested in Ruben Tejada. Who needs depth? We have Asdrubal Cabrera now so let’s get rid of Ruben before all his NLDS medical bills come due. And now…Cabrera’s knee has popped. Whoops. Back to the usual suspects at SS.

This was an absolute lock. As soon as Cabrera pulled up lame during yesterday’s game we all knew he was a goner. We’ve seen it too many times to be fooled. And he wasn’t exactly hiding it when he came out of the game. I mean he said he was fine but this photo said it all.  

Clearly Ray Ramirez loaded him up with painkillers. Just your standard Mets post-injury dose. Make all the pain go away. Ray Ramirez has made a living on career ending diagnoses. He knows what they look like. Once they said Cabrera was going for his first Mets MRI (Congratulations!) it was only a question of how bad.

Degenerative __________.

Malignant___________.

Genetic___________.

Personally, I was betting on the injury being some newly discovered knee condition. Then we heard this morning, Cabrera was being sent back to the special, different MRI machine in New York for further evaluation, and at that moment we knew he was being sent back in a body bag.

Anyway, this isn’t surprising. Of course somebody in the starting lineup got injured. Injuries happen to every team all season long and especially to the Mets. But it’s even more predictable that it happened at SS. We finally signed someone new. Finally signed a real SS. The first one we’ve had since Jose Reyes. And just like that, it’s back to the incumbent. Wilmer Flores cried his eyes out when he thought he was traded last season. Ruben never batted an eyelash at all these trade rumors. He’s been here before. He’s seen all the ghosts of Shortstops Past. Nobody is taking this job from him. Not trade rumors. Not Omar Quintanilla. Not even Chase Utley can stop him.

Now the Mets say we are probably talking about a short term injury. Asdrubal Cabrera has a strained patella tendon and is supposedly going to be inactive for 2 weeks. However, he’s currently getting your standard “day to day” platelet-rich plasma therapy at the Hospital for Special Surgery. And we all know the Mets injury conversion formula tells us weeks are months and the time given by trainer Ray Ramirez should be multiplied by 3. So we are looking at a 6 month absence. That being said, I hope this finally silences the goddamn people saying we should trade Alejandro De Aza and trade Ruben. We need these damn players. Depth is important.

P.S. I realize Wilmer Flores is now the actual starting SS “on paper”. But I didn’t mention it because we all know Wilmer is actually going to start at 3B. David Wright hasn’t even swung a bat or fielded a ball in a real game this spring. He’s been on the “day to day” injury list for the last 4 years. The Mets have been secretly flying Wright’s spine back to New York for evaluation every other week while David “works out” in Port St. Lucie. Wilmer is going to play 3B. Tejada is going to play SS and….wait for it…Eric Campbell is going to be our super sub. Soup’s on baby! Hip hip hooray.

Weekly Roundup: Fun Time Is Over

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Fun Time Is Over: Well all it took was a week dominated by the Yoenis Cespedes sports car collection, horse riding, and a Grand Champion Hog purchase for Terry to finally put his foot down. This week, Old Man Collins channeled his inner Red Forman and declared “fun time is over”. I completely agree that it’s time to focus on baseball. And nobody is actually mad at all the hilarious spring news that has dominated the headlines to date. But Terry is such an old man. Just so irritable. Ranting and raving. “Riding horses to camp! When I was stationed in Siberia, my unit survived off horse meat for a month,” and “Curtis has pink eye? In Korea we never got days off for pink eye. We got shot in the eye.” Classic old man routine. I love it.

Game Notes: The Mets actually kicked off their Grapefruit League schedule this week which should help to minimize the absurd headlines coming out of camp on a going forward basis.

On Thursday, the Mets lost to the Nationals 9-4 in the Daniel Murphy reunion game.  The only takeaway in that game was Rafael Montero pitched like shit. He was such a promising prospect who missed almost all of last season with mystery arm soreness. I really hope his arm recovers, and he can help out the big league team this season. So far he’s not off to a good start. Also, the day after the Mets faced everyone’s favorite homophobe Daniel Murphy, MLB’s Ambassador For Inclusion Billy Bean was invited to Mets camp to conduct his annual sensitivity training. Talk about perfect timing. Billy Bean said he had “communicated all throughout the year in a very supportive way” with Murphy. I wish Murphy’s phone and home were bugged so we could get our hands on those phone calls with Bean as well as Murph’s post call conversations with his wife. Yikes. I’m guessing he may have sugarcoated some conversation points with old Billy.

On Friday, the Marlins and Mets played to a 4-4 tie in a classic spring barn burner. Mets second base prospect and heir apparent Dilson Herrera had an inside the park home run. On Saturday, the Mets beat the Astros 3-1. First base prospect Dominic Smith had two nice hits including one long single that he chose to admire in the batters box. After the game, Terry threw out his metaphorical lunch Bobby Parnell style. On Sunday, the Mets beat the Braves 7-5. Sean Gilmartin had a strong start and Jim Henderson pitched a nice scoreless inning out of the pen. Henderson’s velocity looked good, and he’s a possible veteran candidate to make the pen out of spring. Alejandro De Aza also had a multi-hit game. That’s something we never said about Kirk Nieuwenhuis outside of his legendary 3 dinger performance.

Granderson’s Pink Eye and Wright’s Spine Update: On Monday February 29th, Curtis Granderson was declared “day to day” with pink eye. It is now Monday March 7th and Curtis hasn’t played in a game and is officially wearing glasses. Now I’m no doctor, but normally when a grade school child gets pink eye on a Monday, the kid is healthy and in school for an exam on Friday. Curtis sounds like he’s a few days away from a seeing eye dog and another week away from calling the Eye Bank of New York for a transplant. David Wright also hasn’t played in a game this spring. Still resting his spine for Opening Day #RestfortheCure

Plawecki to AAA Vegas?: Add a new story to the pile of fake news that Mets media has released this spring. First they made up rumors that the Mets will trade Alejandro De Aza in favor of…well in favor of nobody. Then the talk that Ruben Tejada could be released by the end of spring and Eric Campbell could make the team. And now there are talks that Kevin Plawecki may be sent to Vegas to start the season and lose the backup catcher job to…Johnny Monell? Maybe 2016 will be the year of spring catching scrub Raywilly Gomez? I love when these fake rumors are started about how the Mets might consider keeping a bad player over a good player to give the good one minor league reps, but then they ultimately keep the good one because the bad one is not a real viable alternative. Such a joke.

Utley Suspension Dropped: I wrote about the Chase Utley suspension being dropped yesterday. It’s a complete joke. Utley U Butt-ley.

Buttley

Mejia Conspiracy Theory: MLB’s new King of Banished Island Jenrry Mejia came out this week and said he was the victim of a conspiracy by MLB to banish him from the game. That’s right. Mejia hired a legal team, and they came up with the old “it’s a goddamn conspiracy” defense. Also, the New York Times published this picture below which says it was taken at his lawyer’s office. Mejia is seemingly being represented by the law firm of Dolce and Gabbana.