The New York Mets entered the spring with as much reason for excitement as any team in the majors. They had made the playoffs last season for the first time in six years, and following a disappointing loss to the San Diego Padres in the Wild Card Series, had spent the offseason signing one star after another. Unfortunately, with less than a fortnight remaining until Opening Day, that enthusiasm is being tested, and perhaps even corroded, by injuries.
Just consider the events of the past week. First, the Mets announced that veteran starter José Quintana will miss the season's first half following bone graft surgery to his rib area. Then, closer Edwin Díaz suffered a season-ending torn patellar tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico's victory in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday. And, to complete the hat trick, starting center fielder Brandon Nimmo hurt himself on Friday on an awkward slide. Nimmo is considered "week-to-week" after suffering a low-grade sprain to his knee and ankle.
Still, you can understand if the Mets (and their fans) are feeling out of sorts after an eventful and ominous week. That's why, in the space below, we've offered up three reasons why the Mets should remain optimistic about the year to come. Scroll slowly with us, won't you?
1. What's left is still good
One of the modern blessings of being a baseball consumer is that you don't have to rely on your own gut feel to measure a team's quality.
Rather, there are oodles of resources available that can help reveal a team's true-talent level. To wit, this is the time of the year where projection systems help establish realistic baselines and expectations. Those projection systems are constructed in a manner that allows them to incorporate new developments throughout the year, be it a team's actual record or injuries.
In the case of the Mets, we do not have to hem and haw and rely on our own wits to estimate how much Díaz and Quintana's absences will harm their standing in the National League East. The projection systems have already been modified. FanGraphs' ZiPS, for instance, knows that Díaz won't throw a single pitch this season, and that Quintana won't get a full slate of starts. Even still, ZiPS has the Mets down for 89 wins, or the fifth most in baseball. SportsLine, meanwhile, has the Mets tabbed for 93 wins.
Now, projection systems aren't perfect mechanisms. Even the best tend to miss on average by five games per team. They're particularly finicky when it comes to relievers, since their impact is situationally dependent in ways that other positions are not. It also won't make Mets fans feel better that the Atlanta Braves are one of the four teams pegged for more than 89 wins. (The Braves, at 93 wins, are forecasted by ZiPS to be the majors' top team.)
Nevertheless, the Mets roster remains one of the most talented in the majors, and their chances of winning the division should not be discounted just because one system doesn't see them as the preseason favorites. Having a full season of Díaz and Quintana would make them even better, of course, but that leads us to the next point: there's ample time to atone for those losses.