When the 2013 MLB season started, many people believed that the strongest part of the New York Mets would be the starting rotation, with the pitchers being Johan Santana, Jonathan Niese, Matt Harvey, Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee. Many saw this as a very good and formidable rotation that could actually keep the Mets in the playoff hunt for most of the season. However, through the first 16 games, that has not been the case.
First, we must state the obvious. Injuries have decimated the staff so far with Santana out for the season and Marcum out for the foreseeable future. The Santana injury came as a surprise to everyone. Coming off shoulder surgery, Santana was suppose to have made a full recovery and help this team compete, but that was not the case.
Throughout spring training, there were conflicting reports that said Santana was out of shape and not taking his rehab seriously. Santana denied the reports throughout the process but, in the end, it turns out the reports were true and Santana needed a second shoulder surgery. Next, the signing of Marcum was a high risk, high reward kind of deal. Injuries shortened Marcum’s 2012 campaign where he only started 21 games. The Mets knew this signing came at a risk and that he was susceptible to injury. But they needed a starting pitcher that could make an impact on the team and they took the gamble. I would’ve made this deal as well. The reward was definitely worth the risk knowing he was a fringe all-star-caliber pitcher but, unfortunately for the Mets, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy so far this season.
Sandy Alderson needed to add depth to the rotation this off-season but did nothing of the sort. His signing of Marcum and Aaron Laffey has turned into an epic fail. Marcum is yet to pitch and Laffey should not be in any rotation. Laffey has a 7.20 ERA in his first four games with the team. Alderson needed to sign a couple more pitchers with two of his five starters, Santana and Gee, coming off injury. But he stood pat and is now seeing why a team cannot have too many starting pitchers.
You can’t blame it all on Alderson’s unwillingness to spend money though. We were all expecting Niese to make a big jump this year and feed off his stellar 2012 season. But, so far he hasn’t been able to make that leap and become a number-1 starter. This isn’t Niese’s fault though. He just doesn’t have the stuff to be a number-1. I think management forced him into that role and that is a role that Niese will not be able to handle. He is a very good number-2 but can’t handle the pressure of being the number-1. Thankfully there is hope and it’s in the form of Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler.
Harvey has been the best pitcher in baseball so far in this young season. He’s been nearly unhittable and can take over that number-1 starter role and allow Niese to fall back into the number-2 starter role that he is more comfortable with. Wheeler will also take some of the pressure off of Niese when he gets the call up in the next few weeks or months. Wheeler has the potential to be a top of the rotation guy and will give the Mets, in the future, two number-1 pitchers. He will also be a big boost to the rotation this season with his power arm, something that all the other Mets pitchers don’t posses other than Harvey.
When healthy and the best pitchers on the team are pitching, we will see a very good rotation made up of Harvey, Niese, Wheeler, Marcum and Gee. To me, that is a rotation that can propel this team into the playoffs and, if they can make it that far, is a staff no other team will want to face in any round of the playoffs.