Harvey, deGrom and Colon Go three-for-three

Bartolo ColonAs the crappy Meat Loaf song goes, “two out of three aint bad.” To kick off the 2015 season taking two of three from the overwhelming division-favorite Nationals is pretty freakin’ spectacular if you ask this Mets fan. With an evening to catch our collective breath before the Mets begin 10 days in a row of National League East games, let’s review to see what we now know about this team that we didn’t in Port St. Lucie.

The Dark Knight is Back and The Starting Pitching Really is That Good

Although he dominated in spring training, we all needed to see Matt Harvey take the mound in a regular season game before we were satisfied that our ace is back. You cannot overstate how remarkable his performance was against the Nationals. It was a cold, damp April day, on the road, against not only the best team in the division, but against the flame throwing Stephen Strasburg. Harvey looked confident, his motion fluid, his movement crisp, his pitch selection impressive and his control as good as you could expect. The result was an efficient six innings of shutout ball with only four hits and a walk surrendered and nine strikeouts.  The hometown fans are going to go nuts next week when he takes the hill at Citi Field. Harvey Day is back and that makes us all smile.

Despite all the second guessing of 42-year-old Bartolo Colon getting the opening day assignment, the rotund righty showed he’s still got it. His trademark control was as good as ever as Colon painted corners, moved the ball around in and out of the zone. His fastball had natural movement and a bit more zip than last season, throwing many pitches at around 92 mph. He deftly mixed in changeups and sliders and seemed to really work well with Travis d’Arnaud who masterfully frames pitches. Colon struck out eight and scattered three hits, a walk and one early run on a solo homer to Bryce Harper over six innings. Colon’s performance earned him an unlikely opening day win against the Nats and Max Scherzer.

While Jacob deGrom pitched well enough to win, the Mets couldn’t get theirs bat going in game two against Jordan Zimmermann. In six innings, deGrom allowed two earned runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out six and generally looked like the same pitcher who dominated the second half of 2015 with a zippy fastball, dynamic breaking balls and a sneaky changeup. It should be another great year for deGrom. Any time you get three good starting pitching performances in a series, you’ve got a chance to win the series. Against a lesser team, this might have been a clean sweep.

The Bullpen Is in Flux

With 2014 closer Jennry Mejia and setup man Vic Black joining 2013 closer Bobby Parnell and top lefty Josh Edgin on the disabled list, Manager Terry Collins is thankful he has deep stable of right handers that also includes hard throwing Jeurys Familia, long man Carlos Torres, unlikely late bloomer Buddy Carlyle and the promising youngster Rafael Montero.  General Manager Sandy Alderson added to that depth with the very recent trades for lefties Jeremy Blevins and Alez Torres. Until at least one of Mejia, Black or Parnell rejoins the team, there will be a bullpen by committee approach to closing games.

Game one featured a combined three scoreless innings from Carlos Torres, Familia, Blevins and Carlyle. Montero took the ball for the closing of game two and he did not disappoint. The smooth righty threw two scoreless frames and looked comfortable in a relief role.

Game three did not go so smoothly for the pen. New addition Alex Torres gave up two runs on two walks and a hit and was only able to get one batter out.               Carlyle and Carlos Torres combined to give us a scoreless 12/3 innings, Familia surrendered a ninth homerun. The Mets held on for a 6-3 win.

The Lineup Needs Tinkering

It’s not prudent to judge a lineup based on three road games against three young Cy Young Award candidates. Management and Collins have told the media they collaborated on the lineup. The new look lineup features Curtis Granderson batting leadoff, followed by David Wright, Lucas Duda, Michael Cuddyer, Daniel Murphy, Tranis d’Arnaud, Juan Legares, and Wilmer Flores.   Collins is going to have to continue tinkering with the line weekly until he finds the right combination.

It’s not an easy job for Collins. Depending on the health of the veterans and the improvement of the young players, he may require some assistance from Alderson via trades.

The Nats May Be Vulnerable

Based on their 96 wins in 2014 and their off-season acquisition of Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer, many sportswriters picked the Nats to win the National League pennant. However, with three starting position players on the DL they struggled to score runs against the Mets. One of the biggest difference makers in this series was the three infield errors by Ian Desmond. To think we were all champing at the bit to trade for the slugging shortstop.

A lot can change in a few weeks.

18 comments for “Harvey, deGrom and Colon Go three-for-three

  1. April 10, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Matt you need to take a deep breath. Maybe 2. The forecast was for 162 games Not one series. Just be grateful the Mets don’t have 3 position starters on the DL. As for the line up. I thought the feeling here and in most Metsphere was if given the opportunity Flores could drive in 65-70 runs in a full season. Tends to kill ones confidence if you bat the pitcher where Flores knows he could produce so much better with runners in scoring position than Any Met pitcher. Flores is not an OBP machine like MDD. So I don’t see the logic there. And if it wasn’t for Desmond’s erratic adventure into short RF, the Mets would of lost the series. A lot can change in a few days.

