By: Fred Aaron

Will the Real New York Mets Please Stand Up?

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I remember as a kid watching a show called To Tell the Truth. Each show, three people would appear, raise their right hand and say something like “I am the real Hieronymus Bosch.” But the catch was that only one of them was a famous Flemish Renaissance painter and the other two were imposters who had studied up on the famed person in order to trick the celebrity panel. The real Hieronymus Bosch and his two accomplices would win money by getting the celebrities to pick the wrong man. At the end of the show, the announcer would intone, “Will the real Hieronymus Bosch please stand up?” And then after much false movements, the real Flemish master would stand up from his chair, and much hilarity would ensue.

During a baseball season, each team will go through a horrendous blowout, one in which the game is pretty much over before most of the fans haven’t even purchased their first beer, let alone had a chance to even take a sip. The team will also win in a laugher, lose a 1-0 shutout, and shutout the other team in a close game. However, this season, the Mets have had all of these things happen in just over one week! We saw Syndergaard pitch a great game against a tough Royals team, with the Mets winning 2-0. We also saw the Mets win their home opener by blowing out the Phillies 7-2. However, just 24 hours later, we saw a rookie pitcher named Vincent Velazquez combine with the Phillies’ bullpen to shut out the Mets 1-0. And last night we saw Steven Matz have his first implosion, getting shelled by the Marlins for 7 runs in the second inning en route to a 10-3 loss.

The question then arises, which team is the real Mets? Is it the team with the strong starting rotation and bullpen, having just enough offense to eke out a 2-0 win? Is it the powerhouse which will crush the opposition between great pitching and strong hitting, the team that won 7-2? Or is the team a mess, one that will lose 1-0 one day, and 10-3 the next? The answer may be “all of the above.” The team made one significant change from last season, replacing fan favorite Daniel Murphy with former Silver Slugger Neil Walker. Let’s compare the two. Murphy hits for a higher average, but takes fewer pitches than Walker and, as a result walks less and strikes out less. Murphy has better speed but is notorious for making occasional mental lapses on the base paths. Walker hits for slightly more power and is a better defensive player. On paper, this one appears to be a wash. The only issue may be one of team chemistry. Murphy was a very popular player on last year’s Mets.

The other issue is that, except for Bartolo Colon, all of the Mets’ starting pitchers pitched more innings last season than they ever had before. This was a result of the extra games from the 2015 playoffs and World Series. This may explain the lack of sharpness we have seen so far from Matt Harvey and Matz, as well as the lat muscle soreness experienced by Jacob deGrom. In 2009, there was a distinct falloff from two key members of the World Champion Phillies’ staff, ace Cole Hamels and closer Brad Lidge. The Phillies had ridden both pitchers pretty hard in order to get to and win the Series. The next season, Hamels had a mediocre 10-11 record to go along with an ERA over 4, while Lidge was absolutely awful (I should know since he was one of the closers on my fantasy baseball team that year). I may be wrong, but it could be that the Mets pitchers may have to deal with the after effects of the increased workload from the prior season.

It has only been 6 games so far, so there is plenty of time for this team to gel. We will also not know the long-term effects on the starting pitchers until later in the season. So it may be awhile before we have a clear answer when the announcer says, “Will the Real New York Mets Please Stand Up?”

About Fred Aaron

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