Other than the actual baseball, my favorite part about Opening Day is the statistics that come out of it. I remember in 2005, Dmitri Young hit three home runs on Opening Day, prompting a cavalcade of “He’s on pace for 486 home run” statements. So, every year, after Opening Day, I like remind myself that individual games are not predictive of anything — and that statistics, while actually very important, can and are selected to prove what the person speaking wants them to prove.
So, the statistics from Opening Day that translate to the full season:
– Andrew Brown, Juan Lagares and even David Wright will not hit 162 home runs.
– Curtis Granderson won’t strike out 486 times.
– The Mets won’t score 1,134 runs.
– Neither Scott Rice nor Carlos Torres will walk every batter they face all season.
– The Mets will not go 0-162 and will not lose a key player to a season-ending injury every day of the season.
While those statistics, both good and bad, will not go continue on their “pace,” there are things that we CAN take out of Opening Day’s game:
– Juan Lagares showed a little bit with his bat early, and didn’t get too anxious to swing in the 10th inning. If he can swing a decent bat and maintain plate discipline, he will end up playing way more than Eric Young Jr. (0-4, 4 K’s on Opening Day)
– The Mets need to strike out less. They are unlikely to show the kind of power they did on Opening Day, slamming three home runs. So, if they can’t string together base hits, the lineup will look similar to a stretch late last summer where they averaged about two runs per game.
– Dillon Gee looked, until his final inning, like the Dillon Gee from the second half of last year. He’s no lock to be that kind of pitcher all year long, but he may be the kind of pitcher capable of keeping the Mets in most games he pitches.
– The bullpen is STILL a huge question mark. Jose Valverde’s success can’t be counted upon based on one outing any more than the rest of the bullpen’s failure can. But all of the concerns that I outlined here, still exist.
Is Opening Day an accurate way to analyze or define any team? Absolutely not. Could most of the predictions made in this post turn out wrong? Sure. There’s a reason the baseball season is 162 games long — so that we don’t have to judge a team on a small sample size. So, sit back, get ready for game 2 of 162 tonight, and remember, when someone TRIES to give their way-too-early analysis, refer to this song by Ted Berg, now of USA Today.
We’ll go position-by-position, looking largely at the players most likely to make the Mets’ Opening Day roster, and perhaps some of those likely to contribute later on in the season. In part seven of the series, we’ll take a look at the starting rotation.
Opening Day Starter: Dillon Gee
Opening Day Rotation: Gee, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Niese
Opening Day Dark Horse: Jenrry Mejia (if Niese is unable to start April 6)
Looking to the Future: Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard
The rotation might be the best part of the 2014 Mets. There’s depth, veteran experience with youth mixed in and most of all, there’s talent.
Gee may not be the Opening Day starter that Mets fans were hoping for, but with Matt Harvey out for the year, Gee gets the call. His second-half ERA of 2.74 is darn impressive, and he looked like he had finally gotten “back” from his aneurysm scare last offseason. The fifth starter job seems likely to go to Dice-K, though many Mets fans were hoping Mejia would win the spot.
The talent is wonderful, the depth is nice and in 2015 both of those things will only be improved with Harvey’s return. By adding Colon, who had a stellar year in Oakland, the Mets can argue that — after a rash of injuries to the Braves — they have the second-best rotation in the division.
In a way, the rotation is boring. Other than Wheeler, there’s no starter on the Opening Day roster that wows you. But steadiness is a valuable commodity in pitchers. Which is why I think going into the season with Matsuzaka in the fifth starter spot over Mejia is a logical decision. Mejia has more talent, better stuff and is younger, but he’s never pitched 120 innings in a season. The team goes into the year with a reliable rotation and Mejia gets the chance to fine tune his readily apparent skills. Mejia will be in the rotation — if he’s healthy — by the end of the year, and if he looks like he did late last summer the Mets will be thrilled.
Colon, Gee and Niese are wildly different pitchers that can be described in the same way. They’re consistent. None of them are aces, but all three are the kind of pitcher who can take the mound every fifth day (the Mets hope) and keep their team in a game. Colon throws nearly all fastballs. Gee and Niese each rely more on their off-speed stuff. But Mets fans can be confident any day that any of the three are on the hill.
Expect Montero and/or Syndergaard to join the big league club in the area of June or July, as Harvey and Wheeler have before them. Montero is much more ready now, Syndergaard has much greater potential. Both will play a big part in the Mets success, either through performance or in Montero’s case, if the Mets opt to trade him.
Oh, and Zack Wheeler. He’s not Matt Harvey, and anyone making that comparison is fooling themselves. But Wheeler has brilliant stuff. If he can command his pitches better, Mets fans could be in store for another fun breakout season for one of their young pitchers.
Very good. There are six guys who have an argument to be in the rotation come Monday. Two more who — again, assuming health — will inevitably join them. Between those eight, the amount of potential production and hypothetical trade value is through the roof. If the bullpen can hold opponents down, the Mets rotation will win more than their fair share of games.
How Comfortable Should the Mets Be:
Pitching will probably be the Mets’ strength this season. There’s just so much of it, and even more in the pipeline. They may struggle to hit at times, which could limit the number of wins that the starters rack up (Channeling my inner-Brian Kenny #KillTheWin) and the bullpen is a question mark, but the starters should be sturdy. I can envision Gee, Niese and Colon each putting up numbers along the lines of a 3.50 to 3.70 ERA and a respectable 1.30 or so WHIP. Wheeler, if his command is improved, could be better than that. The remaining pitchers would then only need to live up to fifth starter status, which is more than doable.
That said, as Toby Hyde over at Mets Minor League Blog would remind us, “pitchers break. That’s what they do.” The Mets will more than likely lose a starter to an injury at some point this year. The hope is that by building up their depth, they can withstand such an injury. At the minimum, the rotation needs to stay intact until the summer when Montero or Syndergaard can serve as a replacement.