Archive for June, 2017

By Steven Inman

Sandy

Photo from NY Times

The Mets 2017 season, that started with so much promise, has been completely derailed by injuries to key players. The pitching staff that finished 2016 with the 3rd best ERA in MLB, has been the WORST in the majors with a 5.01 ERA. The pitchers that the front office believed could lead them back to the World Series have all dealt with injuries (Or in Matt Harvey’s case off the field troubles and regression) this season except for Jacob deGrom, who has been decent, but far from the elite arm he’s been the last few seasons. It must make fans wonder if Sandy Alderson and his team creating the blueprint around young pitchers was the right choice.

When Sandy Alderson came to New York, he had the plan of tearing everything down and following the San Francisco Giants mindset, which was to construct a team around one offensive star (Buster Posey for SF, Yoenis Cespedes for NYM) and pretty much all other offensive players were interchangeable, while building around superior pitching. The trio of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner were as formidable as any rotation in baseball for not one or two, but three championships. That model created a borderline dynasty, but it was short lived. Cain never had an ERA under four after his age 27 season, and Tim Lincecum now 32, is out of baseball. The Giants success while impressive, has a stroke of luck attached to it. Looking back on it, all of those postseason innings Cain and Lincecum threw turned out to just be too much mileage on their arms. The club has had a dismal start to 2017.

The Mets like all other franchises, want to make long runs in the postseason every season. The way their pitching has not been able to stay on the field the last few regular seasons, it’s fair to wonder if they’ll have the ability to do that. Even workhorses like Cain and Lincecum were not able to handle that kind of workload going on deep playoff runs after awhile.

Sandy Alderson did an excellent job of following the Giants model. He waited out long and expensive contracts left behind by the previous Met regime and made some shrewd trades to acquire future starters such as Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler. Offensively, Sandy has made it clear in his tenure with the Mets that home runs and walks are the most important traits he wants his position players to have, while defensive range and ability haven’t been considered as important. Hopefully for the Mets sake when the team calls up Amed Rosario in a few weeks, they can improve a very poor defense. The Atlanta Braves are also on record saying during their current rebuild that they’re trying to emulate the starting pitching plan the Mets have committed to.

With that said, there aren’t too many teams that build around pitching in today’s game. Obviously, you need quality pitching to win, nobody is disputing that, but with pitchers being as brittle as they ever have been, does it make sense when rebuilding to build a core around arms? Or does it make more sense when rebuilding with prospects to go after young hitters over pitching like the current Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs went with the opposite strategy of the Mets and Giants, selecting position players at the front ends of drafts such as Kris Bryant & Kyle Schwarber and trading big league pitching for Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo. The Houston Astros also have a nice young core of position players such as George Springer, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. The ‘Stros have enjoyed the majors best record to start 2017.

The story of this Mets era, built around the arms of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler is far from over but at this point it’s a legitimate question if this group can stay healthy enough to win the franchise’s first World Series since 1986. The 5 starters mentioned, who the Mets were hoping would anchor their pitching staff for the next decade, have never pitched a single turn in the same rotation.

When all is said and done will the Mets regret building around pitching over hitting?