Entering the season, the New York Mets were well aware of the gauntlet that awaited them — their first 22 games were against a who’s who of the best teams in baseball last season (and the Angels). New York would face the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves twice along with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and St. Louis Cardinals during this stretch. So many expected the 2014 Mets to be sufficiently under .500 after that spate of games.
However, a funny thing happened on the way to that expectation. After a win over St. Louis on Thursday afternoon to clinch the series against the defending league champions, the Mets find themselves at 12-10, ahead of the same Nationals that swept them in the season-opening series. After the season-opening sweep, the Mets have reeled off victories in 12 of their last 19 games.
While it’s still very early in the season, it has to be encouraging for a Mets team that has yet to see any of its hitters catch fire to get off to this kind of start. Of course, as a result of the offensive struggles and the bullpen uncertainty, it has fallen on the Mets’ quintet of starting pitchers to carry the load in the early going. In the last 10 games, since Bartolo Colon was drubbed by the Angels, Mets’ starting pitchers have a 1.84 ERA and have kept the team in every single game.
Colon and Zack Wheeler are the only two starters who have ERAs north of four, but both men owe that distinction to one bad start that has skewed the numbers in such a small sample size. Colon has been consistently impressive for the Mets, despite his hiccup in Anaheim, which is the 41-year-old’s calling card. Wheeler has flashed hints of his enormous potential and is just now learning how to be more efficient with his pitch count which should further his progress.
The other three starters, Dillon Gee, Jenrry Mejia and Jonathon Niese, have each been consistently good in their first few starts. Mejia, in particular, wasn’t even a lock to make the team out of Spring Training, yet he has responded with a 1.99 ERA and is striking out almost 10 batters per nine innings.
Niese went from having a dead arm period in the spring to being one of the Mets’ most reliable starters early on. He has posted a 2.45 ERA through his first four starts and, although his strikeout totals are down, he has a scintillating 1.13 WHIP.
Gee could very well be the best pitcher in baseball for the first five innings, but he has run into trouble the further he gets into games. He’s done a better job remedying that issue in his last two starts, where he allowed two runs combined. If you think Niese’s WHIP is impressive, Gee’s is even lower at 1.04. Gee’s has a 3.58 ERA, but opponents have only hit .208 off of him this season.
With the other areas of the Mets team slow to kick it into gear, the starting pitching has shouldered the burden thus far. When and if the lineup ever gets going and New York establishes a consistent bullpen, this team’s pitching could do a lot of damage. With Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard coming later this summer and Matt Harvey returning next season, things are lining up nicely for the Amazins in regards to their pitching. For the first time in a long time, there may actually be a surplus in the Mets’ rotation.