Sunday, April 01, 2007

2007 Season Preview - Burning Questions

1) Should David Wright bat second?

If it ain't broke don't fix it. David Wright would be a better #2 hitter than Paul LoDuca but he is a much better 5th place hitter. This theory comes from the old days of baseball when 3 - 4 runs were enough to win. That is not the case anymore. Lineups have to be constructed to have more strong spots to generate more runs. Shawn Green stinks and Moises Alou is injury prone, relying on them to bat 5th and 6th is a bad idea and a good way to have Beltran and Delgado stranded on base a lot, and to assure Delgado never sees fastballs. Plus LoDuca has no value in the bottom of the order where he does provide some valuable tools in the second hole (ie patience, hitting to right). If Willie goes with Wright at second it would be a monumental mistake that would eventually need to be corrected, probably the first time Alou gets hurt. That said, I still think LoDuca will see a significant falloff in production compared to last year.


2) Is the starting pitching strong enough?

The starting pitching of Glavine, El Duque, Maine, Perez and Pelfrey is good enough under ideal conditions. If there is a major injury (el Duque?), or a decline in performance (Perez), that could mean big trouble. I think Glavine and El Duque should be solid and I expect Maine to perform within a narrow band of 11-14 wins and an ERA between 4.00 and 5.00. Oliver Perez is the wild card. His ERA can be anywhere between 3 and 6. Without a good season from him the Mets will struggle to find wins. I don't think Pelfrey is ready to be a star this year, but he can definitely contribute 10 wins.


3) Will the Mets give Milledge a shot, or trade him?

I believe the Mets will end up trading Milledge for pitching help (starting or relief) at the deadline. I also think if Green gets off to a good start Milledge will be sent down to play everyday and be showcased for a trade. The only way he remains a Met for the long term is if there is a major injury to Alou or a horrible start by Green. I think he pissed off too many people last season. Also he didn't exactly set the world on fire...remember his series in Fenway? Amazingly, the injury to Sanchez last year may have doomed him. Had they kept Nady, Milledge might have had a chance to win the job this season.

4) Can we expect any deadline deals?

The Mets are very likely to be a player at the deadline. They will get back three players during the course of the year (Mota, Pedro and Sanchez) but if there is a good starter, or a strong reliever available, you can expect the Mets to package Milledge and Heilman. Because Glavine, El Duque and Pedro are so old I would like to see them hold on to Pelfrey and Humber but I am not confident that they will.

5) Will tougher competition in the NL East this year hurt the Mets?

The Phillies should be improved because they picked up some pitching and they have a great infield. Howard, Utley and Rollins is a great trio on the level of Reyes, Wright and Delgado. The Braves should also be improved becuase they fixed their bullpen but I don't see them as a major threat.

6) What is your prediction?

I see the Mets winning fewer games than last year but still more than 90, enough to win the division but the playoffs are anybody's guess. I worry that because they are constructed as an offensive team that their pitching will not hold up as happened last year in a short series. I think the Mets are likely headed for another season like 2006, a great fun year that falls just short.

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