New York Mets Getting it Done Without a True Ace


Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

The expectations for the New York Mets 2014 season changed drastically before the 2013 season even completed its track; on August 26, it was announced phenom pitcher Matt Harvey had a partial tear in his UCL and would go on the disabled list.

Then in October, it was announced that Harvey would undergo Tommy John surgery on that elbow and just like that, the 2014 season was written off.

2014 was supposed to be the “next year” Mets’ fans had been waiting for since Tom Glavine allowed 7 runs in the first inning of the last game of the season in 2007, crushing our last real playoff hopes. Once Harvey went down, 2015 became the focus as the projected rotation for next season has been a hot topic of discussion since he went under the knife.

The anticipation is deservedly so, as the Mets have a chance to feature a rotation with names like Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero following up the ace; a rotation that could very well be the best in the league someday.

However, while many haven’t expected much of the Mets, they have quietly won 10 of their last 14 games. Quietly indeed, as the only category the Mets lead the NL in is walks drawn; in fact, they’re in the bottom third of the NL in ERA (10th), hits allowed (11th), earned runs allowed (11th) and home runs allowed (13th). Neither the offense or pitching has been particularly strong but in comparison to past seasons, with these numbers, it’s hard to imagine the team could be 15-11, especially after opening the season getting swept by Washington.

But the point is they are winning, even without a true ace and a lineup that the law of averages say should only get better, which should give Mets fans a reason to be excited. Though this raises the question I want to look at: Who is the ace of the New York Mets?

Bartolo Colon is the first name we can cross off the list. Brought in on a 2 year contract, Colon was signed to sure up the back end of the rotation with a veteran presence. Don’t let the 26 strikeouts to 3 walks fool you, Colon has been hit hard at various points this season, allowing 38 hits in 32 innings. Big Bartolo may be able to lend these young arms some wisdom but he is a long way from his days as an ace (and even further from knowing how to swing a bat) and I think he’ll end up as a trade piece before his contract is up.

Next up is Jenrry Mejia – the latest of the Mets’ young hurlers to make his mark on the majors. At 3-0, he has the best record on the staff but is still way too young to be considered the ace. This kid’s stuff has been lights out for the most part, he leads the Mets’ starters in K/9 (9.8) but he also leads the staff in walks in the fewest amount of innings. He already has swing-and-miss stuff but his command needs work before he can be considered a legit piece, something that can easily be accomplished by season’s end.

This is where it gets tough but I’ll get Zack Wheeler out of the way next. The prized pitcher obtained in return for Carlos Beltran from the Giants a couple years ago was arguably our top pitching prospect at one point. However, he was surpassed by Matt Harvey and his burst onto the scene last season. He was the default number 2 pitching prospect last year which made many assume he would take over the ace slot this season but he hasn’t pitched like one thus far. His strikeout numbers are there and he just finally got his ERA under 4 but like Mejia, he has been struggling with command. There is a lot of pressure on Wheeler, who could end up behind guys like Syndergaard and Montero, and of course Matt Harvey, if he doesn’t continue to show progress.

Choosing from the last two guys, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee is immensely difficult, especially with the season both are having. Let’s break down their stats thus far:

  • Niese (1.0) and Gee (0.7) are No. 1 & 2 of Mets pitchers in WAR, respectively.
  • Gee (6.2) and Niese (7.2) are No. 1 & 2 in hits per 9 innings (of Mets starters).
  • They are the only two Mets starters with an ERA below 3.49 (Niese – 2.20, Gee – 2.88).
  • Nearly an identical percentage of their pitches are strikes (Niese – 64.1%, Gee – 64.9%).
  • Neither has allowed more than 6 hits while neither has pitched less than 5.2 innings in a start.
  • Dillon Gee (.78) has a slightly higher fly ball/ground ball ratio than Jon Niese (.70) but still both are very similar.
  • Both spell their common names in unusual ways.

Seriously though, these guys have put together nearly identical seasons thus far and stepped up in the absence of Harvey and in the case of Gee, made a case that he belongs in the rotation with those young arms for years to come. Picking the better of the two is very difficult but at this point in the season, I’m going to say that Dillon Gee is the ace of this staff.

He isn’t very flashy because he doesn’t light up the radar gun but Dillon Gee has gone unnoticed in keeping this rotation together through injuries to Harvey and Jon Niese. After the All-Star break, he finished his 2013 season on a 6-4 run with a 2.55 ERA and holding opposing batters to just a .240/.276/.376 triple slash (Batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage for reference).

Gee didn’t get off to a very hot start as the Opening Day pitcher this season but his ERA has dropped with each of his last four starts and 2 of the last 3 have seen him deliver at least 7 innings of shutout baseball. Funny I should come back to him, Gee reminds me of the righty Tom Glavine with his ability to locate and keep hitters off balance. He isn’t a strikeout pitcher but he has come into his own with several of his pitches being very effective this year. As far as this season goes, after the first month I’d have to say Dillon Gee has been the No. 1 guy for Terry Collins and his rotation.

I’d love to hear your opinions so vote on the poll and drop some knowledge in the comments below. Thanks for reading, Lets Go Mets!