The New York Mets came into the 2012 MLB season with few expectations. With the always consistent Philadelphia Phillies, the young and talented Washington Nationals, the new look Miami Marlins, and a strong Atlanta Braves team in their division, most analysts believed that the Mets would finish in last place in the NL East.
However, the Mets looked extremely impressive in their first series this year, a sweep of the Braves.
Here are five things we learned about the Mets from their first three games.
When Omar Minaya was the general manager of the Mets, the Mets often signed some of the biggest names on the free agent market. Some big names included Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Pedro Martinez, and Jason Bay.
This year, second-year general manager Sandy Alderson did not sign any premiere free agents, but used this offseason help the team with its greatest weakness- the bullpen.
The Mets traded outfielder Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez. Torres, the Mets Opening Day starting center fielder, injured his calf in the first game (and is now on the 15 day disabled list), but Ramirez has turned out to be a great acquisition. In his first game as a Met, he tossed 1.2 scoreless innings, and earned the win in the Mets 1-0 Opening Day victory over the Braves.
The Mets also signed relievers Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco. Rauch has pitched in two games this season, has earned two holds, and has yet to give up a hit. Francisco has pitched in all three games, recording three saves (becoming the first Met to earn a save in each of his first three games with the team.)
This offseason may not have been a high profile one for the Mets, but it has played a big part in why the Mets are currently 3-0.
When the Mets announced that Johan Santana would be the Opening Day starting pitcher, many Mets fans were eager to see what he would be able to do after missing all of last season.
To say he impressed would be an understatement.
Santana pitched five scoreless innings, got the Mets out of a bases loaded jam, struck out five Braves, and looked like he was enjoying himself on the mound.
I think all Mets fans can agree that it's good to have Johan back.
Before the season began, the walls in Citi Field were moved closer, which made it less of a "pitchers park". The vast outfield walls made hitting home runs a struggle for the Mets in 2011. But this season, the Mets are already finding success with the long ball.
On Saturday, Lucas Duda recorded his first multi-home run game of his career, hitting one to right-center field and another to right field. The one to right-center would not have been a home run if the walls were not moved in. According to Kimberly A. Martin of Newsday,
"Duda gave the Mets a 2-0 advantage in the fourth when he sent a first-pitch fastball from Jair Jurrjens 410 feet over the GEICO sign in right-centerfield, well beyond the new 390-foot wall. Last season, that same shot would not have gone over the wall, which was 415 feet away."
David Wright also hit a home run that game, and while his homer (as well as Duda's shot to right) would have still been a home run with the old dimensions, it is possible that the shortened fences has goven Wright more confidence at the plate.
This week, the Mets awarded lefty pitcher Jon Niese a 5-year extension for $25 million. At first, the move seemed a bit surprising, as Niese had never stood out to me as a great pitcher. But after Sunday's start, that contract seemed like a steal for the Mets.
Niese no-hit the Braves for the first six innings of the game, and showed a great variety of pitches, including a strong curveball.
Strong left-handed pitching is crucial in today's MLB, and the Mets now have two solid lefties in their rotation.
With Andres Torres' calf injury and Kirk Nieuwenhuis' promotion to the starting lineup, seven of the Mets everyday starters are homegrown.
While many people criticize having lots of homegrown talent, assuming that it is due to an inability to land top free agents, teams have made it work.
For example, the Minnesota Twins of the 2000s (were led by homegrown talent, including catcher Joe Mauer, first baseman Justin Morneau, and first baseman/outfielder Michael Cuddyer. The Twins won six division titles in ten years, and Mauer and Morneau both took home an MVP award.
The Mets, with young homegrown talent like Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, will be a major threat in the NL East for the next decade, and prove to all of baseball that you can succeed without singing all of the top free agents.
Also, important to note- the only Mets starter who isn't homegrown is Jason Bay, and he may be the most criticized player on the team.
This young Mets team has a chance to change the baseball landscape for years to come.