As the 2015 season wound down and the playoff landscape began to take shape, there was a lot of chatter about the resurgent Mets "taking over the city." This is a phrase that means literally nothing, but the fact remains that Mets fans have begun showing their faces in public, and the media seems to love this narrative. Just two days ago, on the second day of pitchers and catchers' workouts, Joel Sherman tweeted the following.
Sure, more Mets fans showed up to day two of Spring Training, but I'm not sure that means anything. It makes sense that Mets fans are showing up in full force right now, as their team made the World Series last year! That's exciting!
Mets fans certainly have a lot to look forward to in 2016, as PECOTA projects them to win the NL East (against very formidable opponents). However, it would be unwise to assume that the Mets project to be significantly better than the Yankees in 2016. Breaking the teams down into their rotations, starting lineups, bench, bullpens, and designated hitter/pitchers hitting, we will see what the Subway Series has in store for us this year. Here are each team's ZiPS depth charts for 2016.
Do I have to bother?
The Mets rotation is headlined by young guns Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard, followed by newcomer Steven Matz and fan-favorite Bartolo Colon. As a group, ZiPS predicts them to be worth around 15 WAR, which is probably a conservative estimate. They are going to be one of the best, if not the best, rotations in baseball.
The Yankees projected starting rotation consists of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, and CC Sabathia/Ivan Nova. If they stay healthy, this group has the potential to be very good. When Tanaka, Pineda, Eovaldi, and Severino are at their best, they are almost unhittable.
We all know the most important word here is "if." There is a chance that Tanaka and Eovaldi's elbows break, or that Pineda destroys his shoulder, or back, or whatever else he has hurt in the past. CC Sabathia - where do I begin? Ivan Nova is coming off of Tommy John surgery. Severino has pitched a whopping 11 games in the majors. For each of these players, there is potential for greatness (if CC's knee brace continues working magic), but the potential for disaster is all too real.
Unlike for the starting rotations, there is not such a clear-cut winner in terms of lineup strength. ZiPS likes the Mets' lineup better than the Yankees', but I'm not so sure about some of their projections. In the infield, the Mets will start Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, David Wright, and Travis d'Arnaud. For the Yankees, the infield projects to be Mark Teixeira, Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, and Brian McCann.
Despite similar performances in 2015, ZiPS projects Duda to outperform Teixeira in 2016, probably due to age. But Teixeira remains the superior defender at first, and I see no reason for him not to continue his resurgence in 2016 (other than injuries, but that whole shin thing was a total fluke). Walker is better than Castro (or at least more consistent), but Gregorius was better than Cabrera last year and that should remain the case in 2016. Headley was terrible in 2015, but Wright's back could explode at any second. d'Arnaud has never stayed healthy, whereas McCann provides the Yankees with consistency behind the plate.
ZiPS projects the Mets outfield to be better than the Yankees' this coming season, and that was before the signing of Yoenis Cespedes. I don't think Beltran will only be worth 0 WAR, and Gardner and Ellsbury should definitely show some positive regression (fingers crossed). Granderson has been off and on for some years now, and 3 WAR seems a bit optimistic.
Advantage: Tie (is that allowed?)
Neither the Mets' nor the Yankees' bench players are currently set in stone. However, the Mets' bench will definitely consist of at least the following players: Kevin Plawecki, Wilmer Flores, Dilson Herrera, Ruben Tejada, Juan Lagares, and Alejandro De Aza. Combined, ZiPS projects this group to be about 9.6 WAR (in significantly more at bats than they will actually have, barring serious injury to the starters).
On their bench, the Yankees will most likely stow Gary Sanchez/Austin Romine, Dustin Ackley, Aaron Hicks, and perhaps Rob Refsnyder/Ronald Torreyes. ZiPS predicts that these players on the Yankee bench (assuming Sanchez and Refsnyder beat out their competition) will be worth 6.3 WAR (again, in a very large number of at bats).
Again, do I have to bother?
According to ZiPS, the Mets bullpen will probably consist of Jeurys Familia and others (Addison Reed, Carlos Torres, Hansel Robles, and Sean Gilmartin). Together, they should be worth around 2 WAR. The Mets' bullpen is the weakest part of their team.
The Yankees bullpen, on the other hand, could make history. Before the addition of Aroldis Chapman, ZiPS projected the combination of Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Chasen Shreve, Branden Pinder, and James Pazos to be worth around 4 WAR. Add in another projected 2 WAR from Chapman, and the Yankees' bullpen will almost definitely be the team's greatest asset.
Designated Hitter (AL)/Pitchers Hitting (NL)
Sorry National League teams. Even with regression, A-Rod is definitely better than Mets' pitchers at the plate. Well, maybe not Bartolo Colon. He can rake.
Adding up the winners of the various categories, the two teams tie. That's a bit too simplistic a method to decide which team is actually going to perform at a higher level, especially since the DH category is far less significant than both the rotation and lineup categories. The Mets are probably better on paper, mostly due to their insane rotation, Yoenis Cespedes, and a small army of capable middle infield bench players.
Even though PECOTA projects the Mets to come in first in the NL East and the Yankees to place fourth in the AL East (with, you guessed it, the Rays coming in first), other projection systems don't agree. Steamer has the Yankees and Mets both coming in second in their divisions and playing to the same record in 2016 (85–77). I guess we will just have to wait and see which team reigns supreme in 2016. But one thing is for sure: this year's Subway Series should be a lot of fun to watch.