It’s funny; despite all we heard about how great our pitching staff would be, all we’re looking for is improvement.
We saw it with Matt Harvey last night. Harvey pitched well enough if not overpoweringly, but it was an improvement — he looked, at least for brief stretches, like himself. That’s all we need: Harvey as himself. So far, he hasn’t been. Briefly, he was. That’s an improvement.
And then, today, Steven Matz lowered his E.R.A. to 5.40. And for those of you just joining us, that can’t seem like the best of signs. But then you hear that it’s on its way down from 37.20, and figures to continue sinking for the foreseeable future.
And you think, “that’s an improvement.”
I can’t help being reminded of a night, a few years ago, when Eric Young Jr. went three for four, and in doing so, raised his batting average from putrid to a few points higher.
“Eric Young Jr. with the quintessentially Metsian night,” I tweeted. “Headline: ‘Young went 3-4, raising his batting average to .233…’”
That night, for young, was the epitome of the best of the worst of the Mets: okay players on bad teams doing good things and being benevolently mocked and/or lauded for it. Eric Young Jr. was a quintessential Met, as were Jae Seo, Sean Marcum, LaTroy Hawkins, and Juan Centeno (for, of course, throwing out Billy Hamilton, which, if you’re the kind of Mets fan who knows how to tell a quintessential Met from any other, you remember like it was yesterday).
Steven Matz is no quintessential Met. Far from it. He’s just too good.
Even from the beginning, if you were watching as Matz took the mound against the Braves, you knew two things.
1: Matz didn’t have his best stuff, but he was close to it.
2: The Braves had no chance.
Sure, we’re Mets fans, so we assume that something will go wrong, and that Freddie Freeman will burst out of his slump and Daniel Castro was waiting until today to prove that he’s better than Mike Trout, and Jhoulys Chacin will pick today to throw like Tom Seaver.
But come on. They’re a rebuilding team, caught in the midst of an offensive slump, having already given up on the season and looking forward to 2017 in a new ballpark. Essentially, removing the new ballpark from the equation, they’re the Mets of 2013 — on a day that Matt Harvey isn’t on the mound.
They’re facing off against the 2016 Mets, a young, loaded team ready to beat up on whoever we’ve got to. Our offense is better — far, far, far better. And our pitching — it’s not a question. No debate, not even a serious argument from the other side.
They were the Mets of 2013, and their Matt Harvey, if they have one, was not on the mound. We’re the 2016 Mets, and we didn’t need Matt, because he pitched yesterday.
Instead, we’ll throw someone else at you. Someone who may well be better.
Even with his location failing at times, his pitches creeping up with his pitch count, Matz was never really in trouble, even when conventional baseball knowledge said that he was most definitely in trouble. He allowed a run in the third, then ended the threat. He came out after allowing another run in the seventh, and Robles ended the threat.
It was Steven Matz against a bad lineup. It didn’t matter how off he was, or whether he was missing slightly up. He would win.
It’s not exactly an analysis of stunning brilliance, considering the game’s ended and we all know what happened, but it has interesting, and, frankly, exhilarating consequences as we move forward and cycle through aces. DeGrom goes tomorrow: he’s got a season and a half under his belt as an ace already. After deGrom, it’s Thor — we all know what he can do.
And then, after Colón goes out and continues defying the laws of nature, it’s Harvey again, and if any of the improvement I’m pretty certain I saw has continued, he’ll be better than last time. And then the cycle starts again, Matz and deGrom and Thor, a trio that can go up against whatever rock and roll trio you’re partial to, and come out on top every time.
Seriously, think about that: we’ve got a season ahead of us wherein, three out of every five games, we’ll be pretty confident in winning. If Harvey finds himself, and I hope I’m not being too optimistic when I say that I think he will, it’ll be four out of every five. That’s not to even mention Colón’s continued success, or Wheeler’s potential return.
We talked all winter about how great our pitching staff would be, but we never quite got to what that really meant. And now, we’re seeing it. Simply put, we’re seeing exactly what a great pitching staff means.
A great pitching staff means that three or four games out of every five are ours for the taking, ours to lose and our opponents to win. And with our pitching, and the offense we’ve built to back it, we it doesn’t seem like we’ll be giving games up all that often.
But don’t take my word for it; by all means, test the theory for yourself. DeGrom tomorrow. Thor Monday. See a pattern yet?
I do, and it’s a good one.
deGrom back, Harvey improving, Matz scintillating, Thor dominating. That’s four out of every five games.
Need I say more?