Starting Pitching Will Make or Break the New York Mets' Playoff Chances

Alex Ott@the_otter15Contributor IApril 18, 2013

Matt Harvey is a legitimate ace, but who will back him up?
Matt Harvey is a legitimate ace, but who will back him up?Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images

Back in the 2001 playoffs, the old theme of the Arizona Diamondbacks was "Johnson...Schilling...Pray for Rain". Though this team went on to win the World Series, it seemed as if the D-Backs were a two-headed pitching monster, with little help behind their two future Hall of Famers.

And while this could work in a seven-game series, this doesn't work for a 162-game season. Right now, Mets fans are only confident when Jon Niese or Matt Harvey take the hill.

When they don't, pray for rain.

New York is 6-0 in games that Niese or Harvey start. In games they don't, they're 1-6. 

To put it in truly absurd terms—The Mets have been snowed out of more games than they've won when their third through fifth starters pitch.

Niese and Harvey have established themselves as some of the best pitchers in the game. They’re both young—Niese is 26 and Harvey is 23. They also provide different looks, with Niese throwing from the left side and Harvey throwing from the right.

Armed with mid-90s fastballs and under team control for the foreseeable future, the two potential All-Stars will hold down the top two spots in the rotation for years to come.

And granted, the future looks a little brighter. Zack Wheeler is a top-10 prospect in all of baseball, with a lot of similarities to Harvey.

But definitely more raw.

Harvey went the college route, where he played in the ACC and faced much better competition than Wheeler faced down on the Georgia high school circuit. Wheeler has all the tools to be successful, but there will presumably be growing pains after the huge jump from Triple-A to the majors.

Shawn Marcum should also be back fairly soon, but at what level? It seems that every other day, his next rehab start is being pushed back. If he does return to the big leagues anytime soon, he still won’t be 100 percent.

He can probably give the team four to six innings at first, which is still better than what they’re getting from their current starters, but by no means game-changing.

There is great emphasis on acquiring an outfielder, but the real focus needs to be on starting pitching. The guys the Mets are trotting out to the mound three out of five days are simply not getting it done, and one more good bat won’t produce the five runs every game that these guys are giving up.

Even if Wheeler and Marcum exceed expectations, that only gives the Mets four legitimate starters. It seemed that Dillon Gee could be a solid No. 5 with his ability to eat innings, but after illness forced him to end his season early last year, he has had a difficult time bouncing back.

So before you start worrying about Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gonzalez (though it would be amazing to have them, the Mets probably can’t even pull the trigger with Travis d’Arnaud’s broken foot), first think about probably the most valuable position on the field—the pitcher.