Team MetsBlog predictions for NL East and Mets in 2012

MetsBlog’s Matthew Cerrone, Brian Erni, Michael Baron, Vinny Cartiglia, Mike Nichols, Jon Scippa, Ted Berg and Toby Hyde each submitted individual predictions for this year’s NL East that when combined ended up looking like this:

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Toby Hyde (April 4, 3:00 pm): The Marlins are closer to the Phillies than people realize. If Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez play like it’s 2010 instead of 2011, and Jose Reyes is close to the 2011 version of himself, this team is going to be really, really dangerous. Meanwhile, the Phillies offense is going to be bad. The ballpark will camouflage it a little, but without Utley and Howard, they’re faking the offensive side of the game.  The Nationals and Braves can both pitch, but they’re lineups will have trouble scoring.  Meanwhile, the Mets offense will be really good.  Everyone gets on base and they will score. The problem will be the pitching. Lucas Duda, Ike Davis and David Wright will provide the pop.  Unless Johan Santana turns back the clock four years AND Jon Niese takes a big step forward, both the rotation and bullpen could be below average. Pelf will Pelf.  Although none will be much help in 2012, fans will (justifiably) be watching Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia and Zack Wheeler’s progress intensely, for signs of hope for the future.  One of Andres Torres or Jason Bay (or both) will eventually demand replacing – as long as he’s healthy, Kirk Nieuwenhuis will spend most of the summer in Queens.

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Mike Nichols (April 4, 2:45 pm): My rankings may be pessimistic, but I actually have a lot of optimism about this year’s Mets team. You may laugh, but despite what the majority of fans think, I believe the Mets will be as competitive as any team in the division. Teams built like the 2012 Mets often surprise people and are capable of producing a magical season that no one saw coming. At the same time, I still have my concerns – especially with the pitching. Predicting they finish last speaks to that. However, by no means do I believe this team will be just a 60-70 win team. Yes, things need to go very right for the Mets to stay competitive throughout the season. The main challenge will be for everyone to stay relatively healthy. Offensively, the middle of the lineup has the potential to be as good as any in the National League East and it may end up carrying this team further than most people think. I am most concerned with the pitching. Oddly enough, none it of it has to do with Johan Santana. For me, Mike Pelfrey and Bobby Parnell are the bigger question marks, and who in the bullpen will be able to attack the left-handed heavy lineups within the division?

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Vinny Cartiglia (April 4, 2:20 pm): Like most Mets fans, I am not heading into the season with high expectations, at least as far as wins and losses are concerned.  Instead, my approach is to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Best case, if everything breaks right — which it rarely does for any team — I think the Mets can win between 82 to 85 games.  However, 72 to 77 wins is more realistic.  Nevertheless, I expect the Mets to play hard every night and give us fans a reason to tune in.  And that will make me happy if at the end of the season I can see some light at the end of the tunnel…

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Michael Baron (April 4, 1:58 pm): I don’t usually like to make predictions, because so much can happen over the course of a season.  That said, I don’t think the Mets are as bad as people are making them out to be.  There is no question their defense is a mystery, and depth has already been a concern over the course of Spring Training.  However, I expect there to be advancements offensively from Lucas Duda, Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy. This, along with the new dimensions at Citi Field, should provide adequate protection for David Wright. All told, I expect their offense will be dynamic and fun to watch this season. However, their ability to contend for a second Wild Card will almost certainly hinge on the team’s overall health – specifically Johan Santana.

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Brian Erni (April 4, 1:29 pm): I expect the Mets to be exciting, and I think they’ll surprise a lot of people. All offseason, the focus is on what the Mets don’t have. Here’s what they can boast: a lineup of batters that work counts and get on base, and a middle of the order that should drive in plenty of runs. They have strong defense at two of their four up-the-middle positions, plus the return of a fantastic defender in Ike Davis at first. A very good possibility of having three high caliber pitchers at the top of the rotation, and an improved bullpen. I expect the division to be very tightly bunched, but provided they get bounce-back years in enough places, I see no reason why 80-83 wins is out of the realm of possibility.

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Ted Berg (April 4, 1:00 pm)On paper, the Mets don’t look likely to compete for the NL East crown or even a Wild Card in 2012.  The good news is they play baseball, and anyone who watches baseball should know better than to bank on preseason predictions.  They’ve got plenty of young players set to contribute and, if all goes well, more on the way. That youth means there’s plenty of upside, but also plenty of uncertainty. Some of the young and relatively untested players will prove to be capable Major Leaguers, some may even prove to be excellent ones. Others will not. By the end of 2012, the Mets should have a much stronger sense of which guys they can build around and which positions they need to improve with players from outside the organization, and we’ll have a much better idea of what their next contender looks like.

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Matthew Cerrone (April 4, 12:51 pm):The way I see it, if Johan wins a Cy Young and Bay, Lucas Duda, David Wright and Ike Davis all hit 30 home runs each, I think the Mets could win 85 games or so and challenge for the second Wild Card, all of which I think is a long shot. Of course, I hope it happens and, because it’s my nature to give the benefit of the doubt until I see otherwise, I’ll imagine it can happen… because that would be downright awesome. But, more realistically, I’m simply hoping for progress. That’s all.

In November, when writing this blog later this year, all I hope is that we – as fans – are excited and feeling good about the direction the franchise is headed. In a 1980′s or 1990′s context, I’d like to see this year as 1984 or 1997 – not in record, but in momentum, and the way fans of those previous teams were beginning to sense something better around the corner. If that can happen with 75 wins, that’s fine. If it can happen with 85 wins and a pennant race, even better. The point is, given how things have gone the last five years, though I’d love a World Series victory, I’ll gladly settle for progress and a better unity among fans.

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The Phillies received four first place votes and three second place votes from the site’s contributors. The Marlins got only first, second and third place votes. Two people picked the Braves to win the division, while everyone else had them in third or fourth place. No one picked the Nationals to win the division, though Washington did get one or two votes for each other slot.

Lastly, four members of Team MetsBlog picked the Mets to finish last, two picked them to finish fourth and one person had them as high as third.