The starting rotation, as you know, can make or break a season. In order to win, you need a solid number one at the top, along with depth, depth, and more depth.
The 2012 Mets rotation, once again, is filled with unknowns. There are veterans looking to prove that they still belong, as well as youth trying to cement their place in the organization. We’ll start at the top.
Number 1 Starter: Johan Santana
Johan Santana hopes, along with every other Met fan, desperately hopes he can put on the blue and orange once again, and be as successful as he was in years past. The two-time Cy Young Award winner will look to make his first regular season appearance since September 2010 on April 5, Opening Day, against the Washington Nationals.
Santana, 33, is in the fifth year of a six-year, $137.5 million contract he signed when he was traded to the Amazin’s in February of 2008. Last season, Johan missed the entire year recovering from surgery on a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder. Before the injury, he was dominant. One of baseball’s best. With the Mets, he is 40-25 with a 2.85 ERA and a 143 ERA+. In his least season in 2010, Johan went 11-9 with an ERa of just 2.98.
Last season, he attempted a comeback. However, he suffered too many setbacks and never reached the majors. He pitched in limited minor league action, but reportedly finished his end-of-season workouts strong.
This spring, Santana has once again been on the comeback trail. He has yet to suffer a setback and has reached 90 to 91 miles per hour in the radar gun. The results in the box score may not be there, but that doesn’t really matter for a major league pitcher. Hopefully, Johan can come back, stay healthy, and prove he is still elite.
Number 2 starter: R.A. Dickey
R.A. Dickey has been the only rock in the Mets rotation over the past two seasons. Bursting onto the scene as an above-average knuckleball pitcher in 2010, Dickey pitched to a 2.84 ERA while compiling an 11-9 record for a dreadful Mets team. Last year, Dickey proved to be solid once again, pitching to a 3.28 ERA, despite going 8-13.
Dickey may end up being the anchor of the pitching staff once again in 2012 if ace Johan Santana is unable to stay healthy. Dickey has proven that he can eat innings and work through trouble no matter what the situation. He grinds through games, sometimes giving up four or five runs, but he does what the Mets need him to do. Dickey will be a reliable pitcher this season once again, leaving his heart out on the mound every time.
Number 3 starter: Mike Pelfrey
Mike Pelfrey doesn’t deserve to be the number three starter, or even a regular in the rotation, but he will likely be here anyway. It seems like the Mets think they owe him something, which they absolutely don’t.
Pelfrey, 28, has been the poster boy of inconsistency throughout his career. One month you think he is finally developing into an ace, and the next you mistaken him for Oliver Perez. Mike has alternated between very solid and awful since he debuted in 2006. However, those good days are becoming few and far between. In 2011, coming of a 15-9 campaign, Pelfrey hit what seemed to Mets fans as a new low. He finished the year 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA, including a 5.16 ERA in the final two months of the season.
Long thought to be the future savior of the Mets pitching staff, Mike has greatly disappointed and become one of the worst starting pitchers in Major League Baseball. Mike will almost certainly continue this consistency this upcoming season, which may possibly be his last as a Met.
Number 4 starter: Jonathon Niese
While Mike Pelfrey has proven that he won’t be the savior of the Met rotation, Jonathon Niese just may be. The young lefty, who has been the subject of some trade rumors this offseason, is slowly making himself into a very good pitcher. After a 9-10 campaign in which he posted a 4.20 ERA, Niese went 11-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 2011.
Don’t let the ERA fool you– Niese improved. He rose his strikeouts per nine from 7.7 to 7.9 and lowered his walks in a big way, from 3.2 per nine to just 2.5. Many have compared him to NAtionals starter Gio Gonzalez, and rightfully so. Niese, despite what a few of the numbers might say, is a quality pitcher with a bright future ahead of him. He should have a great year in 2012.
Number 5 starter: Dillon Gee
Dillon Gee surprised everyone last year with his incredible performance in the first half. Gee, who started out 7-0 and was the last undefeated big league starter before finally losing on June 21.
Gee has been doubted by many in his career. He is certainly not flashy and doesn’t have the best stuff, but Gee is like R.A. Dickey in his approach to the game. Instead of beating you with a killer 12-6 curve, he will outsmart and outwit you. Over his 160.2 innings, he proved that he is a very smart pitcher. He doesn’t have the worst stuff. Gee posesses a decent changeup, but not much else.
Gee finished the year with a 13-6 record and a 4.43 ERA and an 84 ERA+ due to a long period of struggling at the end of last season. What goes up must come down. Gee bounced back to Earth in the last three months, pitching to a 5.42 ERA from July on. However, the promise that Gee showed at the beginning of last year is what we should look to most. Hopefully it will be an indicator of what his future will be like as a New York Met.
Possible fill-ins for the rotation are scarce on the Mets roster. Ancient Egyptian pitcher Miguel Batista will be the second option behind Bisons hurler Chris Schwinden, who pitched in four games at the end of last year for the Mets. Maybe, if, towards the end of the year, someone gets hurt, stud prospect Matt Harvey could earn a spot on the staff.
The uncertainty surrounding Johan Santana may be the Mets’ biggest concern when it comes to their starting staff. At this point, it seems like he will be ready for Opening Day, but it is still unclear as to whether that will actually happen. The rest of the staff is alright, with the exception of Pelfrey. Niese and Dickey will give solid innings, and Gee could pitch like he did in the first half of 2011. Those would be real positives for this team. What I am hoping for most this season, however, is seeing Matt Harvey get some big league action. Hopefully the Mets won’t rush him, but I’d really like to see him get some time with the big league club this season.
Check back next week for a bullpen preview!
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