– The Mets’ revolutionary “only swing at good pitches” racked up pitch counts and limited Atlanta’s starting pitchers to 5, 5, and 4.1 innings in the three games. The Mets got runners on-base (which they did last season) and hit home runs (which they did not). They are not, so far, getting runners on base and then hitting home runs — Duda and Wright’s three bombs were solo shots — but I assume that’s coming at some point. If Wright, Davis and Duda combine for even 60 home runs, the Mets should finish top five in the league in runs scored.
– Bobby Parnell looks reborn. He’s taken his foot off the gas pedal, ditched the 100 MPH four-seamer and slider, and now commands a 93 MPH Greg Maddux two-seamer and a knuckle-curve. Too early to read into the results, but the process looks much improved.
– The bullpen in general looks much improved. The three best relievers from last season (Tim Byrdak, Manny Acosta, and Bobby-Parnell-not-pitching-in-save-situations) now pitch in middle relief, while new guys Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez handle the late innings. It’s an interesting setup: Outside of Francisco, Acosta and Parnell are the top strikeout guys, but they’re not tied to a particular inning. Any time the Mets need a strikeout, those two can be called. Meanwhile, the finesse arms of Rauch and Ramirez can start the seventh and eighth innings with clean slates. Terry Collins has a lot of flexibility with this pen.
– The starting pitching gave three strong starts, and the Mets won three games. It seems as though this is pretty much how this Mets’ season is going to go. No pitcher was totally on his game — Santana pitched four strong then survived the fifth, Dickey battled cold weather and poor knuckleball control, and Niese gave his usual, alternating stretches of dominance and inside-the-park pinball — but each gave enough innings for the Mets’ offense and bullpen to take over. The offense should be good-to-great, so the run prevention, particularly from tonight and tomorrow’s starters, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee, probably determines the Mets’ fate this season.
– Speaking of run prevention, one team-wide negative from the weekend: The fielding. Daniel Murphy blew a double play turn, Lucas Duda dropped one fly ball and didn’t cede to his center fielder on another, Jason Bay took a circuitous routes to fly balls over his head, and David Wright made a couple of iffy throws. So the fielding looks as bad as we were expecting. Tejada looks fine as a shortstop, Davis made a handful of nice scoops on Wright’s throws, and Josh Thole had a good series receiving, blocking pitches and chasing down stray knuckleballs (though his real problem is his holding runners). But everywhere else is a question mark right now, especially with Torres out in center field.
– Two more negatives: It seems as though the Braves have Ike Davis figured out, countering his big, busy swing with breaking stuff. I’m curious to see if the Nationals handle Davis the same way, and if this is the way the NL is going to attack Davis until he adjusts. The other negative is Jason Bay, who just looks plain ol’ done. If Kirk Nieuwenhuis can equal Bay’s offensive production, I doubt the rookie is the one on the bench when Andres Torres returns.
– The Braves’ offense, which scored seven runs on 14 hits in three games over the weekend, looks as if its going to struggle this season. Atlanta needs big seasons out of their 22-year-olds, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, because the team’s three middle-of-the-order hitters are their catcher, an 80-million-year old third baseman made of dust and Cracker Barrel leftovers, and a second baseman who can’t recognize changeups.
– Speaking of negatives around the NL East: On any given day, two of Juan Pierre, Freddy Galvis and Ty Wigginton are starting for the Philadelphia Phillies. On the other hand, on three out of any five given days, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Roy Halladay are on the mound.
– Also, Ozzie Guillen told Time Magazine that he “loves Fidel Castro.” The proverbial “Marlins pitching depth” has since hit the fan.
– The Nationals are shaping up as the anti-Mets: Strong pitching, struggling offense. If the offense scores four runs or more, Washington wins, three runs or fewer and the Nats lose. Bryce Harper has four hits in four Triple-A games so far, playing right field and center. If he’s hitting in Triple-A come end of April/early May and the Nats’ offense is struggling, I think we’re going to see Harper.
– Let’s leave with this: Here’s Lucas Duda’s second home run. Short swing on an inside fastball, and Duda turns the pitch into a line drive into the crowd in the left field corner. I’m thinking the Adam Dunn and Ryan Howard comps are bad, because Duda is never going to strikeout 200 times in a season — between the majors and minors, Duda hasn’t struck out even 130 times in a season. I’ve got a new comparison: This home run, the swing, the landing spot and trajectory, makes me think of a giant Chase Utley: