The best staff in baseball

It is probably a little premature to start referring to the Mets as having the best pitching staff in baseball but it isn’t that much of a stretch. You hear constantly about how good these young stud pitchers are but until you look at the numbers, it is hard to understand just how good they truly are.

Let’s look at it this way. The Mets on the whole have very good pitching. They are second in baseball with a 3.18 ERA as a team and they lead the majors in quality starts with 78. They have walked the second fewest batters and they have the third best batting average against (BAA). Those numbers are obviously impressive, especially when you consider that New York has pitched the fourth most innings in baseball this season.

Breaking it down even further though, the Mets simply dominate. They rank second in opponent’s OPS and first in opponent’s OBP. On top of that, the Amazins boast the best WHIP in the league and own the third best strikeout to walk ratio. The numbers continue to show that the Mets rival both the Cardinals and the Dodgers for the best staff in baseball.

Matt HarveyIt begins with the elite group of young starters. At the forefront is 25-year old Matt Harvey. He owns a 2.61 ERA and a sub 1 WHIP. Those numbers rank twelfth and eighth respectively among pitchers who have thrown at least 140 innings* to this point. Harvey has been close to unhittable as well, allowing the sixth fewest hit of any starter and posting the tenth best BAA. He is also consistent with a quality start in 77 percent of his appearances, good for ninth in the league.

Jacob DeGromHowever, if Harvey is almost unhittable, Jacob deGrom is definitely unhittable. In only his second major league season, deGrom has become a star. He owns a 2.03 ERA, which ranks second among all pitchers and his 0.89 WHIP places him third. As if those weren’t impressive enough, he also has allowed the fewest hits and is tied for the seventh fewest walks. deGrom’s quality start percentage is even better than Harvey’s at 82 percent. His strikeout to walk ratio sits at eighth overall and he ranks eleventh in strikeouts per nine innings. When players do get a hit on him, they are lucky to get past first as deGrom has allowed the fewest extra base hits this season. Considering that DeGrom ranks third in batting average against and OPS, deGrom’s resume speaks for itself.

Noah_SyndergaardNoah Syndergaard could probably be the number one pitcher in most other team’s lineups with the numbers he has put up this season. On the Mets though, the rookie is playing third fiddle. Depending on the week, it might even be fourth or fifth. Syndergaard has a polished 3.07 ERA in 17 starts this season and an impressive 1.10 WHIP. Considering that he has had 11 quality outings in his 17 appearances, it is fair to say that he has hit the ground running. He compares well to the rest of the league too as his ERA ranks twenty first among starters who have pitched 100 innings and his WHIP is twentieth. Not bad for a player just getting his feet wet. With a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.63 and a strikeouts per nine innings rate better than deGrom, it is easy to see why the Mets are high on this kid.

Even the back end of the rotation is relatively strong for New York with Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese manning those roles. Colon has struggled a bit this season, especially since the All Star break, but Niese has been on fire. In his last five starts, Niese has a sub-three ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. When that is the type of production you are getting from your number four arm, you know you have a really good rotation.

Steven MatzThe crazy thing is that the talent doesn’t stop there. Bartolo Colon will likely find himself being skipped occasionally once Steven Matz returns from the disabled list. The 24-year old Matz made two starts before suffering a lat injury. In those pair of starts, he fanned 14 batters and posted an ERA of 1.32 and a WHIP of 0.88. He also had a .156 BAA. Obviously it is a small sample size but the fact that those starts exist gives the Mets rotation even more potential.

Zack_WheelerThen there is Zack Wheeler. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery at the moment but before that he showed signs of being an ace for New York as well. In 49 starts, he had an ERA of 3.50 and a WHIP of 1.34. His strikeouts per nine innings ratio was also a healthy 8.55. Wheeler will need to be eased back into baseball but once he does, he could be another very talented arm.

That means that the Mets have seven quality starters on their roster at the moment, which is mind boggling. Wheeler was reportedly up for sale at the trade deadline this year and New York will likely move at least one of them this offseason. But the Mets legitimately have an embarrassment of riches. Colon is the old man of the group at 42 but Niese is the next oldest and he is only 28. deGrom is 27 which makes him old on this staff when you consider that Matz is 24 and Harvey and Wheeler are 25. And Syndergaard is only 22.

The Mets have a fantastic young core to build around right now. They desperately need to bring in an extra bat or two during the following offseason. If the Mets manage to do that, they might become the team in New York with legitimate title aspirations.

*All rankings for Harvey and deGrom were of the pool of pitchers who have thrown 140 innings this season.

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2015 New York Mets Predictions

by Brian Mandel

After months of waiting, Opening day or should I say Opening Night has finally arrived. Yesterday ended what was one of the craziest MLB offseason ever with a last minute trade that sent Kimbrel and Upton Jr. to the upstart Padres.

This wild offseason brought parity to a league that last season saw some of the most parity the sport has ever seen. Almost every team has chance to make the playoffs, and for the first time in the Sandy Alderson era, the Mets do too.

