When I saw the Mets take on the Brewers in Milwaukee last summer, something stuck out about my team’s profile in the Miller Park program: “The Mets will stand toe-to-toe with any offense that wants to slug it out in the National League.” …That sound you just heard was every Met fan from Long Island to Long Beach letting out an audible, sarcastic “HA!” After all, New York’s leading slugger in 2013 was Marlon Byrd, who hit 21 home runs and played for Pittsburgh during the last month of the season. Still, despite the laughable nature of the Milwaukee program’s claim, it may have simply been printed a year early. If all goes the way it’s supposed to, the New York Mets will have themselves a power surge in 2014.
While 21 home runs were enough to lead the Mets last year, this year they have five hitters who can easily smash at least 20 round-trippers. Curtis Granderson and Chris Young will provide a home run influx to the power-starved outfield. If they live up to their season averages, they will combine for 54 dingers (30 for Granderson, 24 for Young). Granderson and Young will also provide protection for Daniel Murphy and David Wright. Wright, who hit 18 homers in an injury-shortened season, would have hit 27 in a full season. Murphy’s home run total in 2013 was more than double his mark in 2012, and if a certain bold prediction comes true, he could hit 20 home runs in 2014.
Lucas Duda hit 15 home runs in 2013, and Ike Davis added nine. One of those men will be the Mets’ starting first baseman come Opening Day, and whoever wins the job should realistically be able to hit home runs at around the same rate as last year’s combination. Maybe Duda will never become the 35-homer guy fans were anticipating, and maybe Davis will never get back to the 32 he hit in 2012, but 24 home runs is a solid number and gives the Mets their fifth 20-homer lock.
The power does not stop there, though, as New York could have two more guys with at least 15 homers in them. Travis d’Arnaud will have some big shoes to fill in John Buck’s absence, but he will be a year older and should be able to match Buck’s 15 home runs. If he does turn out to be the next Gary Carter, that total could increase to 20. And then there’s the Stephen Drew matter: if the Mets can ink Drew, which appears more likely now that the Yankees have dropped out of the chase, they will have a shortstop that averages 16 home runs a season, far more than the two Ruben Tejada and Omar Quintanilla combined for last season.
If all falls into place, the Mets will have themselves seven everyday players who can slug at least 130 home runs, which was the entire team’s total in 2013. Factoring out Buck’s and Byrd’s totals, while factoring in Granderson, Young, Drew, full seasons from Wright and d’Arnaud, and Murphy’s progress, New York gains 63 home runs in 2014 it didn’t have in 2013. Even if nothing else changes, it is a major improvement. The Mets scored 619 runs last year and gave up 684, good for a Pythagorean record of 74-88, the same as the team’s actual record. The extra home runs give New York at least 63 extra runs, which brings the team’s runs scored total up to 682 and its Pythagorean record to an even 81-81. That record assumes that every extra home run is a solo shot; if half of those are two-run homers, it gives the Mets 689 runs and puts them at 84-78.
New York would still realistically need to find six more wins to contend for the playoffs, but the pieces added so far this offseason, and signing Stephen Drew, put them in strong offensive shape. Plus, it means the Mets can start Juan Lagares in center field without worrying about missing a quality bat, giving them an outfield that will save significantly more runs than it has in the recent past.
For a team that has been so desperate for offense in the Terry Collins era, the power potential for this year is an exciting prospect. It is far from guaranteed that these numbers will play out exactly, but if the Mets make the right moves, and if everyone stays healthy, 2014 will be the year they surge ahead at the plate.