Can the starting rotation carry the Mets in 2013?

johan-santana-no-hitter

by Chris DiLorenzo

            The New York Mets projected starting 5 in 2013 is Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Shaun Marcum, and Matt Harvey. The most obvious missing piece is the knuckleballer who was traded above the border to the Blue Jays in the offseason. While the Mets aren’t expected to do much this year their most obvious strong point is their starting pitching. Johan is a pure competitor and expect him to start on Opening Day if he feels he can compete. If the saying in baseball is true, “You are only as good as your starting pitching”, then look for the Mets to make it interesting in the East.

Starting with the ace Johan Santana, who will be the biggest key in the rotation, his health means everything to his success. Johan got off to a hot start last season returning to his old form while etching himself in Mets fans memory forever when he threw the first no- hitter in franchise history on June 1st against the Cardinals. Manager Terry Collins was worried during and after the game with Johan’s pitch count and as it turned out he had every right to be. Johan simply wasn’t the same pitcher following the no hitter and was shut down in August. Johan’s numbers weren’t pretty last season finishing with a 6-9 record with an ERA of 4.85 in 117 innings pitched. It was sad to watch Johan collapse the way he did due to the problems with his back, especially after making history for the franchise. If Johan is healthy coming into the season there shouldn’t be any reason why he can’t pitch the way he was last season leading up to the no hitter. If the Mets want to contend, Johan is the backbone to their rotation.

The southpaw Jonathon Niese has great potential in him but has not seemed to take his game to the next level which we all desperately want to see. Niese has a nasty curveball that can buckle the hitter knees but he tends to leave it hanging over the plate too often which can be disastrous and led to him giving up 22 home runs last season. Niese finished last season with a 13-9 record which was an improvement from 2011 when he finished 11-11. His ERA was a 3.40 which is will need to be lower this year for Niese to take that step to the next level. Niese threw 190.1 innings last year in 34 starts which will also need to increase with Dickey’s departure (Dickey threw in 233.2 innings last season with 33 starts). Jon Niese recorded 155 strike outs which is an average of 1.2 strikeouts per inning which isn’t bad by any means. Expect Niese to finally make Met fans proud and take his game to the next level to be a feared lefty in orange and blue.

Dillon Gee was rushed to the emergency room in mid July when he felt numbness in his fingers which was later diagnosed as a blood clot in his pitching shoulder, a scary moment for Dillon who was pitching fairly well before the medical procedure to break up the clot. In 17 games last season Gee had a 6-7 record with a 4.10 ERA who seemed to come from nowhere (drafted in the 21st round in 2007) when he made his career debut in 2010. Gee appeared in 109.2 innings in his injury shortened season last year while giving up only 12 home runs. This is essential for the Mets this season to keep the ball in the park as much as possible with their lack to produce a lot of runs. Dillon Gee is still young at 26 with a lot left to prove to the Mets but expect him to live up to those expectations. Gee keeps the hitter guessing with a vast arsenal of pitches which is what makes him effective and why the Mets see a lot of potential in Gee.

The newly acquired Shaun Marcum knows he cannot fill R.A. Dickey’s shoes this season but believes he can succeed in New York. Marcum has been nursing an injury since last season on his throwing shoulder but wisely took the necessary time to return to the mound fully healthy this spring with the Mets. The 31 year old right hander had a good season last year in Milwaukee posting a 7-4 record with an ERA of 3.70 in 21 starts. Prior to the injury Marcum seemed to be cruising to another impressive season having gone 13-7 in 2011 with an ERA of 3.50 in 33 starts. Last season Shaun was striking batters out with fair ease having 109 strike outs in 124 innings pitched. If fully healthy coming out of Spring Training Shaun Marcum can be a tremendous asset to this rotation which the Mets will need to replace R.A. Dickey’s CY Young performance last season.

Matt Harvey, one of the top pitching prospects in the minors last season, made his major league debut last season and came out firing. Harvey, a towering presence on the mound at 6’4, did not look like a 23 year old on the mound. Matt Harvey was throwing hard and accurately while posting a 3-5 record in 10 games started (thank the Mets lack of offense for a couple of the losses in his record). Harvey’s 2.73 ERA is exactly what you want to see in this young righty while striking out 70 batters in 59.1 innings pitched; only allowing 5 home runs last season. Possibly even more impressive from Harvey last season was his WHIP which was 1.146. Harvey’s WHIP will aid John Buck, the projected starting catcher for the Mets in April, who only throws runners out 27% of the time. The sky is the limit for Matt Harvey who has all the necessary tools to break out sometime in the near future as an ace pitcher for the Mets. Look for Harvey to thrive this season, the first full season of his career, both on the mound and on the plate since he was one of the better hitters on the Mets line up last season.

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