4 Keys to the New York Mets Having Early-Season Success
If the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers showed us anything, it's that you don't necessarily need a strong start to a season in order to be successful and make the playoffs. The Dodgers got off to a dismal start, finishing the first half with an even .500 record (a far cry considering they ended May with a 10-17 record).
But a 45-23 second half propelled the Dodgers to the postseason and they wound up with a very good season all told.
However, this scenario is rather unusual. It is important for clubs to get off to a good start on the new season and use that early momentum to carry them through the long summer.
For the New York Mets, there are a number of factors that will dictate whether or not the Mets will be classified as an early-season success story or not in 2014. With a week's worth of games in the books, here's a look at the Mets' keys to early success.
To say that David Wright is the ultimate key to the Mets' success in 2014 is an understatement the size of Queens. Wright is the captain of this team and the pinnacle star of the franchise.
Over the last couple of seasons, Wright has had to battle some injuries and spells of poor play, but he still remains one of the game's all-around great players.
And, even with the offseason acquisition of slugger Curtis Granderson, Wright is the main offensive force in manager Terry Collins' lineup. For the Mets to have any taste of success this season, they are going to need Wright to stay healthy and put up numbers akin to his 30+ home run days of 2007-2008.
With Matt Harvey most certainly staying on the shelf for the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Mets and their fans will be looking to fellow right-hander Zack Wheeler to show the greatness he has been destined for. Wheeler, a former first-round pick, struggled after a mid-season call-up in 2013.
In 17 appearances last year, Wheeler posted a 7-5 record with a 3.42 ERA. And while he recorded 84 strikeouts in an even 100 innings pitched, he also walked 46 batters and surrendered over eight hits per nine innings.
But, if Wheeler can get off to a decent start this year—he pitched well in his season debut on Thursday—the Mets should find themselves on the right side of the line in terms of success.
In 2013, the New York Mets had a tough year out of the bullpen. Their collective 3.98 ERA was good for the fourth-highest in the National League, and they only recorded a total of 40 saves, fewer than six closers had by themselves.
Injuries to closer Bobby Parnell, coupled with a failed attempt at resurrecting Brandon Lyon's career, forced the Mets to dig deep into their bullpen reserves to find the likes of Greg Burke and Scott Atchison. And despite a rather surprisingly effective campaign from 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, the Mets' bullpen was in shambles.
So, this past offseason, the Mets brought in former Tigers closer Jose Valverde on a minor-league deal, in hopes that he could add some veteran depth to an otherwise young and questionable bullpen.
However, "Papa Grande" is coming off of a down year and is trending in the wrong direction. In fact, the 36-year-old was released in 2013 by Detroit.
Yet, he may be asked to anchor this bullpen in 2014. And now that Parnell is sidelined yet again, Valverde appears to be the first in line to claim the closer role for the time being. He had a solid appearance on Opening Day, where he struck out three of the four batters he faced. Additionally, he recorded his first save of the season on Friday.
If Valverde can keep this momentum and restore his career back to where it was in Detroit, the Mets may have found themselves the bargain of the offseason.
It's only the first week of the season, but already the Mets have been bitten by the injury bug in 2014. Staff ace Jonathan Niese was just activated from the disabled list, and though he pitched well on Sunday, he has a lot catching up to do (having made only two appearances in Spring Training).
But the team just lost closer Bobby Parnell with a partially torn MCL in his right elbow, and he will undergo Tommy John surgery. He will be lost for the rest of the season.
After appearing in only one inning in the outfield so far in 2014, offseason acquisition Chris Young is now sitting on the disabled list with a strained right quad muscle. The Mets are relying on Young to be a steady presence in an outfield that is in need of a major improvement from 2013.
And of course, their star young right-hander Matt Harvey will miss the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the fall.
Injuries are, of course, a major part of the game. But the Mets seem to have a tough time rebounding from the numerous ailments that overrun the clubhouse. Hopefully for Terry Collins and the Mets' brass, the club has enough depth to keep them afloat while some of the mainstays deal with their injuries.