Future Mets rosters need more balance, less focus on starting pitchers
By Tim Boyle
Times have changed. The New York Mets need a change in philosophy when it comes to building a roster focused on the starting pitchers.
“Well, if the starting pitching holds up, the New York Mets can compete” is something you might have heard at the start of many recent seasons. The Mets have relied heavily on the hopes and prayers of their starters. Baseball has changed. It’s time they change with it.
The philosophy of this organization has often been to favor starters. Back in 1969, the rotation was an elite one. When they won their second championship in 1986, the story was the same, but the offense did quite a bit more when compared to the first time they were the World Series victors.
In the post-Steroid Era when 100 RBI seasons were harder to find and a guy could lead the league with fewer than 40 home runs, the Mets began to go back to this way of thinking. Successful Mets teams from the late 1990s and early 2000s were a little more balanced, possibly even putting more of a focus on the bats. When they brought in over-the-hill future Hall of Famers like Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez, they signaled a plan to head back in time.
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The franchise hasn’t undergone a major rebuild for nearly a decade. During that time, we saw plenty of promising young starters come up through the minors and onto the big league roster. Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, and everyone else were supposed to become what Generation K failed to develop into.
Fortunately, things came together in 2015. The starting pitching made a lot of it possible as did an offense sparked by the Yoenis Cespedes trade. There was much more at play than the five-man rotation who got things started on a nightly basis. The bullpen did well and the team looked whole.
In many ways, the 2015 Mets lucked into their World Series run. They didn’t plan on doing it with pitching. After all, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz didn’t even open the season with the team.
Ever since this magical year, the story has been the same in the preseason. All eyes were on a pitching staff that looked like it could help this organization compete for the next half-dozen seasons. Things haven’t worked out. As we saw in the 2016 Wild Card Game, it takes one ace on another team to completely ruin your chances at going deep into the postseason.
The 2019 team is teaching us a valuable lesson. Starting pitching can keep you in the games, but a reliable bullpen is what can secure those victories. The relievers for this team have been atrocious. In a time where you should expect your relief pitchers to record at least one-third of the outs on a daily basis, it’s essential they are a talented bunch.
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Starting pitchers have their value and can make a team great. It’s those other commodities that push a team up the hill and toward a championship. When it comes to building the best team possible, you cannot punt those middle innings away. Without an offense you can count on to outscore the opponent regularly, it’s one of the few ways to survive.