The Situation: Last year was the Mets' worst-case scenario: Most of their regulars got injured and the remaining healthy ones more or less collapsed.
None of the losses, of course, had a bigger impact than the injuries to Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran(notes). After Reyes went down in mid-May, the rest of the team went 49-73 after starting the season 21-19. The Mets badly need both stars at full strength, but will the return of Reyes and Beltran be enough to bring the 2010 squad back from 2009's 22 games under .500?
The Analysis: Wins Above Replacement is the best way to tabulate just how many wins the Mets lost when Beltran and Reyes went on the shelf, particularly because replacement players are exactly who filled Reyes' place. And here's the scary thing: If it weren't for Angel Pagan(notes) replacing Beltran in center field, the Mets would have almost certainly lost more than 92 games. During his time as reinforcement, Pagan posted an OPS above .800 and played above-average defense, saving just as many runs as Beltran in even fewer innings.
In a regular year, Beltran is good for about 6 WAR, and Reyes is good for about 5. This year, Beltran managed 2.9 WAR in half a season, and Reyes recorded a 0.7 WAR in a month and a half. Pagan was good for about 2 WAR while Beltran was out, though, so they combined for something close to the usual production they were used to getting from Beltran alone.
However, the Mets' assortment of shortstops — Alex Cora(notes), Argenis Reyes(notes), Angel Berroa(notes), Wilson Valdez(notes), Anderson Hernandez(notes), and Ramon Martinez(notes) — were all replacement-level or below, and their contributions added up to a negative WAR value, negating the slight positive contribution made by Reyes in his short playing time. All in all, the Mets may have only lost a win or so in center field, but they surely lost about five wins from the shortstop position.
Beltran won't be healthy for all of 2010, as his knee surgery should keep him out till May, and time will tell what effect Reyes' hamstring problems will have on his season. The Mets may have been impressed by the complaints of David Wright and others regarding Citi Field, lowering the height of one section of the center field wall from 16 feet to 8 feet. It's a small section of the wall, so the effect is likely to be more psychological than actual. Still, they'll take whatever help they can get. Regression to the mean being what it is, the Mets are almost assured to have better luck than they did last year, when nearly everything broke against them.
The Forecast for 2010: It's a good bet that they'll get back those six games that they lost with Reyes and Beltran out last year, if not a few more. And that's pretty close to the prediction offered by Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA, which predicts the 2010 Mets to finish 78-84. And if they can get just three more wins above that, with Jason Bay's(notes) help, they'd be a .500 ballclub. That's a tall order, but a win total in the high 70s is eminently reasonable for a team with such pitching problems once you get past Johan Santana(notes).
All of this assumes, of course, that Reyes and Beltran actually are healthy next year. And with the record of the Mets medical staff as of late, that's a heck of an assumption.
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Other questions answered by Alex Remington
• What kind of difference will Jake Peavy make with the White Sox?
• Can Jonathan Papelbon become the next Mariano Rivera?
• What can the Mariners expect from Ken Griffey Jr.?
• Will Mark Reynolds hit more than 40 home runs again?
• Will David Wright find his lost power in 2010?
- The Mets