The New York Mets enter the 2013 season with hopes of becoming playoff contenders once again. As highlighted in my preview of the upcoming Mets season, the young talent that this team has to offer is solid. However, New York will rely heavily on its pitching staff in the upcoming year.
A large part of the Mets' (potential) success lies within the hands of number one starter Johan Santana. It seems as though Santana's career has been on a somewhat downward slope since he came to New York. Through eight seasons with Minnesota, Santana was 93-44 with a 3.22 ERA. Johan also won the AL Cy Young award twice as a member of the Twins. Since joining the Mets in 2008, Santana is just 46-34 with a .318 ERA.
Santana's health is also a concern and if he's not healthy, he's not pitching. Santana averaged 22 starts per season during his tenure with Minnesota. Johan made just 21 starts for the Mets last season as opposed to the 34 he made when he started his time in New York.
Santana needs to have a year like he did in 2008, arguably his best season in a Mets uniform. Number fifty-seven started 34 games and posted a 16-7 record in those starts. Over 234.1 innings pitched, Santana's ERA was a mere 2.53.
Jonathan Niese looks to be a great candidate for the Mets' #2 spot this year in the rotation. Niese has been with the Mets since 2008 and has decent numbers. He's 35-32 with a 4.06 ERA through five years. Nothing spectacular, but Niese isn't expected to be the Mets' ace. Niese went 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA last season--his best numbers as a Met. If Niese can stay healthy and improve upon those numbers slightly, things will be looking good for the 25 year old pitcher.
Dillon Gee, a young pitcher with great stuff on the mound, made his major league debut in 2010 with the New York Mets. Gee had a breakout year in 2011, posting a 13-6 record and a 4.43 ERA (over 27 starts). For anyone who says that the Mets' pitching staff is "bad," that is simply not true. The Mets have an above-average starting rotation, completed by Matt Harvey and (possibly) Jeremy Hefner.
However, in order for the Mets' starters to have success, the bullpen is going to have to step it up in 2013, as well.
In 2012, the Mets bullpen was ranked 29th out of 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Only the Milwaukee Brewers had worse relief-pitching staff. Through 155 games, Mets relievers were a combined 16-29 with a 4.65 ERA.
The Mets bullpen allowed 237 earned runs, 260 runs total, walked 203 batters, struck out 394 batters, and allowed opponents to hit .250 off of them.
When compared to the BEST bullpen in baseball last season, that of the Cincinnati Reds, Mets fans just want to put their face in their hands and cry. Through 153 games, Reds relievers were 31-22 with a 2.65 ERA. Opponents only hit .219 off Cincy relievers and scored just 144 times. Oh, and the Reds BB/SO ratio? 181/478.
If we travel back in time to the last time the Mets made the playoffs (2006), their bullpen was ranked SECOND in Major League Baseball. Mets relievers that year posted a 32-15 record with a 3.28 ERA. The Mets bullpen only allowed 219 runs and a batting average against of .239. The BB/SO ratio? 174/485.
It's no secret that the Mets have been on a decline since 2006. Things can turn around this year though. The bullpen has got to be more solid--the starting rotation is good enough to make the Mets a contender. The Mets bullpen is the team's biggest question; looking at the official roster, I barely know who half the guys even are.
Sandy Alderson needs to make a smart move sometime this season for a solid, veteran reliever (or two) to come in and help this team out. If that happens, expect great things out of the Mets for many years to come.