Zack Wheeler’s rough first inning on Friday night continues a trend of the New York Mets starters struggling in the opening frame of games.
On a night where the biggest New York Mets story was Matt Harvey getting designated for assignment, Zack Wheeler did not help himself by allowing five runs in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies. It continued a bad early season trend of Mets starters struggling to get off to great starts.
Heading into Friday night’s action, the Mets starters had a 7.14 ERA in the first inning. That is the second worst of any team in the National League. Their opponents, the Colorado Rockies, had a 7.59 ERA, and 21 of their first 33 games have been played away from Coors Field.
Outside of the two aces in the Mets rotation, the back-end starters have struggled to keep their offense in the game. You can’t win a game early, but you definitely can lose it. If you combine the numbers of Steven Matz, Wheeler, Harvey, and Jason Vargas, that is an 11.25 ERA (20 earned runs in 16 innings) in the opening inning of games.
Now, it’s not only the runs that are given up, but it’s the number of baseballs that are leaving the yard that can be an issue for Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and the pitching staff going forward. The six starters have given up nine home runs, which is tied with the Seattle Mariners for the most in all of baseball.
The nine home runs are more of a concern when you consider that the weather is only going to get warmer from here and April had its fair share of cold weather games.
Back in spring training, the popular word around the rotation was competition and that no one was going to be guaranteed a spot outside of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. Well, with Harvey now out of the picture in Queens, the rotation is basically set and it is not going to change anytime soon.
Since Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman are excelling in the bullpen, the Mets don’t have many other options to turn to if the rotation continues to struggle. That is unless New York wants to turn to Chris Flexen or Corey Oswalt, who are both starting at Triple-A Las Vegas.
While the Mets offense has had its fair share of struggles, this team was ultimately built on its starting pitching and that will be the factor that determines whether or not the team plays postseason baseball. The first inning woes play a large role in why the staff has a combined ERA of 4.24 (12th in the National League).
One month is admittedly a small sample size to go off of. But, at the same time, something has to change for Mets starters in the first inning outside of deGrom (one run) and maybe Syndergaard (one run before Tuesday).
With no competition anymore for starting spots, it is up to the rest of the rotation to get off to better starts and help the offense out. Without it, the team is in big trouble and may have to hurt a strength of the bullpen to help fix it.