Forecasting can always be detrimental, but based on what the offseasons have produced, can we officially say the Mets have caught up with the World Champ Braves? Let’s start by seeing the ground that needs to be made up. ATL won the NL EAST and NYM finished 3rd with a less than .500 record.
NYM needs to make up 11 games in the standings and 164 run differential. If they do this, they are only equal to ATL. NYM will also need to surpass PHI was 2nd last season. It is important to see what is expected of the everyday players and who they are as well. For NYM, there have been some very positive changes! Click on the pic to enlarge it.
We should expect their best two hitters (Fransisco Lindor and Pete Alonso) to have better season in 2022 than they did in 2021. In fact, 3 of their top 6 batters should PROGRESS in 2022 while 2 produce at a similar rate with only one falling back a bit. In the above chart, it is much easier to just look at the wRC+ column. wRC+ is on a 100 scale. It means we can say things like this; “Lindor is forecast at 19% better than an average batter” or “Alonso is forecast at 43% better than an average batter”. I like to also look at the OFF column. I am specifically looking for players with at least double digits. The NYM have 5 batters in that group. When you consider that 5 of the 9 everyday batters will be producers on offense, the lineup should generate more runs thus closing the gap on ATL. Their offseason acquisitions provide offensive consistency too. Starling Marte could produce another ALL-STAR level season, while Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar provide daily productivity by putting the ball in play. A key player could be Brandon Nimmo. He led the team last year in WAR as he had double-digit OFF WAR numbers and he had good DEF WAR numbers. If he continues, as projected, he can make this lineup go.
When compared to what ATL looks like, I think NYM has made significant gains. Although, the Braves are still more of an unfished product right now. Let’s look at them.
ATL has an MVP caliber player in Ronald Acuna Jr however he will miss the first month still recovering from his injury of last season. They still have two other players that project at ALL_STAR levels in Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley. It is noteworthy that 2 of their first 4 batters are in the regression cycle for 2022. It means that key batters should produce less than they did in 2021. Those batters are Austin Riely and Dansby Swanson. Marcel Ozuna is coming off an injury season but has not produced to a solid starter level (3.0+ WAR) for a while so I consider him an average player at best with upside potential. It is very noticeable to have Freddie Freeman, not on this roster. If he were to return, it would make a significant difference. Yet, they will still be short from the production they received from Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario from last season. ATL needs to fill in this roster, so currently, the offensive edge is to NYM.
Now let’s look at the starting pitching. The NYM had 19 pitchers start games in 2021. It was a troublesome season due to injuries, and players returning from injuries. Overall, a seeming strength became a weakness. DeGrom only made 15 starts. However, they have addressed this in the 2022 off-season. They signed Max Scherzer and Chris Bassett. Here is their rotation broken down.
DeGrom and Scherzer should be just as dominant as always so their one, two punch is as good as any in MLB (including MIL Burnes and Woodruff). Now add Bassitt and they are very deep. Carlos Carrasco should come back to at least a solid performer and their #5 will be an average player in Tylor McGil. ATL’s top two are Charlie Morton and Max Fried. They match up to most teams as favorable but do NOT against NYM.
Consider that Ian Anderso goes as the #3 in ATL, he too will not have an edge over now acquired Bassitt of NYM. The remainder of the staff is Ynoa, Soroka (miss half of this season), and Davidson. I don’t think the backend of the rotation is a match for NYM either. The bullpens are closer and where I give the depth of the staff to ATL. I give the closer to NYM.
Now I would hope or I am expecting to see the GM of ATL get to work. Alex Athopolis needs to bring in at least two big bats and one starting pitcher. If he can strengthen the bullpen further, he could get into a scenario where the ATL bullpen offsets the NYM edge in starters. The only way that will work though is if ATL can outscore NYM. Based on today’s roster makeup, they can’t. Let’s see how ATL maneuvers their roster to get more offense and counter the pitching moves from NYM.