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.

3. Centerfield
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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. NormE April 4, 2012 at 7:58 am
    There are other concerns (a questionable bench, a minor league system that is unproven) but your top six has one glaring hole. Can David Wright bounce back and be the
    onfield force he used to be?
    • Joe Janish April 4, 2012 at 10:14 pm
      I’m taking for granted that he will. Don’t ask me why, I just believe D-Wright will be back to being D-Wright.
  2. MikeT April 4, 2012 at 10:21 am
    A guy dives for a ball, messes up his shoulder, and suddenly he has been battling injuries the past few years? Yes, he has had trouble this spring with his oblique… who hasn’t on this team? Nieuwenhuis is not injury prone. He probably missed an opportunity late last year and this spring to showcase himself, but he will be back.
    • HobieLandrith April 4, 2012 at 12:58 pm
      Wow someone’s overly sensitive!

      I re-read Joe’s passage four times and didn’t see it anywhere stated that Captain Kirk is “injury prone.” Stating that he’s been “battling injuries the past two years” is an absolute, inarguable fact, not an indictment on the young man’s character.

      • Joe Janish April 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm
        Thanks Hobie
      • MikeT April 5, 2012 at 9:44 am
        I think my problem with it is the insinuation that this has been going on for two years. Reese Havens has been struggling with injuries the past two years. Kirk has been injured less than one calendar year, and that is an absolute, inarguable fact. His health really is not a concern for me, so much as an annoying hindrance to his supplanting Torres in CF or Duda in Right (who would supplant Bay in Left).
  3. argonbunnies April 4, 2012 at 2:19 pm
    Agreed, these are all concerns. It’s funny, though, I don’t feel these have nearly as much leeway as other factors. basically, I feel it’s a pretty good bet that Bay, Pelf, and Murphy’s D will suck, Johan and the bullpen will average out to okay, and Torres will be playable but nothing stellar.

    On the other hand, I have no idea what to expect from Wright, Davis, and Duda. If those guys all play up to their potential, I think it’ll be a fun season; if they all don’t, it’ll be miserable. So our possible team strength is actually the biggest concern for me, because it’s far from guaranteed.

  4. Gary S. April 4, 2012 at 2:25 pm
    Joe, Have no fear, the party deck in left field is open for business starting tomorrow.Btw, from the picture I saw,the geniuses who built it put a low wall right on top of the orange home run line to keep drunk party deck fans from falling into the field.Which means that every home run which barely clears the orange line will bounce back on the field creating
    endless replays to figure it out.I hope I am wrong, but that is the impression I got from looking at the picture yesterday
  5. wohjr April 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm
    I was reading Buster today and I am shocked to report that I didn’t realize that the mets were first in the NL east in runs scored last year! So maybe the walls weren’t the problem contra Gary….

    ps- gary: still haven’t forgotten about your prediction of over 33 HR for Mr. Wright to me over the winter. Still feeling confident?

    pps- SO EXCITED for tomorrow… GO METS!

    • Gary S. April 4, 2012 at 6:44 pm
      I will be shocked if David does not hit 33 this year..Game on let’s party in the party deck!!!!!
  6. Steven April 4, 2012 at 4:25 pm
    No more problems than a lot of other things. If you take a look at other teams blogs, it is amazing the amount of wishful thinking that goes on. Would love to sweep the Braves this weekend and put the NL east on notice
  7. DaveSchneck April 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm
    Good piece. Perhaps you covered this with Torres, and without getting into crying over Jose’s departure, the lack of OBA guys at the top of the order can be a big drag on the runs produced as compared to last year. Murph is a good hitter but he is very aggressive. I hope we can consistently have some baserunners when DW, ID, JB, and LD come up. Additionally, the lack of righty power is a concern. If (when) Bay flops, the team will be in dire need of some RH power. All the kids seem to be lefty – Kirk, Den Decker, Spin, even Haven. Tejada may need to hit 15.
    • Joe Janish April 4, 2012 at 10:20 pm
      Thanks Dave.

      I’m in agreement with you re: OBP guys at the top. I don’t know why the Mets think Torres (or Tejada as the “backup” leadoff guy) is going to be an on-base machine, but that’s why I write a blog and they get paid to make those decisions.

      Though, there is enough prior evidence to support the idea that Murphy will get on base frequently, and he’s expected to be in the two-hole.

  8. Steven April 4, 2012 at 8:35 pm
    Joe. I would like you to do a piece on the six biggest positives for the Mets
    • Joe Janish April 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm
      Your wish is my command. Check out Thursday morning’s post.
  9. Jimmy Prinzler April 5, 2012 at 2:11 am
    Janish, you forgot #7 Lack of stolen bases. It’s a big concern if we can’t swipe bags! Tejada can’t swipe and I’m not a fan of Torres, a 60 SB career with 21 caught at age of 34. Wright declining his SB in past 2 years.
  10. Gary S. April 5, 2012 at 9:37 am
    Maybe Fred and Uncle Saul could advise the players on stealing.Sorry, I forgot you said STEALING BASES….