Terry CollinsThe New York Mets have a log jam in the starting rotation. This is not news. They failed to trade anyone in the offseason. Also, this is not news. What is news, however, is the report on Tuesday that the team is leaning toward pitching Zack Wheeler (3.54 ERA, 11-11 in 2014) on Opening Day.

This immediately brings up two questions: why does manager Terry Collins feel the need to repeatedly name anyone this soon and why Wheeler? The answers are almost as complicated as a Collins lineup card.

First, in the 2013 season, Collins named Jon Niese the Opening Day starter as early as January according to some reports. Last season, he had named Niese the starter again early until he went down with an injury and Dillon Gee took the spot. This season, he’s leaning toward Wheeler.

Why does he feel the need to put this particular item to rest so early? Why can’t he just see how they are performing in March? Wouldn’t that make more sense? What if Wheeler isn’t doing well but deGrom is? Or Niese is? What if Matt Harvey continues his pace and is actually ready for Opening Day?

The point is that there are a million variables that go into that decision between now and April 6, so why make that call now? What benefit is it to the player or the team to know who will be on the mound for the first few innings of their season?

It may give pitchers a boost of confidence or show them that the coaching staff has confidence in them, however, it is not especially advantageous to the team. It’s not going to make the lineup hit any better knowing who the starter was so early.

The past few years are a perfect example of this point. In 2013, Niese was named the starter when Johan Santana wasn’t going to be ready. In 2014, Niese, again, was named because Matt Harvey wasn’t healthy. Then, Niese, also, got injured.

The point is, Collins has no idea who will be around on Opening Day right now. Why name anyone? Make it an open competition. Perhaps the competitive natures of the pitchers will surface and help to propel them to greater heights.

The second question is why Wheeler? Wheeler is a fine candidate for the spot and would be deserving of it, however, there are other pitchers to consider over him for various reasons.This is a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.

First, Dillon Gee (4.00 ERA, 7-8 record in 2014) started last year. While he is projected to end up in the bullpen, he is still more than capable of throwing one game as a starter. Particularly if they want to push Matt Harvey back as much as possible.

Then there’s the aforementioned Jon Niese. Had Collins had his way, the lefty would’ve started two consecutive seasons. Why, then, is he not good enough to start this year? He is coming off a good 2014 campaign where he posted a 3.40 ERA with a slightly less exciting 9-11 record and 138 strikeouts.

There’s Matt Harvey. The former All-Star Game starter is facing batters tomorrow and could well be ready by the time the first official game rolls around. He has been saying since last year that he was gunning for Opening Day. What if that comes to fruition? With his already impressive resume, can Collins really deny him?

Next is Jacob deGrom. The reigning Rookie of the Year winner is the reason Dillon Gee is going to the bullpen. His 2.69 ERA and 9-6 record last season made him head and shoulders above other rookies as well as his own rotation. His numbers alone can make a strong case for it.

Finally, there is Bartolo Colon (4.09 ERA, 15-13 record last season). Colon is the highest paid pitcher ($9M) by almost more than double the next guy (Niese $5M). He led the team in wins and was a viable candidate for the Cy Young award for most of the 2014 season.

He’s paid to be a “big game” pitcher. Why, then, isn’t he considered? His efforts last year alone should merit a look. He’s a veteran that has seen it all before and pitched Opening Days before. It wouldn’t phase him. He’s proven and tested in these types of situations.

In closing, only one pitcher will get the ball in this spot and, truthfully, it probably won’t be very memorable except that it was Opening Day. The next day will see another pitcher, then another and another, all the way through 162 games.

In the end, naming the pitcher for that particular game will most likely end up being irrelevant in the grand scheme of the overall season. With that said, one would like the team to get off to a good start. Wheeler could get that for them, as could the other candidates discussed.

Naming that pitcher who has the unenviable task of lighting the fire on the 2015 season can be important only from that stand point of getting off to a good start, however, it’s not so important that it has to be decided this week.

12 comments on “Why is Terry Collins naming his Opening Day starter already?

