Optimism starts small; will the Mets improve on 2011’s record? Are they a better team? Will they perform better?
I’m leaning towards yes. Losing Reyes, Pagan and Beltran is a big hit, but the Mets offense is still pretty strong. Lucas Duda looks like a solid player. Andres Torres may not be great, but even if he’s not good the Mets have high hopes for Kirk Nieuwenhuis coming up pretty quickly. David Wright and Ike Davis are healthy, and Daniel Murphy should get some more playing time as well. Josh Thole and Ruben Tejada may not be the best, but they’re pretty good at not making out and keeping the line moving. This team won’t have problems scoring runs.
The bullpen is clearly slated to be better. Francisco Rodriguez will not be here, but the Mets added Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez, and Jon Rauch. Some injury concerns, but the bullpen has some pretty good depth.
The starters are where the big questions come in. The Mets lost Chris Capuano, who did a pretty good job for them. Good job aside, his eminently replaceable 1.7 rWAR is not going to handicap them much. Johan Santana is slated to take that spot, provided he does not have a setback during Spring Training. Despite this serious possibility I have faith Santana can at least approach the 1.7 rWAR Capuano gave the Mets. Even if he’s somewhat diminished, he’s a smart competitor that should be able to get by with somewhat reduced ability. With luck bouncing a little more in Pelfrey’s favor this season, and Jon Niese’s peripherals leading to a better ERA, it’s possible the Mets starters will be better too. It probably hinges most on health, but that’s an argument and concern for every team.
So there’s a very high-level argument for the Mets being better. We can worry about how much better another time, particularly as it pertains to the other NL East teams and their records. Specifically, it’ll be decided on the field with the games being played, not on a blog or newspaper somewhere before the season even starts.