As the Mets once again climbed back to .500 on the year after last night’s 4-0 victory over the Braves, the Mets have been winning games on the heels of some terrific starting pitching. Mets’ starters have now tossed 11 straight quality starts (sans last night’s rain-shortened start for Dillon Gee) and have gone 7-4 in those games. On their current road trip, the Mets have assured a winning record and have gone 6-3 in the process.
This recent surge now has the Mets in third place in the NL East (leapfrogging the struggling Florida Marlins) while still placing them just 3.5 games back in the Wild Card standings.
The starting pitching has been nothing short of fabulous of late, and if the Mets are to make a push for the postseason, the starting pitchers will have to continue to throw gems.
So, in a utopian world, let’s just say the Mets do make the playoffs. (Stay with me for argument’s sake.)
If this were to happen, it begs the question: Who would start the opening game of a playoff series?
In other words, who is the Mets’ ace?
Excluding the rehabbing Johan Santana (who may or not be himself upon his expected return-if he ever does return), let’s closely examine the candidates:
- Mike Pelfrey
The de-facto ace entering the season, Pelfrey has simply been too erratic for anyone’s liking. Pelfrey has gone Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde too many times. Pelfrey has been solid in his last two starts (13 innings pitched and allowing only four earned runs), but he is still just 3-5 on the year with a 5.11 ERA.
- R.A. Dickey
After a rough beginning, Dickey has been starting to deal of late. Dickey, believe it or not, has been better since suffering a tear of his plantar fascia and has thrown 23.2 innings while allowing only seven earned runs in his last three starts. Dickey has his knuckle ball darting again. However, Dickey has not been the beneficiary of good run support, and as a result he has dropped two of his last three decisions. Still, Dickey loves the challenge and is a true gamer.
- Jonathon Niese
Niese has had perhaps the best run of his career in the last couple of weeks. Niese has won three out of his last four starts while throwing 28 innings and allowing only five earned runs. Niese has been devastating hitters with his nasty curve ball, and the maturation he has developed is making him a complete pitcher.
- Chris Capuano
Another pitcher who just keeps on getting better as the season progresses is Capuano. Capuano, while building up arm strength after prior injury woes, is now trusting his stuff more and is becoming a valuable asset to the Mets’ rotation. Capuano is 2-0 in his last two starts and has allowed only one run in his last 13 innings pitched. Capuano is still just 5-6 on the year with a 4.40 ERA.
- Dillon Gee
The pitcher du jour of the moment has to be Gee. Gee has simply been scintillating as a rookie, and has been better than anyone could have ever imagined. Gee was in top form once again last night (4 innings pitched and only one hit and two walks allowed) before the rain came. Gee is still 7-0 on the year (with the Mets wining each game he started) with a sparkling 2.33 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.
So, with Pelfrey battling inconsistency issues and with Capuano being up and down himself while shaking off the injury rust, the candidates to be the Mets’ ace has to come down to Dickey, Niese and Gee.
In my opinion, if a playoff game is on the line, I would not be willing to put Gee on the mound as my ace. Gee, in all likelihood is in for a market correction and he’s still too wet behind the ears. By the end of the year, it’s doubtful that Gee will be the best Mets’ pitcher, as he is today.
Thus, the race to be the ace of the Mets has to be between Dickey and Niese.
While Dickey is a gutsy trooper, I’d have to go with Niese as the Mets most polished, durable and dependable arm.
Niese has had his growing pains, but he is finally evolving into the pitcher the club envisioned him being when they selected him in the 7th round of the 2005 draft. While he is no Roy Halladay, Niese is no slouch and he is clearly ready to take the next step.
So, the debate rages on. Who would be your choice as Mets’ ace?