The Mets begin their 2018 season in nine days. My expectation, after watching them this spring, is that this squad is talented enough to get to the postseason.
As it stands, while PECOTA projects the Mets to be a .500 team, FanGraphs.com puts the Mets at 83-79, which would be the fifth-best record in the National League -- giving them a 41.2 percent chance of winning the division or making a wild card spot.
That said, though it will not be easy, I expect more than the above results and I believe most fans, as well as the team's manager, coaching staff and players, also expect more than just 83 wins.
Injuries destroyed Sandy Alderson's team in 2017, after which he further demolished it by trading away most of his veterans over the summer. I realize injuries happen and will again happen in 2018. However, the level with which they happened to the Mets (and the amount of work that Triple-A players were asked to do) in 2017 is something no team should expect nor can ever overcome.
So, I'm setting my expectations for 2018 with the belief that, while players will get injured, it will be better-managed and not sink the roster for a second consecutive season.
Instead, I'm looking forward to seeing what Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Jason Vargas, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler can do across a full season of starts.
I'm eager to watch Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Jerry Blevins, Paul Sewald, and Seth Lugo combine to be what I believe can be one of the most effective and versatile bullpens in baseball.
I'm excited to continue watching the development of Amed Rosario and Michael Conforto, both of whom have the physical tools and personalities to be consistent All Stars and lead the next generation of talent coming through the organization.
Lastly, I'm thankful to enter a season with two position players each with a track record of playing at least 130 games and hitting 30 home runs in a season. The last time Jay Bruce played fewer than 137 games in a season was when he was a rookie. The last time he hit fewer than 24 home runs was 2014.
Similar to Bruce, the last time Todd Frazier played less than 128 games in a season was when he was a rookie. It has been five years since Frazier last hit fewer than 25 home runs in a season. And, the last time the Mets could field two power hitters with this level track record of staying healthy and productive is... umm... ummm... I don't know! David Wright and Jason Bay? Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran? The point is, it's been a while...
The 2018 Mets are not perfect, not even close. However, very few teams are, including the Nationals, who still don't have a closer, lack depth in their rotation, will play all season wondering about Bryce Harper's future, and questioning when Daniel Murphy will return from major micro-fracture surgery.
It's easy to get bogged down in statistics and rosters and depth and schedules and travel, a current National League GM recently told me. However, he explained, at the end of the day, the best way to gauge a team's chance to win often comes down to simply looking at the men standing shoulder-to-shoulder on Opening Day and asking the following questions...
1) Can these guys consistently put the ball in play?
2) Can we come from behind to win games?
3) Can these guys hit more home runs than the other team?
4) Can the middle of our bullpen consistently go multiple innings and protect a lead?
5) Can our best relievers shut down the end of the game?
6) Can our starting pitching string together multiple winning streaks?
The GM said if you can answer 'yes' to four or five of the above, you're going to be fine.
If you can't, good luck...
In his estimation, and I agreed, Alderson's pitching can do everything needed to be done in questions 4,5 and 6. However, while the roster is not at all set up to be a team that consistently puts the ball in play, questions 2 and 3 will largely depend on the opposing team.
As a result, the roster is set up well enough to get through the grind of a full season. And, frankly, that is half the battle. If this group mostly stays healthy, their talent, experience, and versatility should be enough to keep them fighting and in position to reach October...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!