New York Mets
NEW YORK METS: The 54th Season of Metropolitan Baseball opens in Washington against the National League East favorite, Nationals.
"I wanna walk before they make me run..." - stuff Keith Richards would say.
Let's get to .500 first! Then, we can consider this team's play-off worthiness.
I often say, you can't win pennants in April, but you can surely lose them. The start of the 2015 season is set to play a huge role in the final standings. Starting Monday, and through May 10th, the Mets will play 26 of their first 31 games against the N.L. East (with 5 inter-league games against the Yankees and Orioles).
Beginning with Monday's season opener, the Mets will play the Nationals 7 times. The Mets posted a depressing 4-15 record against them last season. Their mission in 2015, then, is to close the gap.
The Mets will also play Miami 7 times, then Philadelphia and Atlanta 6 times. A strong start, therefore, would position them in a very competitive situation come Mother's Day.
Once again, I expect the Marlins to be a maddening opponent for both the Mets and Nationals this season. The Phillies and Braves however, will be locked in a race for last place.
Two things are certain regarding the 2015 Mets: pitching is clearly their strength, and the defense is highly suspect.
The big unknown centers around the offense.
- The division winning Nationals posted a .253 team batting average in 2014, while the Mets collectively hit a mere .239, which ranked 13th out of 15 teams.
- The Mets were tied for 9th in 2014 with 125 home runs. The Rockies led the circuit with 186 home runs (but that's because they play in the world's largest pinball machine). Otherwise, the "windy city" Cubs were 2nd with 157 jacks. The Nats were 4th with 152 home runs.
- The Nationals placed 3rd with 686 runs scored, 57 more runs than the 8th ranked Mets.
The heart of the Mets line-up will tentatively consist of David Wright, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, and Michael Cuddyer. Can this quartet collectively hit 100 home runs? I think it's reasonable. Likely? Injuries might dictate that.
That leaves Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, and Travis d'Arnaud, potentially tipping the balance between the Mets having a National League top third offense, or an inadequate one.
Last season, Travis d'Arnaud said he learned his lesson after a demotion to Las Vegas. He made a correction at the plate, returned to Flushing, and wielded a productive bat thereafter. That's the d'Arnaud the Mets need this season. If he doesn't feel threatened by Kevin Plawecki's ascension through the Mets farm system, he should be.
Meanwhile, the Mets hope Wilmer Flores can compensate for any defensive shortcomings at shortstop with his bat. Fans are divided as to whether he can do just that. While his bat is not necessarily in question, pairing him up the middle with Daniel Murphy justifiably raises anxiety levels.