When you have a scab or two they can be hard to ignore. Even though it can be the wrong thing to do, it’s natural to pick at them. The 2014 New York Mets are not a perfect team. They have some noticeable, scab-like deficiencies, and we discuss them plenty right here at our blog. Things like hitting the ball, and the lack of a consistent bullpen.
Don’t forget infield defense, and —
— but despite the team’s flaws, here we are on April 28, and the Mets record is 14-11. That is because the team is getting great starting pitching. Dillon Gee provided the latest example yesterday with his eight shutout innings of the Marlins.
Yes, the starters have been tremendous and consistent. One thing that Sandy Alderson got absolutely right was the idea of building around pitching. Even on a wildly flawed team, a good starter can give a team a chance to win in every game. A hit here, a hit there, and, by golly, yes, 90 wins.
One thing I like about this staff is it is five deep. None of our pitchers are on a Cy Young pace, but they are all pitching well. We know Dillon Gee got the Opening Day nod, but it’s hard to pick out one of our starters and call them a bona-fide ace. But remember, in years past there would be an R.A. Dickey or Matt Harvey start followed by a Miquel Batista start or Aaron Laffey start. Those Dickey and Harvey games, as fun as they were to watch, still only counted for one win in the standings. And the next day, any gain in the standings would be given away. For a team to win consistently, your rotation can’t have too many games where it is pretty much over before the contests start.
Right. Those old patchwork staffs made it impossible for the club to ever get on a run. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot by putting an inferior guy on the hill. That’s not been the case in 2014 — and for at least a few years to come. The starting pitching staff is a team strength, a foundation for success. It’s hard not to think about those scabs, however. Because if you added Montero and deGrom to the pen . . . and found a way to add some offense via a trade . . . well, you can see how close this team is to being truly competitive.
Right now the innings count from our starters is not that bad, as there has not been one game all season where our starting pitcher did not go at least five innings. Twenty five games of that is pretty remarkable, and more proof of the depth of the staff. However, I do believe a strong bullpen, in particular, is imperative for real success this year. One thing lacking from this group is an innings eater. Niese has had some arm problems and is being monitored carefully. Gee just does not seem to be as effective beyond 90 pitches, although he did go deeper yesterday. Wheeler and Meija are young and throw a lot of pitches early, pretty much six-inning guys. Colon is 40 years old.
And that is my fear, that the overall pitching staff, including the bullpen, is still short on quality. Worse, as you have mentioned, we might have guys in Las Vegas that could assist the cause who are being wasted there. Every day I see updates about the 51s great record and shake my head. I think about missed opportunity. Forget 2015, forget 2016, etc. The current thinking going around that we will have guaranteed solid starting pitching in the future because we have a few prospects is fool’s gold. Some prospects flame out, others end up having surgery. We have a solid staff today, in the here and now.
Up above, you said, “One thing that Sandy Alderson got absolutely right was the idea of building around pitching.”
I agree, it’s an excellent idea. However, three of the five current starters, Niese, Gee, and Meija, were here before Sandy arrived all the way back in October 2010. And as we also pointed out above, there has been very little building done around our starting pitching.
So, sure, building around pitching is a great idea. Maybe Sandy could start doing that one of these days. Because I like that idea as much as he says he does.
Until that time, hopefully our current staff can continue to carry us to victories. They all count, and well, you never know. A meaningful September still remains to be seen, but a meaningful May is about to be achieved. It’s a start, and that start has been powered by our starters.
The 2014 Mets success hinges on them. So far they have carried the responsibility well.