OK, this may be premature. As of Saturday morning Fan Graphs was giving the Mets an 80% chance of winning the NL East and just a 0.8% chance of winning a wild card spot if the Nats overtake them for the division flag. A few more outings by Bobby Parnell and/or Eric O’Flaherty and it could be a 50-50 shot soon.
Now 81% is good but no one could be a Mets fan for any length of time and see it as a given. It’s never too early to plan ahead even though this playoff spot could realistically be frittered away.
Right now it looks like St. Louis will breeze to a top seed spot in the playoffs and will play the winner of the wild card game which figures to be a match up of Pittsburgh against the Cubs.
Meanwhile we are assuming for now that the Mets win the East and will take on the winner of the West. The Dodgers have a good lead there so they have a great chance (99% according to Fan Graphs) of being the first round opponent. The Mets are just one game behind the Dodgers in their race for home field advantage in round 1, the best of five division series. A lot rides on who gets the extra home game since this could impact how Terry Collins sets up his rotation for round one.
Here are the things that have to be decided:
1- How many starting pitchers should be active for the playoffs?
2- After Jake deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndegaard who else makes the rotation?
3- In what order should they pitch?
An extra consideration is that if the Mets and Dodgers come down to the last week still neck-and-neck in won-loss record should the Mets stay in their regular pitching rotation in an attempt to gain the extra home game? If they do it could lead to a situation where the team’s #4 starter might be the only one properly rested for game 1. This would not be a desirable thing.
So our first question is about the number of starters. My inclination is to say four but it could be five if one can see one of the starters moved to the bullpen. In this case I believe that Stephen Matz could be put in the bullpen since he has crazy good stuff and the Mets have been hurting badly in lefty relief all season. It’s hard to see a pitcher like Bartolo Colon or Jon Niese being moved to the pen since neither has overpowering stuff and other than being a multi-inning long man they would not seem to have a viable role.
If we were discussing this two weeks ago we would probably have shelved Colon and gone with a four man rotation that includes deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard, and Niese. However Niese has been shelled lately while somehow Colon is coming on strong in the home stretch. Bartolo well could be the #4 starter in the playoffs with Niese deactivated.
As to the order one needs to weigh the fact that Syndergaard has been dramatically better at CitiField this year than he has been on the road. His record at Citi is 7-1 with a 2.15 ERA. On the road it’s 1-5 4.91. That is a stunning difference. Were the Mets to finish with a better record than LA it could be advantageous to go with deGrom in game one and follow it up with Syndergaard in game two. One wonders how Matt Harvey’s ego might take that.
Considering that Terry Collins spent half a season force-feeding backwards lefty Alex Torres a steady diet of lefty batters it is possible, maybe probable, that he would go old school and pitch Syndergaard in game three regardless of whether it is a home or away game. If Noah is asked to pitch a road game in round one the team may end up regretting the decision.
If the Dodgers have the home field advantage then deGrom/Harvey or Harvey/deGrom figure to go 1-2 on the left coast and Syndergaard can comfortably start game three in NY. Game four (if necessary) would be started by Colon. And if a game five is needed then whoever started game one will be ready for that one.
A viable alternative is the all flamethrower rotation that includes the big three righties plus Matz. In this scenario neither Colon nor Niese need be active. Here the bullpen suffers a bit but the opponents see an ace or potential ace every game.