There are a bunch of excellent blogs out there about our favorite team.  One that I particularly enjoy is Mets Tailgate.  James Kannengieser is the brains behind that site and recently he agreed to do a Q&A with me on the upcoming season.  Here are his responses to my questions about the 2009 Mets.

Do you have any concerns with surgeries last year to Johan Santana and John Maine?

JK: I’m not terribly worried about either, but I’m less concerned with Santana than I am with Maine.  By all accounts, Santana’s knee surgery was not a major one, and he is apparently throwing well at spring training.  Maine’s bone-spur procedure was more serious than Santana’s, and the doctors performing the surgery said it was the biggest bone spur they’d ever seen.  It was incredible that he could even pitch at all.  The Mets should monitor both of their pitch counts early in the season.  I expect Santana’s ERA to regress a bit in 2009 compared to 2008, as his fielding independent stats were much worse than his ERA.  If Maine can stay healthy, this could be a breakout year.  Although I recall many analysts predicting that for him last season, so who knows.

Is Mike Pelfrey ready to be #2 SP?

JK: Much has been made about Pelfrey potentially succumbing to the “Verducci Effect” (ed. Note – The Verducci Effect is the belief that any starter age 25 or younger who sees an IP increase of 30 or more from the previous season  is at an increased risk of injury in the following season) and regressing in 2009.  It’s a real possibility, but I think he’ll put up similar numbers as he did in 2008.  I see Pelfrey, Maine, and Perez as #3 type starters, but Big Pelf will have to increase his strikeout rate if he wants to be a true #2.  His strikeout rates in college and the minors were outstanding, so I’m confident he can make the adjustments to miss a few more bats.

Who wins the 5th SP job?

JK: Among Tim Redding, Freddy Garcia, and Jon Niese, I think Redding takes it.  The job is his to lose as far as I’m concerned.  He’s logged 355 quietly effective innings pitched over the last two seasons (between majors and minors), compared to 88 for Garcia.  Niese will probably start the year in AAA, where he should be.  If Garcia has a terrific spring and shows he has regained his 1999-2006 form, then I’m all for him winning the job.  Prediction: Redding, Garcia, Niese, and the recently signed Livan Hernandez make starts for the Mets this season.

Is the bullpen a strong point now?

JK: The bullpen is improved, but not by as much as many think.  Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz should be lights out, but after that the ‘pen is nearly the same as 2008′s.  Duaner Sanchez, Pedro Feliciano and Brian Stokes will likely be back, and Sean Green is identical to Joe Smith.  I think the loser of the Tim Redding/Freddy Garcia rotation battle will be the long man.  That said, if the Mets offense, defense, and rotation can more or less equal their 2008 performance, the improved bullpen should put the 2009 Mets in a good position to win the NL East.  No matter the final standings, I don’t expect any team to run away with it.  All NL East teams, minus the Nationals, have a shot this year.

Who will have the best year – Jose Reyes, David Wright or Carlos Beltran?

JK: I think Wright will have a monster season, along the lines of his 2007 performance.  At just 26 years old, he should be entering the early part of his prime.  Think .315/.405/.540 with 32 home runs.  Much has been made about Wright being “un-clutch”, based on his 2008 numbers with runners in scoring position and in late game situations.  This is absolutely nothing to worry about going forward.  He has been just fine in the “clutch” over the long-term, and these numbers fluctuate from season to season.

What should fans expect from Carlos Delgado?

JK: Delgado was recovering from various surgeries in 2007 and early 2008, which I think is the most plausible explanation for his struggles.  Many fans thought he was dogging it under Willie Randolph, but that is just silly.  Delgado is a professional veteran player, and has too much pride to let his own performance suffer just to spite his manager.  His 2nd half performance in 2008 is not sustainable over a whole season, and I think we can expect a line around .260/.340/.500 with about 30 home runs.  I’d be pleased with that.

Will the team get enough production from its corner OFers?

JK: Like most fans, I was hoping the Mets would upgrade at the corner OF this offseason.  I was pushing for Adam Dunn or Pat Burrell, and would have settled for defensive liability Bobby Abreu.  Former Phillie or not, Burrell’s righthanded bat would look pretty solid in the Mets lineup right now.  You want big offensive numbers from the corner OF spots, as they are the easiest positions to play besides first base.  With Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis expected to regress a bit in 2009, and uncertainty about Ryan Church after last year’s concussions, it’s hard to be optimistic about the corner OF spots.  You never know though - maybe Murphy is the real deal.

8. If you were Jerry Manuel, what would the Opening Day lineup look like?

JK: Jose Reyes

David Wright

Carlos Delgado

Carlos Beltran

Daniel Murphy/Fernando Tatis

Ryan Church (Church and Murphy/Tatis are interchangeable in the #5 and #6 spots based on pitching matchups, lefty/right, etc.)

Luis Castillo

Brian Schneider

The first 4 batters should be Reyes, Wright, Beltran, and Delgado in some order.  Castillo should not be batting 2nd no matter what.

Predicted record and place in NL East?

92-70, 1st in the NL East.  Let’s Go Mets!

*****

I would like to thank James for taking the time out to answer these questions, as I think it is important to get as many different points of view as possible when assessing your favorite team.  If you did not click on the link to his site in the first graph, please take the time to visit Mets Tailgate now.

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