  2. Joe Vasile
    April 10, 2015 at 9:24 am

    While I too am excited that the Mets took the series against the Nats, keep in mind it was against a team absent Denard Span and Anthony Rendon. That being said, for any team to be successful, they have to take advantage and beat good teams while they are down, something which the Mets successfully did in this series.

    Also, I disagree with your opinions on Meat Loaf.

  3. Matt Netter
    April 10, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I don’t like this lineup but I’m okay with a little tinkering. Though Granderson draws walks he strikes out too much and doesn’t run like he used to. I just hope Collins has the sense to shift it to accommodate the hot hitters and strugglers.

    I stand by my words. Meat loaf, if prepared right, is great. Meat Loaf the band, however, not so much.

    • April 10, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      ” I just hope Collins has the sense to shift it to accommodate the hot hitters and strugglers.” We have all seen necessary changes take too long to be decided upon regarding the lineup during Collins’ tenure. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  4. James Preller
    April 10, 2015 at 10:40 am

    It’s too early to draw conclusions about Colon based on the lineup he faced. The Nationals are badly weakened right now. But, yes, it was a strong outing.

    With deGrom and Harvey, we already know they are solid.

    We learned, once again, that defense at the SS position is critically important in MLB. The interesting thing to me is the folks who hate Desmond but who love Flores. To me, the hope is that Flores becomes Desmond: a SS with enough plus offense to negate the poor defense. If you don’t like Desmond, it strikes me that you shouldn’t like Flores either.

    The most telling play of the series was a ball toward 3rd base that Flores couldn’t get to; it rolled into the outfield for a hit. No error, but I strongly felt that a SS with average range would have converted it into an out. The next batter, Zimmerman, hit a home and the Mets lost, 2-1.

    Every game seemed to hinge of defense at short; it will be a fascinating experiment to watch and attempt to measure. BTW, Flores as a hitter is also really confusing. He can look so very bad at times, the upright stance, the lack of hip rotation, the off-balance swings. He gets no style points. At the same time, all he has ever done is hit — he might be one of those guys who has the knack. Offensively, he will fail the eye test, but the proof will be in the numbers. He merits a good stretch where he plays, adjusts, and attempts to come out the other side. I still think it’s a real possibility that Tejada takes over the job at some point.

    Oh, and Meatloaf, the musician, is just the worst; the dish, however, is sublime.

    • April 10, 2015 at 11:44 am

      We want so much to believe in Flores’ offensive potential that we’re not objectively looking at what he’s done. For the love of all things that are holy, let me preface this by saying that wherever he’s played, he’s been young for his league. Do we all understand he’s been young for his league? Because, you know, he’s been young for his league.

      Having said that, Flores has three minor league stops where he’s played at least 100 games. Those are the places where his numbers are not being overly influenced by a BABIP hot streak. Here’s how he did by wRC+ (FG definition: wRC+ is the most comprehensive rate statistic used to measure hitting performance because it takes into account the varying weights of each offensive action and then adjusts them for the park and league context in which they took place.)

      2009 Lo-A — 83 (17% below average)
      2011 Hi-A — 88 (12% below average)
      2013 Triple-A — 129 (29% above average)

      That last one looks really good. At least until you compare it to his teammates. Flores was one of three players to amass 400 PA for Las Vegas in 2013. Here are the others: Zach Lutz (126) and Eric Campbell (148). Lutz is playing in Japan and Campbell is trying to learn to be a catcher to increase his odds of sticking in the majors as a reserve. I think we have to admit that it’s possible that the park and league adjustments are not doing enough here.

      Regardless, Flores is still young enough to improve.

      His MLB stats are nothing to be excited about so far but he’s also had really low BABIPs and only 386 PA.

      Right now, I’m all for the experiment of trying him out as an everyday SS for six weeks or so. I want him to succeed because if he could turn into our version of Peralta or Desmond — that would be great. However, my hunch is that he’s not that good offensively.

      And for the most important thing – I’m ambivalent about Meatloaf but I’ve always loved the description of him as “Bruce Springsteen on acid singing opera.”

      • April 10, 2015 at 10:21 pm

        This comment just depressed the heck out of me. “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights”? Have you no souls, people?

    • April 10, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      What about the actor? I thought he was solid in “Polish Spaghetti.”

      • April 10, 2015 at 4:47 pm

        Let’s not forget Fight Club and Rocky Horror! But I have to say I’m glad I didn’t see him in Hair

  5. TexasGusCC
    April 10, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    I’m following the chorus of reminding that the Nationals were missing, Span, Rendon and Werth. The best measuring stick will be the Marlins since their offense is probably the best in the East. Luckily, their pitching is lousy.

    Off topic, I’m very glad the Nats didn’t play MDD because not only would he have caught d’Arnaud’s pop fly single to short center yesterday when TDA lunged at a breaking pitch away, but he would have also caught d’Arnaud’s triple the other day. I think when they finally put MDD in the lineup, they may not want to take him out after what I saw with their raw rookie that doesn’t take pitches or play defense. [Still can’t believe they just gave him away. A LOOGY at the end of his contract is giving MDD away, to me.]

    • James Preller
      April 10, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      Enjoy your comments, Gus.

      That LOOGY did this against LH hitters in 2014: .160/.202/.217. That’s top shelf production. It’s actually stunning.

      Meanwhile, MDD doesn’t make the team. Frankly, I don’t think the Mets had much use for him, since most of his value is as a CF.

      For this season — a possible playoff year — Blevins helps the Mets more than MDD, who is more easily replaceable. I like that the Mets are finally, finally trying to win now, and I think this trade underscores that.

      As we’ve seen, it’s relatively easy to “win” trades when you are willing to sacrifice the present for the longview. Byrd for Herrera, etc. It’s a lot, lot tougher when you are trying to actually win games in the here and now. The price goes up.

      • April 10, 2015 at 1:52 pm

        Stunning? Sure, in its extremely limited application. Too bad he has to face RHB, too.

        For the LOOGY gambit to be useful, the value of the pitcher’s appearances versus LHB has to exceed the damage of his appearances versus RHB. And we’ve seen cases where this is true. 1990 Rick Honeycutt limited lefties to a .163/.204/.221 line and that year he actually contributed to winning games with a 2.58 WPA in 63.1 innings pitched.

        Compare that to Blevins, who performed so well against lefties yet put up just a 0.14 WPA in 57.1 IP

        Honeycutt’s 1990 season was nearly 20X better than Blevins’ “stunning” 2014.

        Blevins was very useful in 2012 and we should hope for a repeat of that overall performance. But I’m not holding my breath.

        • James Preller
          April 10, 2015 at 9:04 pm

          Also, a smart team is judicious about when he faced RHP — the score, the game, etc.

          Not all runs allowed are equal.

          Surprising you won’t concede that a .400 OPS vs. LH hitters is very impressive. But I see you’ve dug in.

          • April 10, 2015 at 10:18 pm

            I’m quite ready to admit that it’s theoretically possible for a LOOGY to be useful. WPA is the stat that’s going to show them in the best possible light. Blevins was good in 2012 and was not good in either 2013 or 2014. You can’t look at just one tiny subset of a player’s output and declare him good. You have to look at the whole picture.

            If anyone’s “dug in” it’s not me.

      • TexasGusCC
        April 10, 2015 at 2:35 pm

        James, thank you for the kind words.

        But, look at what the Blue Jays got for Anthony Gose: a good second baseman from the Tigers that was blocked by Kinsler. I just feel the Mets could have gotten more than a one trick pony for MDD. Three LOOGYs were released that day that the Mets would have gotten for free.

  6. Matt netter
    April 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Never thought I’d be debating the merits of a fledgling latin shortstop and a hasbeen flasetto singer in the same blogpost, but here goes….
    In total agreement with Brian. Unless he’s totally dreadful we have to give Wilmer a fairshot. Maybe he winds up playing another position down the road, but if we wind up giving up on him it better be after we know were losing another Ike Davis and not another Jeff Kent. Meanwhile lets see if this kid can really hit in the show. Oh, and Meat Loaf sucks.

    • TexasGusCC
      April 10, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      Speaking of Ike Davis: I was watching MLB Tonight and saw that Davis struck out looking against Nick Martinez of the Rangers. Davis just drops the bat and turns away like “are you kidding me?” I thought it was hysterical and not long before the AL umps get ticked off at him also.

  7. BK
    April 10, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    It’s only one series but there’s nothing wrong with looking at a few positive signs: Harvey looked great, d’Arnaud is off to a good start, the bullpen didn’t blow a 6-run lead, Cuddyer looks solid at the plate, Wright hasn’t lost anything in the field.

    A few negatives: Granderson is not a real leadoff hitter (.326 OBP last season, which was actually an increase from his last full season), the bullpen has potential for some dicey moments, the Nationals are not at full strength (as has been mentioned).

    But overall, obviously it’s better to start by taking 2 of 3. This team has the starting pitching to keep it in games and prevent long losing streaks, but it will have to gut out a lot of wins. Still, I’ll take winning ugly over losing ugly.

    And yeah, Meat Loaf definitely sucks. “I Would do Anything For Love But I Won’t Do That”??! What the hell was that???

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: