It is the end of March, which means it is time for my annual predictions column. While everyone around the Mets is brimming with confidence that the team will be playing in October, I am not so sure. Is this team really any better than the 2014 version?
Well, yes and no. Matt Harvey is back, so that makes the team that much better. Michael Cuddyer should be an upgrade over Chris Young in left field. But other than that, this is essentially the same team that managed to win just 79 games last year.
The Mets offense was putrid last season. Cuddyer is a decent player if he stays healthy, but he is not the type of player who will improve the offense simply by his presence. The Mets need bounce back years from David Wright and Curtis Granderson. There are no guarantees either player will find the fountain of youth.
They also need Lucas Duda to repeat his 30 home runs, Travis d’Arnaud to continue to make strides and Wilmer Flores to shine at the plate. No guarantees there, either
The only guarantees in the lineup are that Daniel Murphy will hit and Juan Lagares will field. Everything else is a question mark, never a good sign when making October reservations.
The starting pitching will be good, even without Zack Wheeler. And the bullpen should be fine. Based on pitching alone, the Mets should be competitive all season long.
But it is that damn offense that needed a severe upgrade, and the Mets did not get one this winter.
All of this points to a seventh consecutive losing season. But as I said in my headline, “No more losing.” The Mets will not have a losing record this season. There is also a “but” in the headline, which means they will not have a winning record, either. I say they finish 81-81. It makes sense — the good pitching will even out the bad hitting and potentially horrid defense (Flores at short, Murphy somehow getting worse at second, d’Arnaud with his passed balls, Cuddyer and Granderson with limited range in the outfield) to leave the Mets at .500. Hey, it’s a start.
The Mets will finish third in the NL East, behind the Nationals and Marlins but ahead of the Braves and the Phillies.
Elsewhere in the National League, I see the Nationals, Pirates and Dodgers winning their respective divisions. The Cardinals and the Padres will be the Wild Cards. Over in the American League, look for the Blue Jays, Indians and Angels to top their divisions. The Tigers and the Mariners grab the Wild Cards.