You don’t need me to tell you that pitching is what wins in baseball these days. However, the extent that pitching dominates the game may come as a bit of a surprise. The top-10 pitching staffs in terms of team ERA finished with an average record of 92-70 while the teams at the bottom combined to average a 74-88 record.
The last time that a team won the World Series after finishing above the league average in team ERA was the dreaded 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. With all of that said, the Mets appear to be in a good place going forward.
It’s hard to look past what David Ortiz and the Red Sox did in their comeback last night but prior to the 8th inning, Detroit had held the league’s top scoring offense to one run on three hits over 16 innings. There is premier pitching talent on display everywhere you look in the LCS and six of the eight starting pitchers have been home-grown.
Although the last few years have been a struggle and the present is still full of uncertainty, the Mets have set themselves up to succeed. A rotation of Harvey-Syndergaard-Wheeler-Niese-Gee is destined to succeed in this league and now that the front office has assembled a formidable young staff, the time has come to start surrounding it with the right pieces.
The evaluation process of home-grown position players has yielded discouraging results. If executed properly, 2014 could be looked at as the bridge between the past and the bright future. The front-office has a large enough sample size to judge the players that have contributed to their mediocrity over these past seasons. Sandy Alderson and his staff are experts but it doesn’t take a skilled professional to see that the likes of Lucas Duda, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada will not hold significant roles on a winning team.
The Mets need to create a standard that they can use to fill these vacancies. A winning attitude and an expectation of winning are important characteristics of any good team and something that the Mets lack. Even David Wright is a stranger to winning and held an entirely different role on the last successful Mets teams.
Looking around at the last four teams standing, each has high-end pitching talent and a lineup filled by players who identify with winning. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder had only fleeting memories of success so Dave Dombrowski went out and got veteran Torii Hunter who introduced a new hunger that the talented Tigers roster lacked. Boston rebuilt around their core players by adding Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino into the mix. St. Louis has a young team that only knows how to win and Los Angeles is full of veterans that have paved the way for their pitching staff.
If the Mets are serious about winning then they need to take this time to find their Torii Hunter. In a pitching-driven league, the Mets don’t need to fill all of their voids with sluggers. This team ideally needs one big bat to protect Wright, a catalyst that can get on-base and two veteran role players that that will bring leadership and a will to win.
The best approach may be to roll the dice on Jose Dariel Abreu, sign Shin-Soo Choo and sign or trade for a few intermediate/low-cost veterans along the way. The most important thing is not to sacrifice the teams young pitching in search of a bat.