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The Total WAR Project, Part II: New York Mets

IMPORTANT: If you’re reading this post before the Total WAR introduction and Part I have been posted, you’re reading this in error.

I’m not the politic and history buff that Mike is, I won’t pretend to be, but it sure seems to me like the Mets are a lot like the war in Iraq; or, at least, like the two big views of it back here. Either you a) try to spend a whole lot more money and add more troops to try and overwhelm your opposition or b) finally admit it’s time to resign and pull back and let the system rebuild.

The Yankees finally perfected the art of option A last year, when three huge free agents propelled them to the title over the Phillies. The Mets, well, still seem to be stuck trying to master that art. After a lost season in which nearly every single starting position player and pitcher landed on the disabled list, the Mets are trying to get right back into the party in the National League East, not content to simply roll over and let the Phils take another division crown as they gather reinforcements.

Can the Mets’ returning starters – with a little help from some cavalry – actually make some noise and challenge the Phillies for the top spot in the East?

2009 Roster

C1: Omir Santos (1.0 WAR)
C2: Ramon Castro (0.9 WAR)

1B: Carlos Delgado (0.8 WAR)
2B: Luis Castillo (1.6 WAR)
3B: David Wright (3.4 WAR)
SS: Jose Reyes (0.7 WAR)
IF: Daniel Murphy (0.6 WAR)

OF1: Carlos Beltran (2.9 WAR)
OF2: Angel Pagan (2.9 WAR)
OF3: Ryan Church (0.4 WAR)
OF4: Jeff Francoeur (0.4 WAR)
OF5/UTIL: Fernando Tatis (1.5 WAR)

SP1: Johan Santana (2.8 WAR)
SP2: Mike Pelfrey (1.8 WAR)
SP3: Livan Hernandez (0.9 WAR)
SP4: John Maine (0.6 WAR)
SP5: Tim Redding (0.1 WAR)

CL: Francisco Rodriguez (0.3 WAR)
SU: Pedro Feliciano (0.6 WAR)
RP: Bobby Parnell (0.5 WAR)
RP: J.J. Putz (0.1 WAR)
RP: Sean Green (-0.1 WAR)
RP: Brian Stokes (-0.2 WAR)
RP: Elmer Dessens (-0.3 WAR)
P: Oliver Perez (-0.8 WAR)

2009 Total WAR: 23.4

That total is exactly half of what the regular Braves 25-man roster put up in 2009. Granted, this team was absolutely ravaged by injury, and the team leader in homers (Murphy) had just 12. Only six players appeared in 100 games or more. Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado combined to play in just 62 games all year…you get the picture. The list of contributing players for this team is tall, but none cracked 3.5 WAR and 22 different players put up negatives. Twenty-two! The Mets needed to use practically an entire second roster to compensate for injuries.

(I wrote this up a few hours before the mess with Carlos Beltran surfaced. For pure irony’s sake, I’ll just leave it here untouched)

Barring another medicinal cataclysm not unlike the Andromeda Strain, this team will be better in 2010, if only because its regulars will actually take the field, well, regularly. The addition of Jason Bay helps, and makes an already talented lineup a little bit more fearsome. The real question surrounding the Mets, though, is this: who, besides Santana, can pitch the ball competently for anywhere close to 200 innings as a starter or 50 innings in relief? Even Francisco Rodriguez could only manage a measly 0.3 WAR for his $8.5M.

As an aside, did you know that K-Rod has a vesting option for 2012 at $17.5 million? That’s more than Mariano Rivera has made or will make in any year, and that includes the contract that will come after this current one expires after the 2010 season, and it vests with just some modest games finished totals and a clean bill of health. Lunacy, as someone would say.

Not content to just wait for healthy players, the Mets added Jason Bay to, essentially, replace what Carlos Delgado brought when healthy. How does the Metropolitans’ roster project right now?

