Hitters have hot and cold streaks. It’s a fact of life. They’re usually not as good as they looked during their hot streak (witness Yoenis Cespedes in August and September). Plus they’re not as bad as they look during their cold streaks (witness the 1-18 start to 2015 by Curtis Granderson). Relief pitchers similarly tend to go through periods where they’re lights-out and others where they can’t find the plate with a GPS.
Starting pitchers, however, are another animal entirely. They earn their paychecks based upon predictability and consistency. You know going in that on an average day a pitcher will give up X number of runs, Y number of walks and strike out Z number of hitters. Going into the 2016 season from Matt Harvey those numbers were a very impressive. He delivered ERAs of 2.73, 2.27 and 2.71. He’s given up just around 1 baserunner per inning pitched, walking under 2 and striking out nearly 9 every 9 innings.
Just before the bell rang to start the 2016 season Harvey was sidelined by a non-pitching medical condition lampooned by the NY Post in a series of headlines here. Having endured many health issues in my lifetime, it’s entirely possible that the drugs given to aid Harvey in his bladder problems have had some impact as he adjusts to them. After all, the results are very non-Harvey like through two starts. Thus far The Dark Knight is a very pedestrian 0-2, 4.63 ERA, 1.543 WHIP, 3.1 walks and 3.9 Ks per nine innings. Ugh!
While it’s certainly too early to panic about Harvey, the lackluster offense and other issues that have the Mets starting the year with a 2-5 Won/Lost record, the fact remains that with Jacob de Grom sidelined (Logan Verrett taking his start), the rest of the pitching rotation looks a bit shaky. Noah Syndergaard certainly showed the Royals what he’s capable of doing and the ageless Bartolo Colon gave up a single run while fanning 8 in just over 7 IP. However, Steve Matz is technically still a rookie (and the long layoff between starts showed on Monday evening). Without Harvey pitching like Harvey and de Grom out with both the lat issue and the birth of his child, the core strength of this team is somewhat diminished.
Everyone looked at the schedule and said, “pshaw” or whatever the more in vogue expression is to convey smug self-satisfaction about how easily the Mets can get off to a fast start. Phillies? Marlins? Braves? Reds? These teams are the very definition of bottom feeders, yet somehow the Phillies just outperformed the World Champion Kansas City Royals against this now seemingly mortal team from Queens. Monday's showing against the Marlins was the worst one yet.
It’s just one week of a very long season and surely time heals most wounds, but now is when you need a strong manager to get the team focused and ready to perform, rather than resting on their laurels expecting their competitors to just cede defeat to them. Skipper Collins said it was vital for the team to get off to a fast start to avoid the World Series hangover. This year the expectations are sky high for Collins as he’s been given both pitchers and hitters capable of going all the way. Let’s see him earn his paycheck.