Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Other Pitchers

I guess the 5 stages of grief have, at least for me, come and gone. After Monday's misery, I guess I had kind of gotten over the whole Matt Harvey thing. It happened and we'll move on and move forward, and the Mets will still be here, just without Harvey. There's still a whole other team here and we're still going to root for them.

That team got a bit thinner early in the day on Tuesday when the news came down that both Marlon Byrd and John Buck were dealt to the Pirates. A colleague of mine scoffed at the trade when he heard it was for a High-A ball infielder and player to be named later, but those more logical among us knew it was a deal that had to be done. Yes, it strips the Mets of a pair of popular guys, but let's tell it like it is: Neither of these guys were "career Mets," and it really wasn't likely that either of them were going to be around past this season anyway. You're talking about a 33-year old journeyman Catcher and 36-year old journeyman Outfielder and, yes, both of them had nice seasons, but neither of them could be counted on to duplicate these seasons. Neither of them were going to be a long-term solution and, in particular, John Buck was simply brought in to be a placeholder for Travis d'Arnaud. His hot start was a pleasant surprise and he certainly had a great rapport with the pitchers (Harvey, in particular), but he wants to play every day, and that currently didn't seem likely to happen with d'Arnaud now in the fold (True, he's backing up Paul LoDucu in Pittsburgh, but he runs hot and cold and Buck could well see himself playing a key role with the Pirates). So, these guys are gone, and we hardly knew them, but it's good for them that they managed to parlay strong seasons into being traded right into a pennant race. Go Pirates.

Much like Monday, the Mets still had to go out and play a game, and Tuesday, the results were much better than the night before. This is solely due to the efforts of Jonathon Niese, who, since returning from the DL, has looked every bit like the pitcher we were hoping he'd be at the beginning of the season. Not only did Niese stick it in Philly's ear all night, ending up with a 3-hit CGShO (his second career CGShO), he also provided the lion's share of offensive output, walking and scoring in the 3rd inning (and his running through Tim Teufel's stop sign at 3rd might become one of the more hilarious moments of the season), and later on, whacking a 3-run Double in the 6th inning. In all, Niese was involved in 4 of the 5 Met runs, which on this night was 4 more than he ultimately needed, but then again, the cushion probably allowed him to stay on the mound and finish what he started. Niese was masterful last night, not allowing a walk until the 9th inning, and most importantly boosted the morale of everyone who pays attention to the Mets.

Harvey is probably gone until 2015 (in spite of his optimistic thinking), but there's still other pitchers on the team that can carry the load. Jonathon Niese is front and center among them because he's just about the elder statesman on in the Starting Rotation. He took a major stride forward last year and began to establish himself as one of the better lefties in the league before struggling at the outset this year. But whatever injury woes he had seem to have healed and since that point, he's looked just as good as we hoped he would look, and that's certainly cause for optimism. But he's yet to really put it together over a full season. I know this is what the prevailing thought was on Niese at around this time last year, and the shoulder injury sort of undercut his 2013 season. So now 2014 is really a big season for Niese. The hope (and hope is a word that we've had to throw around an awful lot these past few days) is that he can really put it together over an entire season, and have one of those years where he pitches 200+ innings, wins 15 games and pitches to an ERA in the high 2s or low 3s with a WHIP around 1. It won't make up for the loss of Harvey, but that'll go a long way towards solidifying his status as a top-flight pitcher and keeping him a part of what's shaping up to be a really good starting rotation.

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