  • Metsense

    On February 17th poster Name made the best argument on who should start on opening day. http://mets360.com/?p=24582#comments
    It has been mentioned that Harvey will pitch more than 160 innings this year so if that is actually the case, I would start Harvey in an attempt to get out of the starting gate on a positive note vs the Nats.
    The sad thing regarding TC’s announcement is that Wheeler is the worst rotation member vs the Nats. Statements like this from TC indicate to me that he doesn’t do his homework and is ill prepared to manage this team.

    • JC

      I think they still want Harvey to start the home opener if he is going to pitch in the nats series that means he pitches game 2

  • JC

    It is important to note they have not yet named anyone. Reports say that he is leaning toward Wheeler. The last thing I saw TC actually say about the opening day starter would be and that Matt if he stays on target will pitch in the first week possibly against the Nats in the first series. Just because you may be leaning one way doesn’t mean in the end that is the direction you’ll go just at this moment that is what your thinking.

    Now the 2nd question why lean any place at this point it’s about figuring out how to see all the pitchers you have in camp while making sure they are all ready when it’s time to answer the bell. You obviously want to build a pitcher so that they can hit their stride when ever they are do to pitch.

    3rd question is ok so if you want to line up your rotation why would you lean to Zac. They want to line up matt for the home opener if he is going to pitch in the first week and start the home opener he needs to start game 2 in washington. So if Matt has to be number 2 what works best. Since Niece is your only lefty I assume you want him 3rd. the veteran Colon can feast against weaker starters so I think you want him as your 4th or 5th starter not your ace at this point. So it’s down to Wheeler or the defending ROY. maybe you worry about a sophomore slump or want to manage the hype. If I were making out our rotation this is what I’d do taking this all in account:

    Wheeler
    Harvey
    Niece
    DeGroum
    Colon

    If I was not worried about any of it other than my own strategic preference then this would be my Rotation:

    Harvey
    DeGroum
    Niece
    Wheeler
    Colon

    Obviously injuries change everything but you have to start with a plan and then adapt to an injury.

  • TexasGusCC

    Because Collins loves the attention and cannot control his mouth.

  • Jason Langley

    Colon was a viable Cy young candidate for most of 2014? Yeah, I don’t think so.

    my hope is that TC only answered this, because he was asked, and was still non-committal. I suppose we are all looking for something mets related to read about, but this article was pointless.

  • Eraff

    Colon is paid to be an Innings Eater (Rimshot here).

  • Mike Koehler

    Seems foolish to name an Opening Day starter with Spring Training just getting underway, but I have one uninformed concept. This may all be mind games he’s playing with the staff based on confidence, experience and preparedness.

    Wheeler is no longer a rookie, nor going through a sophomore slump. After 300 innings in the majors, he’s a veteran, albeit a young veteran. Showed signs of improvement last year, he’s expected to be a stud and he’s not as vocal as some of his teammates. This could be a move pushing him in the right direction.

    Harvey is coming off 2013 surgery and has limited innings in his arm. Why roll the dice so early, especially when you know he’ll push to throw if his arm is literally falling off?

    deGrom was great last year, but he was a rookie and we’ve seen the Mets treat youth with kids’ gloves.

    Niese could be a candidate to start. He’s not great, but he’s done it before and he’s a veteran at this point. My guess is Wheeler stands more to gain than trotting the southpaw out again.

    Colon is an innings-eater who was hired as a mercenary. Probably doesn’t make sense to the fanbase or the players to start him unless it’s purely a matchup decision.

    Gee is probably going into the bullpen, so he doesn’t make the ballot.

  • Steevy

    Every time I start to feel some optimism about the upcoming season I remember TC is still the manager ,and that cures it.

    • TexasGusCC

      Ouch. A Mets fan’s reality summed up in a single sentence.

    • Mike Koehler

      #truestory

  • James Newman

    It’s good that Collins and the Mets are thinking about the regular season, but does it need to be made public with over a month to play? It seems that this could be kept in-house and discussed when we are a week away from the game. I’m glad for Wheeler, and hopefully he starts the season off on the right foot, and sets a tone against the Nationals.

  • Name

    And now reports are that Opening Day considerations are between Colon and an “unnamed pitcher”.

    Fun to discuss, but pretty useless until we are 2 weeks from Opening Day.

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