Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What If?

There are three kinds of baseball teams.

There are teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies that, barring catastrophe, are likely to win 90+ games.

There are teams like the Pirates, Mariners, and Diamondbacks that, barring a miracle, are likely to lose 90+ games.

Then there are the What If Teams. The What If teams are those that, if everything breaks right, something magical could happen. The San Francisco Giants were a What If team last year. They were 22-1 odds to win the World Series. Yeah, they had some young live arms, but their best hitter was Aubrey Huff – Aubrey Huff! They finished ten games behind the Dodgers and Rockies in 2009, a lot of ground to make up. The Giants needed a lot of things to break right for a magical season.

And they all did. The young pitchers delivered. They scored just enough runs, mostly at the right time. Minor league prospect Buster Posey came up in late May and hit 18 homers. The Dodgers and Rockies, both of whom won 90+ games in 2009, dropped to the low 80’s. And the Padres, oh the Padres, who were the Ultimate What If team all year, fell apart in September.

I bring this all up because the New York Mets are one of those What If teams.

If Everything Breaks Right

I won’t go into detail here (I did in this post), but look at the Mets’ Ifs.

- If the starting pitching does what it did last year (7th in team ERA; 19 shutouts);

- If K-Rod continues to punch out batters the way he did last year (before punching out his kids’ grandpop);

- If Wright, Reyes, and Bay play like the great offensive players they’ve been most of their careers;

- If young players like Ike Davis, Mike Pelfrey, and Jonathan Niese continue their growth;

- If you get some great performances from unexpected places (my vote is on Chris Young, who I took in the 23rd round of my fantasy draft Sunday night);

- If a new manager - one that doesn’t look like, sound, and manage like a Jazz bassist backing a beat poet in 1968 Greenwich Village basement cafe- can inspire this team

- If all these things happen, well...

But you don’t just need good internal things…it helps if bad things happen to other people. And the Phillies could be ripe for the sort of catastrophe that derails a promising team.

Would I like to have their rotation? Sure. But remember, the Big 3 are over 30, and candles in a birthday cake hit pitchers faster than hitters. And here's some Did You Knows...

Did you know Cliff Lee, before his great October, was 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA as a Ranger?

Did you know that in 2009 Roy Oswalt’s ERA was 4.12

Did you know Cole Hamels’ record the past two seasons is 22-22?

And did you know Roy Halladay’s given name is Harry Leroy Halladay? (I have nothing bad to say about his pitching. Guy is awesome.)

And that’s the pitching vulnerability. It’s on offense where they can have real problems.

Ryan Howard, Team Stud, took a significant step backwards last year. Instead of 45 HRs/140 RBIs he went 31/108. And while he played fewer games, his OPS also dropped, from .931 to .859. He is nowhere near the monster player he was in 2006and his comps on aren’t encouraging*.

* If you like baseball stats, one of the coolest features on baseball-reference is the comps – where you can compare players to other players in history.The player most like Ryan Howard, at the same age, in all of baseball history, is Richie Sexson.

But Howard isn’t the problem. Chase Utley’s injury, Jayson Werth’s absence, and Jimmy Rollins’ overall suckiness – the guy’s career has been in a free fall since his undeserved MVP in 2007 – are the problems. That’s a lot of Ifs, but all are possible.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they all happened?

And wouldn’t it suck if they all happened…but the Braves had all their What Ifs happen and won the NL East?

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