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2014 Team Previews: New York Mets

After a middle-of-the-road 2013 season, the Mets endeavor to continue the climb up from perennial blah-ness to playoff contender.

The core of the Mets: Wright, Harvey...and Davis
The core of the Mets: Wright, Harvey...and Davis
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Before the 2013 season even started, the Mets seemingly admitted to a fifth consecutive rebuilding year, trading 2012 NL Cy Young Winner R.A. Dickey (And C Josh Thole) to Toronto for two top-100 prospects: C Travis d'Arnaud and SP Noah Syndergaard, a decidedly impressive haul for a 38-year old knuckleballer. In addition, they bought out the remainder of Jason Bay's contract, ending a disappointing deal for the Mets.

Even though 2013 went about as expected, and even though new signings add promise for 2014, it's clear that the Mets' day is more likely to come in 2015.

2013 Season In Review

The season as a whole was discouraging, as the Mets only managed one winning month (a 15-12 July), and ended 22 games back of Atlanta. But the fans could take heart in the emergence of Matt Harvey. A top-100 prospect prior to 2012, Harvey showed promise in 10 starts that year, but no one could've expected his 2013 line: 2.27 ERA, 6.16 K/BB, 2.00 FIP, and 6.1 fWAR. Suddenly, every fifth day in Queens was turned into ``Harvey Day," and he found himself starting the All-Star Game at his home stadium in July. But on August 26th, Harvey was diagnosed with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, and on October 4th (Otherwise known as ``The Day the Mets 2014 Season Died") he announced that he'd undergo Tommy John Surgery.

Key Offseason Moves

11/26/13: Mets sign CF Chris B. Young for 1/$7.25M. No, not that Chris Young again. When he's healthy, he provides an intriguing combination of power, speed, and fielding ability (58th in ISO, 15th in FanGraphs fielding, and 36th in FanGraphs BsR from 2010-2012). From 2010-2012, he provided 11.1 WAR, 39th in baseball out of 230 qualified players. 2013 was much less kind, as his slash line fell to .200/.280/.379 with a BABIP of .237, wRC+ of 82, and ISO of .179 (Compared to career numbers of .235/.315/.431 and .274 BABIP, 94 wRC+, and .196 ISO). Granted, he's always had splits issues, but he still projects as an above average defender, and ZiPS project a bounce back. While it's doubtful that he reaches his 2010-11 peak again, he can still easily be worth this deal.

12/09/13: Mets sign OF Curtis Granderson for 4/$60M. After his age 30 season, Granderson seemed right in line for a huge nine-figure payday this offseason. Down years in 2012 and 2013 put a pin in that idea, with his OBP tumbling to .317, his K% climbing to 28.2%, and his ISO dropping 112 points. In addition, 2013 saw Granderson spend 113 days on the DL due to two freak hit-by-pitch incidents. So where does that leave Granderson? He's on the wrong side of the aging curve, and has some decided splits issues (130 wRC+ vs. lefties compared to 86 vs. righties). Fans project him much higher than ZiPS or Steamer (3.7 fWAR compared to 2.2 and 2.0 respectively), but depending on your view of the value of a win, this puts his value right in line with his contract.

12/14/13: Mets sign SP Bartolo Colon for 2/$20M. Bartolo went from being washed up in 2009 to turning in the best season by a 40-year old pitcher since 2007 (With a 50-game PED suspension along the way). The Mets grabbed Colon by guaranteeing a second year, being the only team to do so. With Matt Harvey out for the foreseeable future, Colon will probably headline the rotation, but who knows how much longer he'll be able to be effective.

One To Watch: Travis d'Arnaud

Traded for two Cy Young Winners, a five-time top-100 prospect (Peaking at #6 on MLB, and #17 on Baseball America), great things have been expected of Travis d'Arnaud for a long time. If you look at his minor league line, d'Arnaud profiles as an above average bat for a catcher, with potentially good defense (2011 Baseball America Defensive Catcher of the Year). His batting line in over 2,000 Minor League PAs was .286/.347/.476

He got his first cup of coffee with the Mets last year, and it was a rough time. In 112 PAs, d'Arnaud put up a line of .202/.286/.263 for a 60 wRC+. This year, Steamer and ZiPS project him for 2.2 and 1.4 fWAR respectively, with both projecting better defensive than offensive numbers. Meanwhile, Oliver and the Fans have a much more positive outlook (3.1 and 3.8 fWAR projected).

