Imagine for a moment that you are Terry Collins sitting in your office on October 1st, your Mets have finally found life in their bats, and they have squeezed their way past all National League opponents, and for the second time in two years are ready to bring the challenges of the World Series to fruition by claiming their first title in thirty years.
And as we know, it’s all about pitching, pitching, pitching in a short series – so there he sits pondering the question……..who do I start in that pivotal and all important first game? Thinking ahead, I realize that whoever I start has a chance, with travel days, to pitch three times if the series goes seven times. So, of my Core Four young and obscenely talented starters, who do I trust the most to go Lights Out and put the fear of God in opposing hitters………
This make believe future debate going on in Terry Collins’ mind is actually one that many fans and media are thinking about right now because the way the Mets staff is structured now it’s Harvey, Syndergaard, DeGrom, and Matz in that order for a short series assuming everyone is healthy……..which is a big assumption……but this is only fun if the Core Four remains intact.
And the hands down winner – and once and for all ordained Ace of the Mets staff is…….Noah Syndergaard…….and here’s why……
Those of you who have been following previous columns in this space know that I have not been – shall we say – kind to Mr. Harvey (use the search box to the right if you haven’t). Those offerings were always about his behavior and demeanor off the field. But this about what’s delivered on the playing field and whose performance rises above the rest.
With the help of our friends at Baseball Reference , let’s compare some numbers. For all of the hype and his own bravado, Matt Harvey has won two fewer games in the major leagues than his age (27). in 67 starts. That is not a lot to say, even for a man who lost a year of playing time due to an injury.
On the other hand,Noah Syndergaard who’s only 23 and has made only 26 starts has a career record of 10-7 with a much smaller sample (a given), but nonetheless he has already accumulated 21 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched. versus Matt Harvey – five in 12 innings pitched so far in 2016.
The track of each player is even more revealing. Harvey burst upon the scene as the next coming of Bob Gibson. Blazing fastball, grit, don’t give in determination……and so on. Undoubtedly, Harvey supporters will say……”Yeah, but most of his losses were due to a lack of run support “. I say, sorry but that doesn’t cut it if you are the “ace” of the staff. As such, your job as the ace is to pick up your team when they don’t score runs and hold the opposition to one less run when they do. A 7-6 victory counts in the standings the same as a 3-2 loss when you gave up the go ahead run in the eighth because you couldn’t shut them down when your team needed it.
Noah Syndergaard, on the other hand, has seen a different track over his brief career. He came to the Mets with the same hype as Harvey – lights out stuff- if only he can harness it. He stumbled before he walked and now is running after he hardly learned to walk. There were widely discussed questions about his stamina and maturity. He was sent down to Triple-A in Las Vegas where he made slow but steady progress and growth. Today, he’s capturing the attention of many including Hall of Famer George Brett, “If he can continue to throw that 92-93mph slider at will, there’s no way I or anyone else will be able to hit it “.
Beyond all that sits Jacob DeGrom who in just three years has amassed 24 wins while equaling Harvey’s ERA of 2.59 in only 53 starts in his brief three year career. Seemingly, this would put him to number two on the totem pole pushing Harvey back to number three – who would then be destined to meet yet another rising arm – Steven Matz.
Matz’s sample is too small to weigh, but all indications are that he is a comer much like Syndergaard. What this means for the Mets now and in the near future could possibly be solved two years from now when Harvey reaches free agency status and the Mets might opt to submit a reasonable offer to him at the same time whispering to themselves …..”Take your act somewhere else, Matt”.
So, the season is young and trends are not yet established. But, if you put together what you saw in spring training together with what has been seen over their first two starts of this year, if I were Terry Collins I’d be thinking about rearranging my staff with an eye toward October……now.