Can the new-look Mets win the NL East?

First, some housekeeping: A big thank you to all the folks who voted in my poll about Alfonso Soriano. It’s not too late to vote. So if you’re interested, click here to vote. I’d appreciate the votes. At least it lets me know that people are reading!
One of the most aggressive teams this off-season has been the New York Mets. They went out and landed a new first baseman, a new catcher, a flame-throwing lefty closer, and a 47-year-old back-up first baseman. But will it be enough to unseat the Atlanta Braves and win the NL East?
I hate to speak out against the Braves. For the last three years, I’ve been predicting the end of the Braves’ run and every year the Philadelphia Phillies or Florida Marlins, the two teams I’ve recently picked to win the division, have fallen short. But for all of the Braves’ past success, I wonder if maybe the Mets could win the first NL East division crown not awarded to the Atlanta Braves.
In 2005, the Braves won the NL with 90 wins, hardly an imposing number. And they edged the Phillies by just two games. Their margin for error is slim. So how many games would the Mets need to win? Well, since the advent of the three-division system and the first crowing of a division winner in 1995, the Braves have won the division with an average total of 97 wins. To me, that total seems slightly on the high side. Considering the more division-centric schedules baseball currently employs, I would expect that the Mets would have to win around 95 games to secure the division crown.
To see whether or not they would get to 95 wins, I want to take a look at the 2005 win share totals of the 2006 Mets to see, hypothetically, how the 2006 Mets would have fared in 2005.

Player 2006 Age 2005 Win Shares
Paul LoDuca 34 11
Carlos Delgado 34 29
Kazuo Matsui 30 5
Jose Reyes 23 16
David Wright 23 26
Cliff Floyd 33 24
Carlos Beltran 29 21
Victor Diaz 24 7
Xavier Nady 27 8
Ramon Castro 31 7
Julio Franco 47 7
Chris Woodward 30 4
Tike Redman 29 5
Jose Valentin 36 2
Pedro Martinez 34 19
Tom Glavine 40 14
Kris Benson 31 10
Steve Trachsel 35 1
Victor Zambrano 30 7
Jae Seo 29 9
Billy Wagner 34 18
Aaron Heilman 27 10
Juan Padilla 29 6
Total (23 Players) 31.3 266

So then, my projected Mets roster, two players short of full, has the Mets at 260 Win Shares. As 3 win shares is equal to 1 win, this leaves the Mets with just a shade under 89 wins on the season. While this total leaves them a few short of the projected 95 wins it’ll take to win the division, a few observations are in order.
First, some of these players will not be injured next year. Jose Valentin had just 2 win shares because he missed much of the season. Jae Seo only made 14 starts due to an injury. Projecting him to 28 starts would give him 18 win shares. That’s three more wins for the Mets without even adding another player. (Of course, some players on that list may miss time due to injury. Who knows who will fill in form them?)
Second, I have a feeling that this list won’t be the first 23 pieces of the final Mets roster. From rumors around the Internet, the Mets have an interest in bringing in Javier Vazquez or Barry Zito. Manny Ramirez and his 33 2005 Win Share total are always appealing to Mets GM Omar Minaya. Ramirez alone could be enough to push the Mets over the magic number of 95 and he brings an additional 11 wins to the table and would ostensibly be replacing Nady and Diaz who bring just 5 wins combined. There are your missing six wins.
Third, as these numbers are for 2005, it is incredibly unreasonable to expect every team member to duplicate those numbers. Some of the younger guys may put up a higher win share total; some of the older guys may be up a lower one. Some of the new guys may benefit from a better lineup or a better ballpark in which to hit. Some of the 2005 Mets will certainly enjoy the added protection of Carlos Delgado and Delgado will enjoy the added benefits of having more than just one other truly potent offensive force in the lineup.
So currently, the Mets look to be around 90 wins. They’re also the deepest team right now in the National League. With a few more tweaks, I think the 2006 Mets will be as competitive as anyone else and should probably win the division. Of course, as Minaya likes to say, the games aren’t played on paper; they’re played on the field. But this exercise on paper gives Mets fans reasons to hope.
Look for a poll on Tuesday about the 2006 Mets win totals. Come back and vote then!


7 Responses to Can the new-look Mets win the NL East?

  1. DownFromNJ says:

    Getting Jose Reyes out of the leadoff spot would win them a few games all by itself.

  2. Jamie Kirby says:

    The Mets are certainly improved. I’d say they are the Braves biggest competition.
    This happens every year. The other teams load up, and are predicted to beat the Braves. Then Bobby Cox and company end up on top every year.
    As a Braves fan, I of course hope they win. But the streak will end eventually. I just hope it’s not next year or anytime soon!
    Both the Braves and Mets bullpens were their weak points in 2005. The bullpen which performs better will probably win the division.

  3. […] General — Benjamin Kabak @ 2:46 pm Yesterday, I wrote about the 2006 Mets and their chances of capturing an NL East crown. Using a basic win share analysis, I predicted that the current Mets, a few players short of a full roster, would win at least 89 games. If you recall, I said 95 wins would earn them an NL East title. Today, it’s your turn to chime in. How many games will the new-look New York Mets win in 2006? I voted for 93-96 games. […]

  4. birtelcom says:

    Jae Seo’s Win Share total in ’05 was not the result of injury. He had 33 starts during the year, essentially a full season’s worth. But 19 of those starts were with Norfolk in Triple-A, where he was banished in the middle of the year and where he pitched only OK. I’m not sure whether a projection of 18 WS has a high level of probability. Very hard to tell which Seo we will see in 06.

  5. Benjamin Kabak says:

    Thanks for the correction, birtelcom. I appreciate it. For some reason, I thought Seo missed much of the year with an injury. I don’t know why I assumed that. The Mets are talking as though Seo already has a spot in the rotation for next season. They expect to see the good Seo show up. But either way, I think my initial guess of 18 win shares for Seo is too high. I would peg him around 13-15.

  6. Rob Bonter says:

    I look at the age factor, first, then at the ability and depth factors and the Mets have the look of a roster that is two-three years past the peak. Marlins are too young, but talented. Phillies have prime age and solid ability balance. Braves are young and extremely talented, and deep. The Mets could win, but they could also finish third in the division. 2006 looks like a one-shot chance for them to take it all the way. I don’t like their chances. Two or three key contributors could easily collapse next season.

  7. Rob Bonter says:

    Interesting convergence of “new look” with “old roster.”

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