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Mets: Kingda Ka Pitching

by Jason Radowitz | Posted on Thursday, July 24th, 2014

It wasn’t long ago when the Mets began their regular season with a starting rotation that consisted of Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler and Jenrry Mejia.

It also wasn’t too long ago when the Mets bullpen was absolute trash with Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde used to finish games in the back-end of the ‘pen. Also in the bullpen were guys like Scott Rice, John Lannan, Bobby Parnell (injured very early into the season). Not a single player mentioned in the bullpen is still in there. The only two names that have stayed in the bullpen the entire year are Jeurys  Familia and Carlos Torres.

The loser of Opening Day on March 31st? Jeurys Familia.

The Mets pitching can be compared to Kingda Ka, the fastest and tallest roller coaster in the world. The pitching, like Kingda Ka, began slowly on the ground, but rapidly went uphill, made some twists and turns (transactions), and then quickly came back to the ground with a whole new pitching staff.

I’m not a roller coaster guy. I hate them. Will never ride one. However, people always have mixed feelings when they begin a ride, especially Kingda Ka. Everyone’s nervous that this ride might be too much for them to handle, but when all is said and done, and everyone makes it safely after the ride. The excitement builds up.

The Mets roller coaster ride with their pitching has been one exciting aspect of the Mets. But it received a lot of criticism from their fans and media a couple of months ago.

First, the Mets saw their hopeful future closer Bobby Parnell need Tommy John surgery a week into the season. They watched John Lannan pitch terribly during his lefty specialist assignment. Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde helped you lose all your nails late in the game. Sometimes they even helped you break a hand or a television after their performances. While Scott Rice wasn’t nearly as bad as the rest, he couldn’t the job done either against lefties.

A little over a month into the season, Jenrry Mejia was taken out of the starting rotation to be the closer in the 9th for the Mets. He had always wanted to be a starter, however, he couldn’t finish what he started late in games, ultimately blowing games after losing his command and control. It was ideal for Mejia to try the closer role because he had pitched so well early in games. He just had to accept his role and give it his all. While it took Collins some time to convince Jenrry to pitch in the 9th inning, they were able to persuade the righty that it was the best way to help this team win.

Mejia was inserted as the closer. Right around when Mejia won the closer job, Familia was pitching one-inning gems, keeping the ball down and doing his job perfectly. He fit right in as the set-up man for the Mets. Daisuke Matsuzaka was also in the mix to get one of those roles, however, he was needed for spot starts when he first came up from Triple A.

Carlos Torres was pitching every night because he had been the only reliable bullpen pitcher prior to the 8th inning.

Insert Vic Black, the pitcher the Mets received from their Marlon Byrd trade with the Pirates. He was originally supposed to make the team out of Spring Training, but his control was beyond awful, which sent him off the MLB roster. Later, Vic Black was called up and never looked back. He’s mixed his fastball and curveball so well that hitters are having trouble knowing which one is coming at them. His fastball can easily sit at 97 while his curve can be as low as 75. He’s controlled his pitches more, securing him a spot in the revamped Mets bullpen.

Dana Eveland and Josh Edgin are also in the bullpen as we speak, as they’ve taken over Scott Rice and John Lannan as the lefty specialists. They’ve done above average in their situations, giving the Mets a well rounded bullpen.

But most of the talk before the season was about Matt Harvey missing all of 2014 after his Tommy John surgery. Less talked about pitcher, Jeremy Hefner had the same surgery six weeks before Harvey, and was brought back on a restructured deal.

But even more talked about were prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Syndergaard hasn’t made his debut start just yet, but Montero did.

Montero couldn’t get the job done in the big leagues and was sent back down after a couple of “ok” starts. The Mets were hoping to keep Montero in their rotation for the entire season.

However, with Montero coming up, also came Jacob deGrom, who had pitched just fine in Triple A himself. deGrom was supposed to go to the bullpen when Dillon Gee came back after his injury. But deGrom outperformed Montero. Well, actually, he outperformed the entire Mets starting rotation. deGrom has pitched in just 13 games on the year with a 4-5 record and an era of just over 3. Rookie of the Year talks are heating up, however, deGrom seems to be the forgotten man in those talks.

And it’s understandable since not even the average Mets fan knew who Jacob deGrom was before this season. Montero and Syndergaard were the guys that Mets fans wanted up.

Now Gee is back up and deGrom is still pitching. A couple of nights ago deGrom pitched another gem giving seven innings of one run baseball.

Jon Niese had pitched 21 straight games of allowing less than three runs in a start, which was just broken this week. It was an incredible streak to say the least.

Bartolo Colon took a perfect game into the 7th inning last night after an amazing performance shutting down the Mariners for his 9th win of the season.

Lastly, Zack Wheeler has showed signs throughout the season that he will be something special, as long as he keeps the walks down. Wheeler has pitched incredibly in his last three outings.

The Mets record as a team is 48-53. The pitching has helped the Mets get closer to .500. They’re also still thinking playoffs, even eight games out of the NL East division. Mejia seemed confident when he was talking to the media.

The Mets haven’t seen a consistent pitching staff in a very long time. Who knows if they will actually make the playoffs this year. It’s simple to see that they are headed in the right direction. This pitching staff is stellar. Lethal.

However, with Matt Harvey returning next season and Bartolo Colon under contract through next season for $11M dollars at age 41, I expect Colon to be traded by the deadline, whether they still believe in the playoffs or not. Syndergaard deserves an opportunity soon to show what he’s capable of. He just dominated Tacoma in Triple A in a 4-0 win for Las Vegas. He’s ready to come up to the majors and showcase his arm. He’s pitched in the last two futures games for the Minor League. Mets fans live for the future.

Playoffs are on the way. The pitching is fantastic. The roller coaster ride has some Mets fans about to throw-up. But once the ride is complete, the excitement will rise. Citi Field will light up and the Mets will bring a World Series back to Queens. It’s been long enough.

Even without Harvey, just imagine a pitching staff of Niese, Gee, Wheeler, deGrom and Syndergaard. And people are giving up on this season?

If Colon is traded, the Mets will likely take a bat in return. Wilmer Flores has been called up after Tejada got hit in the head by a 94mph fastball and top catching prospect Kevin Plawecki could be called up pretty soon, along with Matt Reynolds, especially in September. The hitting will come. The pitching is there.

For now, welcome to the MLB’s largest roller coaster.

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