Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Mets Pitching Staff Is Good For Nothing

Yes, you did read the title correctly. Over the past week, Mets pitchers have indeed been good for nothing, meaning they've been good enough to hold the opposition to practically nothing on the scoreboard.

Pitching was not supposed to be the strong point of the 2010 Mets. After all, the Mets' starting rotation was supposed to be made up of Johan Santana and The Four Rainouts.

Mike Pelfrey had come off a baffling season. Although he stayed healthy (unlike his fellow starters), his ERA was over 5.00 and he never showed the consistency of his breakout 2008 season.

Oliver Perez and John Maine were injured for much of the year, but when they were on the mound, some fans were wishing that they were still on the disabled list. Maine could never keep his pitch count low and Perez lost his GPS device, preventing him from finding the plate.

As for Johan Santana, he was also injured and did not pitch in September after a subpar (for him) second half. From his first June start until his final start on August 20, Santana went 6-7 with an uncharacteristic 4.02 ERA.

The Mets tried (at least we think they did) to sign free agent starters to improve the rotation, but came home empty-handed. The same top four from 2009 would reprise their roles in the rotation in 2010 and Mets fans were not very pleased about it. A 4-8 start to the 2010 season did nothing to change their feelings about the state of the franchise.

Then something clicked in Colorado. First, Mike Pelfrey threw seven shutout innings in a victory against the Rockies. This was followed by outstanding starts by Oliver Perez, Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese and Pelfrey again. These starts were sandwiched around John Maine's Sunday night outing against the Cardinals in which he gave up three runs in five innings, but this still represented his best start of the young season.

It wasn't just the starting pitchers that were "good for nothing". The bullpen were matching the zeroes posted by the starters. The best example of this was during Saturday's 20-inning marathon in St. Louis, where the bullpen held the Cardinals scoreless from the eighth inning through the 18th inning, stranding baserunners left and right.

Coming into tonight's game, the Mets starters and relievers had held the opposition scoreless in 58 of the last 63 innings. The team's record in the six games played over those 63 innings is 4-2. That's not a coincidence.

Good pitching can always carry a team when the offense is down. For example, the 2009 Mets were near the bottom of the National League in runs scored with 671. However, the 1969 World Champion Mets had an offense that was even more anemic. The '69 team only scored 632 runs. The difference between the two teams was in the pitching.

The 2009 Mets' ERA was 4.45. The 1969 Miracle Mets finished the season with an Amazin' 2.99 ERA. The '69 Mets were never going to outslug their opponents, but they always gave you the impression that all they needed was one run and the pitchers would take it from there.

The 2010 Mets have also not been outslugging their opponents, but this current stretch of sizzling starts has them playing their best baseball of the still-young season. Eventually, the offense should heat up and when it does, it will take some of the pressure off the pitchers to throw shutouts every time they go out to the mound.

While we wait for that to happen, it's good to know that the staff is clicking on all cylinders. So you see, sometimes being good for nothing isn't really as bad as it seems.

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