The Buck stops here, 2013 NY Mets Series Preview

USA TODAY Sports

With seven home runs John Buck has as many as the entire Dodger infield, starting catching, and bench.

The NY Mets come into this series at 9 - 8, in their last six games they were swept by the Rockies in Colorado but got back on track, taking two of three from the Washington Nationals.

They boast the hottest pitcher in baseball and a surprisingly effective offense at scoring runs. Considering they won only 74 games in 2012, traded their Cy Young award winner, lost Johan Santana, and made very little changes to the major league roster this start has to be a bit of a positive surprise for Met fans.

Last year the Mets scored 650 runs (4 runs per game), this year after 17 games the Mets have scored 99 runs (5.82 runs per game). For context the Dodgers have scored 54 runs (3 runs per game). Basically the Mets are almost scoring twice as many runs per game as the Dodgers in 2013.

Amazing what a Buck can do

2013 Changes from 2012

Additions:John Buck

Subtractions: Josh Thole, Jason Bay, Andres Torres, Scott Hairston, Ronny Cedeno, Kelly Shoppach, RA Dickey, Jon Rauch

Home Grown Starters: Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, David Wright, Lucas Duda, Jordany Valdespin, Matt Harvey, Jonathan Niese, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell,

Old Friends: The closest old friend is Scott Rice who was on our AA team in 2011.

The Mets strength is their infield, the outfield has been cobbled together with old veterans and utility players. The best young pitcher in baseball might not be Steven Strasbourg after all, it might be Matt Harvey.

Catcher: John Buck was thrown into the RA Dickey trade so the Mets would have a catcher at the beginning of 2013 while the prize of the trade Travis D'arnaud got ready to the be the catcher for the next five years. Funny thing these throw ins. Buck has hit seven home runs in 17 games. That is not totally crazy, Buck has hit 125 career home runs so the man has always had some pop, but this is quite an April and big reason why the Mets are scoring so many runs. His 22 runs batted in are just 19 shy of what he did in all of 2012 with 399 plate appearances.

First base: Ike Davis ended 2013 as one of the best offensive 1st baseman in the NL. He struggled so badly at the beginning of 2012 that few realize he ended the season with thirty two home runs. Last year his struggles in April could be attributed to health, but this year he's just off to a slow start. Davis had a .550 OPS in April of 2012. In 2013 his OPS so far is .570. Davis did have a two home game on Friday, so he might be ready to bust out. It would be nice if he waited a few more games.

Second base: Ever since the Dodgers have had a problem at 3rd base Daniel Murphy has been a name many fans would have liked to acquire. Mets need a power hitting outfielder, the Dodgers need a 3rd baseman. Murphy's price keeps going up because he seems to keep getting better. Left handed hitting infielders with a modicum of power are rare. I don't see the Mets moving him, he looks like a keeper for them. Full time play drags down his overall numbers because he's not as effective against left hand pitching. Forty point edge in OB and thirty point edge in slugg% when he's facing right hand pitching. He still hits LHP to be useful, this is a full time player.

Shortstop: Ruben Tejada actually hit okay last year for a shortstop. Just about touching a .700 OPS. This year he is struggling (.591 OPS), and given his age (23), I'm not really sure what the Mets have. Seems to be an okay defender but nothing elite.

Third base: David Wright resurfaced last year as on offense force after a down 2011. So far in 2013 he is leading the offensive attack for the Mets with a 1.005 OPS.

David Wright came up in 2004 and since that time has been the best NL 3rd baseman, including some prime years of one Chipper Jones.

                                                                      
Rk           Player WAR/pos    G From   To   Age   PA  HR RBI  BB  OPS
1    Alex Rodriguez    52.2 1249 2004 2012 28-36 5476 302 960 658 .925
2     Adrian Beltre    51.4 1323 2004 2013 25-34 5608 250 834 351 .838
3      David Wright    41.8 1279 2004 2013 21-30 5529 206 832 631 .888
4     Chipper Jones    36.7 1094 2004 2012 32-40 4547 188 680 659 .910
5       Scott Rolen    33.2  985 2004 2012 29-37 3989 124 580 371 .822
6     Evan Longoria    31.1  655 2008 2013 22-27 2799 134 465 310 .876
7    Ryan Zimmerman    29.8 1005 2005 2013 20-28 4371 154 604 402 .830
8    Aramis Ramirez    28.3 1214 2004 2013 26-35 5095 251 874 402 .894
9       Casey Blake    21.6 1064 2004 2011 30-37 4345 148 542 396 .790

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/22/2013.

