The season is less than one week old, but between a winter of discussions, spring training, and a few games, some tentative conclusions can be drawn with respect to baseball’s most beloved team, the New York Mets, and New York’s other team, the New York Yankees.
The Mets pitching will not be as terrible as predicted.
While Mike Pelfrey is far from an ace, he is a mediocre pitcher who has been forced into the number one spot. Despite that fact, he is capable of pitching some outstanding games. He is also capable of being belted around.
R.A. Dickey has finally arrived at the age of 36. There is no reason why his knuckleball can’t remain effective for the next few seasons.
Jon Niese is an adequate left-hander, and there is an excellent chance that pick-ups Chris Young and Chris Capuano will regain form.
The Mets’ bullpen is no bargain, but there is a good chance it could surprise. Manager Terry Collins is flexible enough to allow his starters to go deeper into game in order to minimize overusing the bullpen.
But how good the Mets are is not the key. The division has come back to the Mets.
Almost everyone has conceded the division to the Philadelphia Phillies, but the loss of Chase Utley and Jason Werth has decimated the Phillies’ offense. Jimmy Rollins is not a number three hitter, and neither Ben Francisco nor John Mayberry’s son, John, can come close to replacing Werth.
Yes, the Phillies’ pitching is great, but can Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and the inconsistent Cole Hamels withstand the constant pressure of not having many runs with which to work?
The Atlanta Braves have a good starting corps and a great bullpen, but how effective will Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor be in August and September? Freddie Freeman, Nate McLouth, and even the great Chipper are question marks. Still, they should challenge the Phillies and look in the rear view mirror to see the Mets.
Forget the Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals.
Playing games within the division should help the Mets, and they have a decent chance of winning 81 games, although the belief here is that they will finish with close to 90 wins.
The Yankees are another story. They will go as far as their pitching takes them. They have nothing but question marks and hope after C.C. Sabathia.
A.J. Burnett is coming off a terrible season. It is impossible to know what he will produce, but he is a big question mark.
Phil Hughes who is a power pitcher, had a fast ball that was timed anywhere from 92-95 mph. This spring, it has been measured between 87-89 mph. The Yankees are concerned.
Ivan Nova is inexperienced and Freddie Garcia is a retread who has lost his fastball.
The Yankees’ bullpen may be great, especially with Mariano showing no signs of letting up, but the lack of starting pitchers going deep into games may not allow Mr. Girardi to use his bullpen the way he would like to use it.
The Yankees are an old team. Their experience will serve them well, but they are well-paid and may not be as hungry as the Baltimore Orioles or Toronto Blue Jays, who have moved closed the gap between themselves, the Yankees, and the Boston Red Sox. Forget Tampa Bay.
The Red Sox, the popular pick to win the division, may have real pitching problems after Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. John Lackey, Josh Beckett, and especially Daisuke Matsuzaka have disappointed greatly in the past, as has much maligned close Jon Papelbon.
The Yankees are a better team than the Mets, but based on their respective divisions, it is quite possible that the Mets’ 81+ wins will result in higher finish than the Yankees 87+ wins.