Last year the Mets ended off with a 79-83 record in what was thought of as a lost season with the absence of Matt Harvey while he was recovering from Tommy John. However, the team showed improvements throughout the season with players like National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares and the Mets upstart bullpen full of young flamethrowers. Finally, after years of the front office saying next year, it looks like 2015 is the year where the Mets could contend for a playoff spot. Although, some people think the quite offseason will hinder the team this year, the real game changers are the return of Harvey and Wright to all-star form. .

Here are my grades and predictions for the Mets this season:

Starting Rotation: B+
Opening Day:
Bartolo Colon R
Jacob Degrom R
Jon Neise L
Matt Harvey R
Dillon Gee R

The rotation is seen as the Mets strength coming into the season and what could possibly carry them to a wild card berth. Every great Met team was centered around the starting pitching. Unfortunately, the rotation took a big hit with the loss of Zach Wheeler to Tommy John during spring training, but the Mets were able to recover slightly because of their immense pitching depth. The Mets were not able to trade Dillon Gee over the offseason and he was going to be an afterthought in the bullpen, but he was able to regain his rotation spot with the Wheeler injury. Look for Gee to be a veteran presence that will once again rely on off speed pitches. Bartolo Colon will be going into his final year of his contract and will keep his role as the underrated veteran innings eater on the team. Furthermore, deGrom hopes to build off of his rookie campaign. The two biggest question marks are Harvey and Neise. Can Harvey return to all-star form? Can Neise go through a full season healthy? If the team lives up to its potential it could be a top five rotation in the MLB. Also, look for the mid-season call ups of Noah Syndergaard (Thor) and Steven Matz, two guys who could be rotation staples of the future.

Bullpen: B+
Opening Day:
Closer: Jenry Mejia R
Set-Up: Jeurys Familia R
Carlos Torres R
Sean Gilmartin L
Buddy Carlyle R
Jerry Belvins L
Alex Torres L

The Mets bullpen is coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory. They went off the Cardinal’s mold of converting hard throwing starters in the minors into high leverage relief pitchers. Mejia and Familia look like one of the best young one two punches in baseball. Of course the bullpen did not escape Spring Training without and injury. They lost LOOGY Josh Edgin to Tommy John, but Alderson was able to recover with trades for Belivns and Torres. Look for rule 5 draft pick Gilmartin, long man Carlos Torres and minor league signee Carlyle to be solid role players. The biggest X-Factors of the bullpen with be the return of Bobby Parnell and Vic Black, two flamethrowers that can push the bullpen to an elite level.

Lineup: Ranging from C- to B+…let’s go with a B- for now
Opening Day:
Curtis Granderson L
David Wright R
Lucas Duda L
Michael Cuddyer R
Daniel Murphy L
Juan Lagares R
Travis d’Arnaud R
Wilmer Flores R
Pitcher
Why a range? This is the biggest question mark of the whole team. Hopefully, some of the Spring Training hitting and new hitting coach Kevin Long’s philosophy will translate to the regular season. Granderson looks to improve on a shaky first year with the Amazins’. It seems like reuniting him with his old hitting coach allowed him to change his approach using all fields. Coming off his shoulder injury David Wright, the heart and soul of the team, will make or break this line up. Lucas Duda is coming off his first 30 homerun campaign and for the first time will be coming into the season the starting first baseman. If he learns to hit lefties then the Met’s will that much more dangerous. Cuddyer and Murphy are both professional hitters and when healthy should be solid contributors to the lineup.   Defense was never a question for Lagares, but his hitting was. Last season he silenced some doubter by hitting .282. However, he had three separate trips to the DL and has to build off last year improving his OBP. The biggest question marks are d’Arnaud and Flores. We saw d’Arnaud’s potential last year in the second half, but he has to do that over a whole season. Flores’s name has been around for years but he hasn’t proven much in the Show yet. With all of the question marks of injury, down years and break out years the Mets offense can be anything form what have see the past five years to a solid line up from 1-9.

Fielding: B
Opening Day:
C: D’Arnaud
1B: Duda
2B: Murphy
3B: Wright
SS: Flores
LF: Cuddyer
CF: Lagares
RF: Granderson
Bench: Rueben Tejada, John Mayberry Jr., Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Anthony Recker

The Mets defense has anything from Gold Glovers to well below average defenders. Look for Lagares to anchor down center field catching anything that come his way. He is the first outfielder since Andruw Jones to have two years of 28 defensive runs saved in a row. However, Cuddyer and Granderson are both below league average defender, but Lagares should equalize that out. The captain, David Wright, will command the infield playing Gold Glove caliber defense at third. Although everyone thinks Flores cannot play SS, his arm counteracts his range. You will not see him making any web gems, but he makes all of the easy plays. At the keystone, Murphy will have below average defense. Duda will play above average defense at first. Finally, d’Arnaud did lead the league in past balls last year, but he is one of the best pitch framers in the Show. An important thing for team that will rely on their pitching. All in all the positives out way the negatives in the Mets defense and they will have an above average defense.

