Opening series thoughts: Stars are coming through but Maine struggles

There are still many question marks surrounding the Mets, but the first two games allowed the team to showcase their potential and expose their weaknesses. Every team in the major leagues has questionable parts of their team at this point in the marathon, 162 game season, especially considering the roster changes necessary to maintain a team.

The most important question mark, but not necessarily problem, for the Mets right now seems to be the middle and back end of the starting rotation. Behind staff ace Johan Santana, most of the starters have proven their ability to be effective major league arms but have shown far too much inconsistency.

John Maine struggled to find the strike zone in last night’s extra-inning loss to the Marlins, as he was wildly erratic with his fastball and often failed to surpass 90+ miles per hour on the radar gun. Maine is known for having a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s, but there were several occasions in last night’s game when Maine would leave an 88 miles per hour fastball up in the strike zone. One of those high pitches naturally resulted in a home run when Jorge Cantu ripped a line drive over the left field wall.

Despite Maine’s problems, he hung in the game and lasted five innings. He had dominating statistics at CitiField before his injury last year, so many people are expecting him to put up similar numbers. Putting together the two facts that he is still young and has won 15 games before leads me to believe that Maine will be just fine this year. Most pitchers take a few starts into the regular season to regain a few miles per hour on their fastball and fix their control.

Offensively, the Mets are unbalanced in some aspects but seem to have a strong enough base to stay in the race this year. David Wright and Jason Bay are leading the current offensive attack, at least before Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes return. Bay has hit the ball into the gaps of CitiField already and has tested his waters as far as how many bases he will be able to swipe depending on where the ball lands. David Wright hit a home run in his first at-bat of the season, shutting up many critics who were quick to point out that his home run numbers were sliced in half last year. Jeff Francouer has impressed since coming over from Atlanta, and tentative shortstop Alex Cora hit a triple last night. Despite the solid hitting core in the early half of the lineup, the bottom half will be looking disastrous until Carlos Beltran returns. Catcher Rod Barajas is in his mid-3o’s and had a miserable year at the plate last year, despite some nice power numbers. First baseman Mike Jacobs has been a 30 home run hitter before but will have to prove himself again after a lackluster 2009 campaign. Gary Matthews, Jr. is not the temporary answer in Center field, but manager Jerry Manuel decided that he should get the start last night against the Marlins.

Angel Pagan is a much better overall player right now between the two, and Pagan was playing well before his 2009 season was cut short. Pagan has great speed, can hit the ball well, and can track down a ball in the outfield without much difficulty.

What do I expect out of this team right now? It’s hard to say until things begin to unfold. I’m not sure that you could point your finger on the right or wrong side of the Mets right not considering the potential for the season to flip either way down the road. What I can say is that the Mets’ offense will improve dramatically upon the return of Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Those two players are more important than some may think, and their presence at the plate or on the field will certainly make a difference in the outcome of games this season.

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