This week, the Las Vegas Hilton Superbook put out their predictions for the upcoming 2014 MLB season. It's probably to no one's surprise that they have the Mets coming in with a total of 73.5 wins. They are also 25-1 odds of being the NL East champions this season, which to me really doesn't seem that high considering the negativity surrounding this team. I'll give my take on the Mets in a moment, but onto to the rest of the NL East.
The Hilton has the NL East as follows:
Atlanta - 87.5
Washington - 87.5
Philly - 76
METS - 73.5
Miami - 69.5
Atlanta - even money
Washington - even money
Philly - 12-1
METS - 25-1
Miami - 30-1
I think for the most part, there are no shocking totals here. The division could and probably should come down to Atlanta and Washington. This is pretty much on line with how the season finished last season. All of the teams, including the two at the top, have some question marks, but I think this is fair.
The Mets finished with 74 wins last year, which means Vegas is essentially saying that they haven't improved or gotten worse. I'm going to pick the over. I don't care if I get ridiculed for it, I don't think it's a bad bet. I also don't think its a sure thing. But I expect this team to be better for a few reasons.
First off, I really don't think that the play from our first basemen and short stop can get any worse than it did last year. Last year was probably rock bottom for both Ike and Duda, as well as Tejada. In the past, these guys have all shown they can handle big league pitching, and for whatever excuse they each had, they were all just awful in 2013. Tejada and Duda both went to the performance camp this winter, and I expect that gains were made from it. So it's not unreasonable to see improvements from the two black holes we had last season.
Secondly, I expect Travis d'Arnaud to be better in 2014. He did not impress in his call up last season. Let's not forget though, prior to his promotion, he played only 99 baseball games in 23 months since the end of the 2012 minor league season. I'm not making excuses for him, but I consider last year a wash. He was working his way back into shape and had all sorts of pressure on him. This year he comes back to camp, hopefully in shape and healthy. He has shown he can hit in his minor league career. Although I am not expecting him to be Mike Piazza, I think he still can be one of the better catchers in the game After April last year, we got zero production from behind the plate. Black hole number three should be filled.
My next point is that I think the addition of Curtis Granderson will help David Wright more than people think. Even thought he has his faults, Granderson is a bona fide power hitter and a good clubhouse presence. I think having him in the line-up will take a lot of pressure off Wright. I know people are saying that Granderson only replaces Marlon Byrd, but let's look at it from start to finish. Byrd wasn't even playing every day in April and May. And in those months, he was hitting .240 with 6 home runs. He didn't get hot until June. So at the beginning of the season, what did Marlon Byrd do for David Wright? Not much of anything. Having a guy like Granderson in the line-up on opening day is good for every one's psyche, especially Wright's.
Moving on, even without Harvey, the Mets still have solid pitching. The rotation is deeper this year. Harvey is being replaced by another all-star pitcher. Ok, am I really comparing Colon to Harvey? No. But as long as he is healthy, how much worse is Colon going to be, in a pitchers park against the NL? He is going to be fine. I'd like to think Wheeler will improve, although I'm not expecting a Harvey like rise to stardom in year two. Either way, the guy can chuck it. Dillon Gee really took a big leap last year. And don't forget, he started off terribly in 2013. But he was coming off the surgery to remove the blood clot from his pitching arm. When he finally got his arm strength back, he was as reliable as anyone in the rotation. Although I am not expecting him to match his Post May-2013, I think he will be steady and give the team a chance. Niese is Niese. You know what you're getting. As for the fifth spot, I'm really hoping Mejia gets it. If he does, then I think top to bottom the Mets rotation is as deep and competitive as almost any team in the National League. This rotation is much improved over last years opening day rotation of Neise, Harvey, Marcum, Gee and Hefner.
The X-factor for this team is going to be Chris Young. I'm not expecting much. However I hold on to hope that the former all-star spent this offseason trying to rediscover himself in search of a multiyear deal after 2014. You've seen it before. Guys all of a sudden turn on a light when it's time to get paid. I'm not banking on it, but it'll be big for this team if he somehow can have a Byrd like resurgance.
A lot of what I just said was obviously just assumption. Like I've said in the past, I'm not an expert, and I won't pretend to be. The oddsmakers in Vegas are very good at what they do, and I'm sure they have their legitimate reasons why they think the Mets are a 73-74 win team. For the hell of it though, I'm going to give my over/under. As the roster stands right now, my over under is 78.5 wins. If they wind up signing Drew, I'll make that 81.5. I'm obviously banking on a lot of things to go right for this team. But I expect players who spent their offseason trying hard to become better ball players to actually be better ball players. I don't think that's all that crazy a notion. And if they are better ball players, then they're a better baseball team. I'll also could just be unusually optimistic this morning. Who knows? If I wrote this exactly when I woke up today, I might have been singing a different tune. Either way, call me a homer or a shill or whatever you want. I don't think What I wrote is all that outlandish.
I know most will disagree with me. Give me the business on Twitter @GetsThruBuckner.