Six Concerns for Mets in 2012
Ideally, we’d be discussing the Mets’ embracement of Six Sigma to help them in the 2012 season. Instead, there are at least six concerns they have going into Opening Day. Let’s take a look at the six most burning questions for the Mets as of right this moment.
1. Johan Santana
It looks like Johan will start on Opening Day, but how long will he last beyond that? No one really knows, and his ability to take the ball every fifth day will be a question all year long.
2. The Bullpen – In Particular, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez
On paper, this trio made the Mets bullpen look stabilized and upgraded for 2012. However, this spring, none of three have done anything to instill confidence in Mets fans. Of course, spring training performance doesn’t necessarily correlate to what happens in the regular season. But the combined stats of three amigos through 26 appearances and 34 innings this spring — 1.76 WHIP, 5.56 ERA, and only 5.56 K/9 — are ugly enough to cause concern.
The rest of the bullpen is far from solid. Bobby Parnell has looked good this spring but we’ve seen him have good stretches before. Long man Miguel Batista has also pitched well, but, will Medicare cover the aches and pains a man his age tends to suffer? Tim Byrdak is coming off minor knee surgery — and it appears he’ll be the only lefty in the bullpen. Manny Acosta is, well, Manny Acosta.
Sandy Alderson has stated publicly that he and his braintrust believe Andres Torres can be an upgrade over Angel Pagan both defensively and offensively. However, that hope is based primarily on the 34-year-old Torres’ breakout 2010 season, when he posted a .823 OPS, while largely ignoring the .643 OPS in 2011. Further, Torres is hobbling into Opening Day with a nagging calf injury — a major problem for a ballplayer whose most valuable skills heavily depend on his legs. On top of Torres’ physical woes are those suffered by Scott Hairston — who few see as an everyday centerfielder — and youngster Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who has been battling injuries fort he past two years. If Torres struggles, centerfield could be an unsettled position for much of 2012.
4. Up The Middle Defense
The old adage is that a successful baseball team must be “strong up the middle.” If that’s true, the Mets could be in trouble. Word on the street is that Josh Thole is improved behind the plate, but he’s still below-average overall defensively. Daniel Murphy is an experiment at second base. The question in centerfield was just discussed. The strongest link is supposed to be Ruben Tejada, but we can’t assume he’s going to be a Gold Glover. In his brief minor league career as a shortstop, Tejada averaged about 37 errors per 162 games — a pattern that continued in his brief sample size last year (8 errors in 41 games, or about 30-32 per 162).
5. Jason Bay
Bay has not come close to fulfilling the 4-year, $66M contract he signed prior to the 2010 season, and he’ll have to increase his performance heroically to justify the $16M salary he’ll make in each of the final two years of his deal. Beyond the dollars, the Mets need Bay to be a slugger again to have any shot at finishing above the NL East basement. Can he make a 180-degree turnaround? Everyone would love to see it, but the odds are stacked against him.
6. Back-end of Starting Rotation
I think everyone can agree that the middle of the Mets starting rotation — R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese — is solid. The #1 spot is a question mark, as mentioned above. Similarly, the two men bringing up the rear — Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee — are not exactly sure things.
Many believe that Gee is not a concern, and certainly there are facts to support that argument. However, it’s difficult to overlook his crash back to Earth in the second half of 2011, when opposing hitters clubbed him to the tune of a .850 OPS. After starting the season 8-3 with a 3.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, Gee went 5-3 with a 5.25 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in his final 13 starts. Was it fatigue? Was it familiarity and scouting reports catching up to him? Was it a hidden injury? We can’t know for sure. Additionally, there is the lingering issue of his slightly torn labrum that could blow out at any time.
Then there is Pelfrey, who likely would not have a job with the Mets right now if they had anyone older than 23 and younger than 41 to take his place. On the one hand, he might finally put it all together (again) and be a 200-inning, 15-game winner. On the other hand, he may be the same pitcher he was in 2011.
Maybe the above concerns are not concerns at all, in your opinion. Or maybe I missed one or three or four other concerns that you’d like to mention. Either way, speak your mind in the comments.