Yes, it’s not even June – I get that. But now is the time of the year when GM’s and managers begin to formulate their ideas about asking the question – who are the best 25 guys we’ve seen who can get us to the promised land in October?
Except for maybe a seasoned vet to back up the unreliable and seemingly day to day spot at third base (David Wright – below) and a sure handed catcher to replace Travis Denard when he goes down with an injury every other week, the Mets appear to be set (with the ever present caveat – barring further injuries) and can move straight ahead to a minimum Wild Card spot in the Playoffs.
And yet,the decisive decision Terry Collins et al will have to make is already being seeded in the selection of his starting four (you don’t need five) as the playoffs begin to take shape. How will he (or more to the point of this piece)……how should he be setting up his rotation as the season moves steadily along in the coming months with an eye towards October when the only games that really count are played….
You probably recall that at the beginning of the season Matt Harvey was penciled in as the opening day starter. He was the inheritor of the throne mainly because he was the previous heir to the throne. There was little or no talk about it. But as we know, Harvey has been less than stellar while others have seen their stock rising with each start. His ERA is approaching 5.00 while his strikeout rate is less than one per inning. In eight starts, he can only lay claim to three wins. Clearly, this is not what you expect from your go-to guy.
At times, his personna on the mound looks nothing like the confidence and bravado he’s displayed before. No one from the Mets organization even hints at an possible injury. Instead they talk about having to build up arm strength from all those innings he threw last year. Hello! – with the exception of Steven Matz the entire staff was forced to go above and beyond their so called “innings limit” too.
Meanwhile, Noah Syndergaard has been lights out with an ERA just over two and 65 strikeouts in 53 innings. Then, there’s Steven Matz, the highly projected but unproven ace to be who has won five of his six starts. And he’s followed by Jacob DeGrom (below) who’s still bouncing back from an ill fated start to the season due to the impending birth of a child and then the complications that ensued afterwards. Nevertheless, he’s winning when he starts (3-1).
So you can see where this is going, right? And if we can see it, Dan Warthen, the Mets pitching coach and Terry Collins can see it too. Question is……what do they do about it? They have plenty of time to rearrange the rotation. With rainouts, short term injuries, upcoming days off, and periodic skipped starts to preserve that all important innings pitched stat – they can – if they choose – change the rotation almost unnoticibly.
Collins can and will have to tightrope the decension of Harvey to the fourth spot with Syndergaard in the lead – but as of now that’s what’s justified by performance on the field and not in the newspaper.
Tonight, Harvey faces Stephen Stratsburg in a pivotal rubber game match between the Mets and the Nationals. His performance is crucial in determining whether a move is needed sooner than later. But all indications are that a move is warranted – and now would be better for the team.
Footnote: Matt Harvey couldn’t make it through the third inning giving six earned runs in a 9-1 loss to the Nationals. His record now stands at 3-6 with a 5.73 ERA.