Right field: 35 year old Marlon Byrd came into spring training and won the job. So far he's barely hanging onto it with a .701 OPS. At one time Marlon could hit RHP, his career splits are solid, but in 2012, he had a .348 OPS in almost 100 at bats. Maybe that was an anomaly, maybe he can still be a full time player. But I doubt it. The Mets have used Mike Baxter to help him out. In 2012 the 27 year old Baxter surprised many with a solid year, but so far in 2013 he's only shown the ability to take a walk and nothing else. Both these players are place holders, the question is, who are they holding the place for?

Center field: Is a combination of Jordany Valdespin, Collin Cowgill, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Jordany would seem to have the most skills of the group but they all possess some power, some speed but not an abundance of it. All of these players would appear to be placeholders, the question is, who are they holding the place for?

Left field: Lucas Duda seems to have settled in as the full time left fielder. I've always liked Duda, and so far in 2013 he's gotten off to a huge start. He has hit five home runs but he has also walked fifteen times giving him a resounding .475 OBP. Those fifteen walks have him tied for second in all of baseball with his teammate David Wright.

Bench: Most of the players on the bench have been mentioned. I think Justin Turner and backup catcher Anthony Recker would be the only ones left. Turner can play all over the infield and if he was a Dodger he'd probably be our starting 3rd baseman. I'm not saying he's any good, I'm just saying he'd be our starting 3rd baseman.

Rotation for Series:

Things won't be easy for the Dodgers. They are scheduled to face the two best Met pitchers

Game 1: Last year Jonathan Niese quietly become one of the best left hand pitchers in the NL. In 2013 he has lost his strike out game. From 2010 -2012 Niese had a K/9 rate that ranged from 7.33 -0 7.89, but in 2013 that has dropped to 4.94, while his walk rate has jumped to 3.42. He's got four pitches (FB, Cutter, Curve, Change) with the FB topping out at 90MPH. These kind of guys seem to carve up the Dodgers, this would be the best time for Matt Kemp to put a charge into the offense.

Game 2: Matt Harvey met HOF Stephen Strasburgh last week and kicked his ass 7 - 1. He has made four starts this year, and has not given up more than one run in any of them. I'm not sure what happens when the hottest pitcher in baseball meets the most anemic run scoring team in baseball but we will find out Wednesday Night. If you want to go back to the end of 2012, Harvey has now made six starts with out giving up more than one run. Harvey was the 7th pick in the 2010 draft.. The Mets got this one right.

Per Eric Stephen:

The young Mets right-hander is already the first pitcher since 1900 to win his first four starts with no more than 10 total hits allowed, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Harvey also has a streak of four straight starts of seven innings or more and one run or less allowed, the longest streak since Tim Hudson did so for Atlanta in 2007. The last one to have a longer streak to open the season was none other than Fernando Valenzuela, who had seven straight starts in 1981.

Game 3: Jaremy Hefner gets game three. I don't know diddly about Hefner. He didn't make the majors until he was 26, and in 2012 showed impeccable control walking only 18 hitters in 93 innings. That control has gone awol in 2013. He has already walked eight in just fourteen innings. If fact that number, 14 innings in 3 starts might be a sign the Dodger offense could have some action Thursday Afternoon.

Bullpen

Closer -Bobby Parnell brings heat (95 MPH) and he throws it most of the time (82%). He's a two pitch pitcher, and he's good. So far in 2013 he's been elite.

Setup: A plethora of pitchers here. Left hander Scott Rice has been used ten times in seventeen games. That seems a bit much. He has walked six in those nine innings. Click on this link for the rest of the bullepn names.

Right now the Mets are a strange team, a very solid infield with a future that gives way to an outfield that could use some major upgrades. The future catcher got hurt, but many considered him the top catching prospect in baseball. The trades they have made have them positioned for growth. Zach Wheeler obtained in the Beltran deal several summers ago is poised to start his major league career in 2013. Noah Syndegaard came over in the RA Dickey trade. He won't help in 2013 but much is expected of him in the future.

To bad about Johan Santana because an August rotation of Harvey / Wheeler / Neise / Gee / Santana would get the job done.

Can Harvey make it seven starts in a row giving up one run or less?

Can the Dodgers continue to go undefeated in the NL, outside of their own Division?

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