It sucks to be the Mets right now. Actually, it has sucked to be the Mets since 2007. Much as I do sympathize, I can't think of a better time for the Mets to face the Rockies.
Jason Bay and Mike Pelfrey have hit the disabled list, Bay with a fractured rib and Pelfrey with swelling and possibly a partial tear in his elbow ligament. I can't particularly say I'm going to miss them, as Bay is a decent hitter against Colorado (although surprisingly he's below average against us relative to his career averages), but Pelfrey has a 3.06 ERA against the Rockies over 9 starts. Not that I'm totally convinced that Colorado is going to pull a rabbit out of their hats against the Mets' replacement starter, given the way they handled the Pirates, but who knows.
Despite Bay being out of the lineup, the Mets are currently swinging some decent stick. The following Mets' batters are posting an OPS+ above 130 (arbitrary I know, but it rounds out well): David Wright (170), Josh Thole (166), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (153), and Daniel Murphy (130). For perspective, only Michael Cuddyer has an OPS+ above 130 for the Rockies (140, to be precise).
Before Pelfrey went down, his 154 ERA+ led the staff. Behind him are Jonathan Niese (122 ERA+ and a nice little 5-year, $25.5M contract to go with it) and Johan Santana(118 ERA+). Upside: the bullpen is completely hit or miss, with ERAs ranging from 0.00 (Jon Rauch) to 7.36 (closer Frank Francisco).
This weekend, starting on Friday, the pitching matchups will be: Drew Pomeranz vs Chris Schwindon (in all likelihood, according to Eric Simon of Amazin' Avenue) followed by Jeremy Guthrie vs Dillon Gee, and then finally on Sunday, the bench will face Johan Santana in support of Jamie Moyer.
Prediction of zero relevance: Rockies sweep because Chris Nelson will go 11-for-16 on the weekend.
Steve Schreiber, also of Amazin' Avenue fame, and I exchanged some Q&A on the Mets/Rockies, so check those out post-jump.
1. Johan Santana is back. Give me some expectations: Is that 3.00 ERA right? xFIP seems to think so. What's his inning cap?
So far so good with Johan, who's looked excellent in 3 of his 4 starts. Mets fans had pretty low expectations for him coming into the spring, considering all of the injuries the team has endured in recent years and last year's setbacks but he blew through all of the tests and has looked like vintage Johan more often than not. In fact, he even struck out 11 Marlins on Tuesday night. His average fastball velocity has dropped about a MPH from where he was in 2010 but the key with him has always been his changeup, which has been sharp. In terms of limitations, there was talk of giving him an extra day's rest here or there but never really a firm innings limit. His pitch counts have also been gradually rising, up to 105 pitches on Tuesday. The Mets have taken the kid gloves off of him pretty quickly, which is both exciting and a little scary at the same time. You just never know with shoulder injuries.
2. Pelfrey is down. The Star-Ledger says the Mets are waiting on a second opinion. Who takes his place now? How is the Mets' rotation depth?
The rotation depth is pretty shaky at the moment, as evidenced by the fact that Miguel Batista made a start in the first game of Monday's doubleheader with the Giants. The potential loss of Pelfrey is a big blow, considering most people presumed it would be Santana who would need somebody to spot him in the rotation at some point. With the usually durable Pelfrey out, soft-tossing righty Chris Schwinden will take his rotation spot and it sounds like he'll start Friday's game. Beyond him, they have right hander Jeremy Hefner, who's similar in substance to Schwinden, at Buffalo along with top prospects Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia. It's unlikely that either of them will see the big leagues for a while, though, as Sandy Alderson's regime has been extremely cautious with promoting top prospects through the system. It looks like, for the time being, Mets fans will be holding their breath and crossing their fingers.
3. 10-8 at this point is kind of impressive, given preseason expectations. Give it to me straight: are the Mets the 5th best team in the NLE?
Good question. The pundits spent a lot of the offseason bashing the Mets (should I say #LOLMets?), some even saying the team would have trouble winning 65 games. Whether it's through having a better understanding of the players or just being more blindly optimistic, many Mets fans saw a .500 club if all went right and somewhere in the 75-80 win range if less went right. Coming into the season, the feeling was that even if they did win 75-80 games, they might still end up in last place because the Phillies and Braves are good teams and the Marlins and Nationals made big improvements. The 10-8 start has been encouraging and that, coupled with the fact that some of those other teams seem to have holes that people may've missed (Phillies' offense, Marlins still being the Marlins), has gotten fans excited. The pitching with Santana, Dickey and Niese at the top has been great, the revamped bullpen's mostly pitched well and the offense (specifically Ike Davis and Lucas Duda) has the potential to get better. We'll see what happens but I think, at the moment, there's optimism that this team may be better than people thought. Of course, it's still really early. I mean the Orioles are in first place in the AL East, after all!
4. Who is going to have to step up in the vacancy left by Jose Reyes?
The easy answer to this question is 22-year old shortstop Ruben Tejada, the man who took over Reyes' spot at shortstop. Tejada is a much different player than Reyes but also very skilled and baseball smart beyond his years. He's not flashy like Reyes and may never be a superstar but he plays above average defense, gets on base at a good clip and is typically a tough out at the plate. Tejada knows that he's not Reyes and has even said as much in interviews. Of course, Reyes provided a great deal offensively, especially in 2011, and Tejada isn't equipped to bring everything Jose brought to the table. In terms of making up Reyes' contributions (and really, Carlos Beltran's as well), the weight is spread around to a few players: David Wright hopefully rebounding towards prior performance, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda playing full seasons and Daniel Murphy at second base instead of Justin Turner, who saw too much time there last year.