Manager: C+
Terry Collins

Terry Collins will be on the hot seat this year because this is now the time for the Mets to start winning. He is a fiery manger that will get out and argue with the ump. He also prefers veterans starting over the young players which is counter intuitive for a rebuilding team. Furthermore, his bullpen methods are not very good. He tends to pick one arm every year and burn it out. Many Mets fans want change asking for guys like Wally Backman. I’ll give Terry the benefit of the doubt.

Overall Prediction: 85-77
Like I have said before, the season is on the shoulders of David Wright and Matt Harvey. If they have good seasons, then the Mets can contend for a while card spot. The team will have to rely on the starting rotation and the bullpen. They are in the mold of last year’s Royals with a strong rotation and bullpen and solid starting lineup. Let’s Go Mets.

Top five most successful sports cities

As a continuation from yesterday’s piece, I thought it might be interesting to reflect back on the last 15 years of sports champions. More specifically, I am ranking the top ten sports cities in the US since 2000. This includes the five largest sports leagues in America, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS. The rankings will mainly rely on championships won by a single city but I will also take into account appearances in the finals as well. Let’s see if your city cracked the top five.

#5 Chicago: 3 total titles in 6 total appearances
Chicago actually has fewer titles than San Antonio but gets the nod for the extra finals appearance and diversity across more than one sport. Chicago is home to the two-time finalist Fire of the MLS in 2000 and 2003. The Bears also claim the Windy City as home. Even though this NFL team hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1985, they did make it to 2007 Super Bowl. Despite the Cubs century long struggle to win the World Series, the White Sox claimed a title in 2005. The other two titles came from the NHL side. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013. Chicago has seen championship berths from the spread out across these 15 years. The Bulls, despite all the success in the 90s, have not made it to the finals since the turn of the century.

#4 Miami: 4 total titles in 6 total appearances
Florida’s major city clocks in at number four largely due to the success of the Miami Heat during this decade. The Heat made it to a NBA-record four straight NBA Finals, winning the middle two. The Heat also locked up a championship back in 2006 as well over the Dallas Mavericks. So yes, most of the credit goes to the NBA team but the baseball team based in Miami has a World Series title as well. The Marlins, who back then were only the Florida Marlins but still played in the city, won the 2003 World Series over the New York Yankees. The titles from two different sports gives Miami a boost. Now if only the Dolphins could help the city out. Soccer could be springing up as well soon as David Beckham seeks to set up a MLS expansion team. For now though, Miami is nowhere close to jumping over the top three cities on the list.

#3 Tri-State: 6 total titles in 15 total appearances
This seems like it is cheating a little bit but it is hard to differentiate New York and New Jersey. Despite being called the New York Giants, Jets and Red Bulls, all of these teams play in New Jersey, along with the Devils. Either way, The Giants locked up two Super Bowl titles in 2008 and 2012. The Red Bulls made a Cup run in 2008, falling short to Columbus. The Yankees won two World Series titles in 2000 and 2009, the 2000 one over the cross-town rival Mets. The Yanks also made the 2001 and 2003 Series. On the ice, the Devils have two Stanley Cups from runs in 2000 and 2003 to go along with losses in the 2001 and 2012 final. Even the Nets, who back then played in Jersey, made consecutive title appearances in 2002 and 2003. Worth noting, New Jersey based teams have accounted for 4 titles in 9 appearances while New York teams only have 2 championships in 6 showings. Looks like Jersey is holding up their end of the deal…

#2 Boston: 9 total titles in 18 total appearances
You know a city is dominant when they have more finals appearances than there are years in our criteria. Boston’s 18 championship runs is one less than the number one team on this list. The cities 9 titles are incredible though. The largest contributor has been the Patriots, with Super Bowl victories in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2015 and losses in 2008 and 2012. The Red Sox have held up their end of the bargain as well, delivering 3 World Series titles in 2004, 2007 and 2013. The Celtics and Bruins even locked up a title each in 2008 and 2011 respectively. The little known fact is that Revolution actually have contributed the second most title appearances, with five. The issue is that they have come up short every time in the MLS Final. Still Boston’s titles are very impressive. They just couldn’t edge out number one.

#1 Los Angeles: 14 total titles in 19 total appearances
Wow. 14 titles in 15 years. It’s no wonder stars love going to Los Angeles. With teams in every one of the sports being considered but football, LA probably solid chances of succeeding but still 13 championships in 15 years in unprecedented. The LA Galaxy have brought home 5 MLS Cups in 7 attempts in 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2014. The Lakers have the same numbers with their titles coming in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010. The Kings have been stellar of late, nabbing two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. The Anaheim Ducks grabbed a trophy on the ice in 2007. The Anaheim Angeles added a World Series title in 2002 as well. When one city has three different teams winning titles in a single year (2002), there is really no discussion. This city has truly become Titletown since the year of 2000.

Disagree with the list, tell me who you think should have been included and who should have missed the cut.