2010 Roster

C1: Henry Blanco (1.0 WAR)
C2: Chris Coste (0.7 WAR)

1B: Daniel Murphy (0.7 WAR)
2B: Luis Castillo (1.3 WAR)
3B: David Wright (5.2 WAR)
SS: Jose Reyes (5.3 WAR)
INF: Alex Cora (0 WAR)

OF1: Carlos Beltran (4.7 WAR)
OF2: Jason Bay (4.0 WAR)
OF3: Angel Pagan (1.5 WAR)
OF4: Jeff Francoeur (1.1 WAR)
OF5: Fernando Martinez (0.1 WAR)

SP1: Johan Santana (4.7 WAR)*
SP2: Mike Pelfrey (3.6 WAR)*
SP3: Oliver Perez (1.3 WAR)*
SP4: John Maine (0.6 WAR)* 4.43 FIP, 123 IP
SP5: ?

CL: Francisco Rodriguez (0.9 WAR)*
SU: Pedro Feliciano (0.6 WAR) 3.75 FIP, 57 IP
RP: Kelvim Escobar (5.2 WAR as a starter) 3.15 FIP, 36 IP as a reliever
RP: Ryota Igarashi (Unknown WAR) 3.19 ERA, 52 IP
RP: Nelson Figueroa (0.6 WAR) 4.29 FIP, 156 IP as a starter
RP: Sean Green (-0.1 WAR) 3.93 FIP, 72 IP
RP: Brian Stokes (-0.2 WAR) 4.40 FIP, 69 IP
RP: Pat Misch (-0.3 WAR) 4.43 FIP, 67 IP

2010 Projected Total WAR: 37.3

Out: Delgado, Hernandez, Redding, Putz, Dessens

In: Bay, Escobar, Igarashi

Okay, now for the caveats. Escobar pitched just three innings in 2009, so 2008 numbers are listed for him. His career as a starter is over, and as I have no way to project what sort of value he could add as a relief pitcher, he did not factor into the total. Igarashi’s numbers are from his last season in NPB, and he, too, did not factor into the total.

The Mets need a fifth starter, and I’m not buying CHONE’s inclination that Figueroa will be used in the rotation long enough to rack up 156 combined starting and relief innings. I just don’t see him making the 10+ starts necessary to reach that mark, along with many multi-inning relief appearances. The bullpen is still a mess, the rotation is average, and the Mets will need to pummel people game after game to keep their head above water.

They’re still being linked to Bengie Molina, as well as Orlando Hudson, should Castillo be traded. Joel Pineiro has also grabbed their attention. Molina is a swing-at-everything catcher with a little pop who is projected to add just half a win over Blanco, but will likely cost a few million over two years. As Phillies fans, we want this. Hudson, a severely overrated fielder, looks to be about one full win better than Castillo for 2010, while Pineiro, a groundballing Dave Duncan reclamation project, will be overpaid but should put up average numbers. His 2009 WAR exceeded his combined total from the previous four seasons, but he did have some effective seasons in Seattle prior to that. He’d offer value simply be being able to competently throw a ball over the plate for 150 or so innings, something the Mets need desperately; far more than they need another slight offensive upgrade.

New York should be pesky as ever in 2010, but shouldn’t be considered a serious contender for the division as they are presently constituted. By adding some combination of Molina, Hudson and Pineiro, they bolster their chances for the wild card, but don’t approach 90 wins and probably finish behind Atlanta in the division.

Fernando Martinez was rushed to the Majors, and his numbers were awful in 100 plate appearances, but he is still regarded as a nice prospect and should see a bump in production. Heck, he won’t even turn 22 until the second week in October.

It can’t be stressed enough how hard this season rides upon the health of the Mets’ key players. Having Beltran and Reyes healthy automatically makes the Mets a team to take notice of, and David Wright should be his normal, really good self (whether the Powerful Wright or Contactful Wright shows up is a different issue). Really, though, this team’s fate lies in the hands of its pitching staff, which was not much improved this offseason. Right now, its highlights are composed of Johan Santana, fragments of Francisco Rodriguez and about 15 contenders for fourth starter and middle relief. Despite the offense, they might struggle to post a decent run differential.

Mark the Mets for 84-78, third place in the East for 2010.

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