Finally, if you're going to talk about d'Arnaud, you have to talk about injury history. His PA totals for his six minor league seasons were 151, 267, 540, 292, 466, and 303. Is he injury-prone? He doesn't seem to think so, but many others are worried. If he can stay healthy and live up to his Minor League profile, he can be the Mets' backstop for years to come.

The Mets By The Numbers: 12.1 & 16.9

For a fun exercise, let's take a look at the top 10 in combined WAR for a team's best pitcher and best hitter.

Team Batter (Rank) Top Batter fWAR Pitcher (Rank) Top Pitcher fWAR Top Batter and Pitcher fWAR
Tigers Miguel Cabrera (4) 7.6 Max Scherzer (2) 6.4 14.0
Angels Mike Trout (1) 10.4 C.J. Wilson (23) 3.3 13.7
Cardinals Matt Carpenter (6) 7.0 Adam Wainwright (3) 6.2 13.2
Pirates Andrew McCutchen (2) 8.2 A.J. Burnett (15) 4.0 12.2
Mets David Wright (12) 6.0 Matt Harvey (4) 6.1 12.1
Dodgers Juan Uribe (18) 5.1 Clayton Kershaw (1) 6.5 11.6
Athletics Josh Donaldson (3) 7.7 Bartolo Colon (16) 3.9 11.6
Rays Evan Longoria (7) 6.8 David Price (10) 4.4 11.2
Reds Joey Votto (10) 6.2 Mat Latos (11) 4.4 10.6
Rangers Adrian Beltre (16) 5.2 Yu Darvish (8) 5.0 10.2

And now, how about the bottom 10 in combined WAR for everyone on the team that wasn't the best hitter or best pitcher.

Team Not Top Batter fWAR (Rank) Not Top Pitcher fWAR (Rank) Not Top Total fWAR
Astros -2 (29) 0.2 (30) -1.8
Marlins -3 (30) 9.9 (16) 6.9
Phillies 2.3 (26) 5.4 (25) 7.7
Mariners 1.1 (27) 10.6 (14) 11.7
Twins 4.2 (25) 8 (21) 12.2
White Sox 0.1 (28) 12.3 (10) 12.4
Brewers 10.4 (23) 4.8 (27) 15.2
Padres 14.7 (17) 1.8 (29) 16.5
Mets 12.1 (20) 4.8 (26) 16.9
Yankees 4.4 (24) 14.7 (5) 19.1

Who's the one team on both lists? The Mets. Other than the Mets and the ever-perplexing Angels (Whose total was driven by the ever-amazing Mike Trout), every team in the top 10 of the first list won 90+ games. Only three teams had both a batter and pitcher reach 6.0 fWAR, and two of them made at least their League Championship Series. The third? The Mets. And even more impressive, David Wright and Matt Harvey put up these totals in injury-shortened seasons. Had Wright reached 600 PAs and Harvey 200 IP at the same rates, they would have combined for the best hitter-pitcher fWAR tandem in the majors!

What does all this mean? At the very top, the Mets have the talent to compete with anyone. It's numbers 3-25 where the numbers must improve. The signings of Colon, Granderson, and Young should improve these slots, as well as the promise of Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard. But to make the leap from 75-80 wins to a playoff team in 2015, they can't rely solely on David Wright and Matt Harvey.

2014 Outlook

As I've stated many times, 2014 isn't the Mets year. 2015 is. With cornerstone David Wright still producing, returns by Granderson and Young to their 2011 forms, progress by Zack Wheeler, the emergence of Syndergaard and d'Arnaud, and the return of Harvey Days could push the Mets into the playoffs. That is a lot of ifs, but not out of the realm of possibility.

But what about 2014? Sandy Alderson thinks they can win 90 games. David Wright agrees. Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, Vegas odds, and I disagree. I'll agree with with my friend and colleague's thoughts on the Mets (and he is a lifelong Mets fan).

Sandy Alderson says the Mets can win 90 games this year. I think they might win 90 games if they played a 230 game schedule. But if they do win 90 games this year, I promise to post a video of me singing "Meet the Mets" shortly after victory #90.

So what is happening? I'll say the Mets improve on last years total and finish with a 76-86 record, falling just short of the Phillies in the race for third.

. . .

Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

Stephen Loftus is an editor at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @stephen__loftus.