New York Mets 2011: Without Johan Santana, Who Will Be No.1 Starter?

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New York Mets 2011: Without Johan Santana, Who Will Be No.1 Starter?
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The 2010 season was just one more in a string of disappointments for the New York Mets. They finished the season 79-83 and 10 games under .500 within their own division.

The Mets have already begun to revamp their ball club, beginning with the front office and the hiring of Sandy Alderson as general manager and culminating with Terry Collins being appointed manager.

Now the Mets can turn their attention to their roster and begin to address the multitude of questions surrounding it.

First is the starting rotation.

The Mets entered the 2010 season with Johan Santana as their No.1 starter and saw Mike Pelfrey collect a 10-2 record over the first three months of the season. Oliver Perez and John Maine returned to their familiar form and struggled mightily before finally and mercifully being put out of their misery.

That opened the door for guys like R.A. Dickey, Hisanori Takahashi and Jonathan Niese to give Mets fans something to cheer about.

Dickey, 36, was a revelation, leading the team with a 2.84 ERA and winning 11 games, and the Mets must be chomping at the bit to get Dickey back on the mound in 2011. With his devastating off-speed pitches and knee-breaking knuckleball, Dickey became the Mets' best pitcher.

Who should be the No.1 starter?

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However, the Mets failed to come to terms with Takahashi so he most likely will not be back in 2011.

Johan Santana also saw his season end with an injury for the third straight season and will reportedly not be ready for spring training or the start of the 2011 season.

So without Santana, who could step in as the No.1 starter for the New York Mets?

The Mets will go forward with Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese, and R.A. Dickey as their starters for next season, which means there are two spots to fill.

Jenry Mejia, 21, projects to be a starting pitcher but was used mainly as a reliever last season, appearing in 33 games but starting only three. He finished the season with a 4.62 ERA in 39 innings. He was knocked around by right handed batters which is alarming as he is a right handed pitcher, but held lefties to a .203 batting average.

With the Mets starting rotation a big question mark, Mejia should certainly get a chance to win a spot during spring training.

Names like Dillon Gee and Pat Misch are also likely to be discussed in musings about the 2011 Mets pitching rotation, but certainly neither is capable of a No.1 role.

If we base our choice on experience, the most likely No.1 starter would be Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey was genius for the first half of the season, but posted a 10.02 ERA in the month of July. It was an up-and-down season for Pelfrey to say the least, but at the moment, he may be the only one capable of stepping into the No.1 spot.

However, I don't see why R.A. Dickey couldn't do the job. It's a long shot and probably more than unlikely, but think about it. 

Dickey threw 174.1 innings last season, including two complete games. As the season went on, Dickey showed an ability to pitch deep into games, averaging 6.6 IP/start. If the Mets bullpen is going to be as weak as it's shaping up to be, it would be nice to get some length out of your top-of-the-rotation guy. Over an entire season, Dickey should have no problem throwing 200 innings or more.

He held opponents to a .251 BAA, compared to Pelfrey's .275 BAA, and seemed like a magician with runners on, finding a way out of big jam after big jam.

Down the line, Pelfrey and Dickey have very similar stats so it's hard to really label one as better than the other. Obviously Pelfrey has been a starter for the Mets longer so he should be given the No.1 job as the incumbent, but Dickey could give him a run for his money.

Also, the two work well as a one-two punch. Giving opponents a look at the slow, off-speed pitches from Dickey in one start will make Pelfrey's fastball seem like 100 mph in the next

The Mets have plenty of questions to answer between now and April, and we'll see plenty of fresh young faces on the field as the Mets look to be almost nonexistent in free agency. But if they need to look in house for a No.1 starter until Johan Santana is ready to go, which might not be until May or June, R,A, Dickey could be the surprising go-to guy.

 

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