It's official now that, perhaps the first time since the mid-to-late 1980s, New York is a Mets town over a Yankees town. Sure, the Bombers might still have more worldwide fans, but the young, rising Mets are way more interesting and have all the buzz entering spring training. Winning an unlikely pennant and having one of the most promising young starting rotations in modern MLB history will do that.
I didn't think much of the Mets entering last season. True, Jacob deGrom was coming off a Rookie of the Year season, but he wasn't a highly-touted guy and perhaps a fluke. Matt Harvey was coming off Tommy John surgery, and Zack Wheeler was lost to it. No one had a clue how good Noah Syndergaard might be. The offense looked like one of the worst in baseball.
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But thanks to all those fabulous young pitchers and bolstered by the midseason acquisition of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from Detroit, the Mets finished 90-72 and won the NL East by seven games over the heavily-favored Nationals. It was New York's first playoff berth since 2006.
The Mets weren't supposed to upset the NL West champion L.A. Dodgers in the NLDS but did. DeGrom outpitched Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and then NL Cy Young runner-up Zack Greinke in the clinching Game 5. The Mets weren't supposed to upset the Cubs, the opposite of the Mets as Chicago had the best young hitters in the majors, in the NLCS, either. But good pitching usually beats good hitting in October, and the Mets swept.
New York actually was then favored in the World Series against Kansas City, but that Royals lineup was probably the worst possible matchup because all those guys made contact and never struck out. Had Mets closer Jeurys Familia not blown a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth in K.C. in Game 1, things could have gone very differently. But the Mets went out in five.
The Mets open the season with a World Series rematch at Kansas City on April 3.
Mets 2016 Projected Lineup
The Mets weren't expected to re-sign Cespedes even though he played like an MVP candidate after arriving from the Tigers. The Mets offense ranked last in the majors in many categories before he arrived and then the best in the NL after. Cespedes hit 17 home runs in 57 games, including nine in a 13-game stretch to start the month of September as the Mets pulled away in the division. He set career highs in a number of power categories, including home runs (35), RBIs (105). But Cespedes was expected to be too pricy as the Mets are still a very frugal franchise. A stale free-agent outfield market led Cespedes back to New York on a three-year, $75 million deal. In reality, it might be a one-year deal as he can opt out after next season. Still, that's a home-run signing for New York, which saw its projected wins total jump by three after. Will Cespedes be as good as he was the second half of last season? Doubtful. But he's still the only bat in the lineup that scares opposing pitchers.
The starting lineup figures to have two other new every-day starters in second baseman Neil Walker, who was acquired in trade from Pittsburgh, and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. The Mets were never going to re-sign second baseman Daniel Murphy, the playoff hitting hero (before World Series), and thought they had a deal with free-agent second baseman Ben Zobrist, but he chose the Cubs. Walker isn't a bad Plan B as he hit .269 with 16 homers and 71 RBIs last year. He only cost so-so pitcher Jon Niese. Cabrera had a bounce-back 2015 with the Rays, batting .265 with 15 homers and 58 RBIs.
So we should be looking at a lineup of right fielder Curtis Granderson, Walker, third baseman David Wright (solid when healthy, which isn't often), Cespedes, first baseman Lucas Duda, catcher Travis d'Arnaud, rising star left fielder Michael Conforto and Cabrera.
This will be a low-average, high-strikeout team with some pop. I'd say it's middle of the pack in baseball overall. But Cespedes better stay healthy.
Mets 2016 Projected Rotation & Closer
The Mets largely left the pitching staff alone. And why not? The rotation is the envy of baseball. You have deGrom (14-8, 2.54 ERA), Harvey (13-8, 2.71), who should have no innings limit this season, Syndergaard (9-7, 3.24), the guy whom I think will be the best of the bunch eventually, Steven Matz (4-0, 2.27) and Bartolo Colon (14-13, 4.16).
Colon was re-signed to be a placeholder until Wheeler is ready off his TJS. That may not happen until July 1. Wheeler was 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA in 2014. Familia was one of the best closers in baseball last year with 43 saves and a 1.85 ERA. He had been unhittable in the playoffs until that Game 1 World Series mistake.
Wouldn't surprise anyone if the Mets led the NL in ERA and strikeouts this season.
Mets Futures Odds & 2015 Trends
At BetOnline , New York is +900 to win the World Series and a +450 second-favorite (to Cubs) to repeat as National League champion. The Mets have an "over/under" wins total of 88, with both at -110. Cespedes is +5000 to lead the majors in homers and Duda +6600. The Mets were 83-78 against the spread last season and 84-72-6 O/U. On the moneyline, they were +589 units on the year.
Mets 2016 Predictions
FanGraphs projects New York to finish 85-77 and second in the NL East, three games behind Washington. The Mets aren't as bad as they were post-Cespedes or as good as they were with him. He did slump late in the season but that was blamed on a shoulder problem. I will say this: plan on betting on the unders in many, many Mets games in 2016. I see the Mets finishing second in the NL East but likely getting a wild card. I'll go over that wins total but no pennant repeat.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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