- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

The Other Guys

The biggest reason for optimism about the 2018 Mets? It’s that Noah Syndergaard [1] and Jacob deGrom [2] could pitch nearly 30% of their innings.

The biggest reason for pessimism? Even in an ideal scenario, more than 70% of their innings will have to be pitched by someone else. Which puts the spotlight squarely on a line of guys led by Steven Matz [3], Matt Harvey [4] and the fifth starter. (At the moment that’s Seth Lugo [5], but check back next week until notified otherwise.)

Syndergaard and deGrom got the campaign off to a rollicking start, but that screeched to a halt [6] soon after Matz took his left arm and its latest repairs to the mound on Sunday afternoon.

It would be unfair to say Matz was bad, but it would be far too generous to say he was good. His fastball was down a tick and lacking command, which left him overly reliant on his curve, a reasonably effective pitch today but one that got overexposed. That was uncertainty enough; throw in C.B. Bucknor calling balls and strikes via Magic-8 Ball and you had a mess. The kindest thing I can say about Bucknor is the eccentricity of his strike zone was impartial: Matz, Luke Weaver [7], Dexter Fowler [8], Paul deJong, Wilmer Flores [9] and Todd Frazier [10] headed the list of players left wondering what, exactly, the lower dimensions of Bucknor’s zone might be on any given pitch.

But look, that’s baseball. Bad umps are gonna bad-ump, and it’s not news that Bucknor is down there with our old friend Angel Hernandez in terms of umpirical competence. And much as I enjoyed three days without evidence to the contrary, the Mets weren’t going to go 162-0.

161-1 would be perfectly acceptable as a consolation prize.

(I’ll give us all a moment.)

161-1 isn’t going to happen either. Which leaves us settling into the season, complete with weirdo Friday off-days and April snowstorms.

This is the delicate part of the new season, the part you remind yourself not to squeeze to hard for fear of crushing it. It’s the time when you can remember every final score, when you’re keenly aware of who’s left to hit the roster (just Harvey and Lugo now), when batting averages and ERAs soar and crash on the basis of a single ball in play, when you spin ridiculous projections out of the thinnest skeins and laugh at yourself and then spin them all over again.

Before we know it things will be different. First the games will become a blur, and then the series and homestands and road trips will follow. Statistics will have been slowed by accumulated weight. We’ll have sufficient data points to elevate our impressions into arguments or maybe even a certainty or two. The roster will ebb and flow — rumor has it there’s a Michael Conforto [11] sighting set for later this week, which means Brandon Nimmo [12] picked a lousy time to get the flu. The disabled list will come into play, hopefully because an injured Met is actually on it instead of being forced to turn a nagging injury into a prolonged absence. Someone will go down and say the right things about what they have to work on. Someone will come up and say the right things about what they’ve been up to. Someone will move on to another team. Someone will arrive from one.

And little by little the season will acquire a story and a shape. A shape that for a while will be as amorphous as a C.B. Bucknor strike zone, but that’s baseball too.