Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
With the Mets kicking off their spring training schedule on Saturday when they open Grapefruit League play with split squad games against the Marlins and Cardinals, we're about to go from "best shape of his life" stories that often don't matter to game results that never matter.
While it will be fun to see Pete Alonso taking his hacks against another team's pitcher and Jacob deGrom's glare 60 feet, six inches away, it's important to enjoy these games for what they are: fun distractions on the march to the first game that actually matters, when the Mets host the Nationals on Opening Day on March 26 at Citi Field.
Some examples of why these games don't matter...
In 2009, the Mets went 18-15 in spring training before suffering the first of six awful regular seasons. The 1986 Mets were an even .500 in the spring before winning 108 games and the World Series. In 1994, the Mets went 21-13 in Grapefruit League play before going 55-58 in a the strike-shortened regular season.
For a recent non-Mets example, the Marlins went 15-13 in spring training in 2019 before losing 105 games in the regular season.
So while there are those who actually care about spring training streaks and overall records, here's why they don't matter -- whether they're good or bad...
Pitchers are working on things
Aside from the fact that starting pitchers begin the slate of games working just 1.0 inning (or 2.0 at best) before stretching out to roughly 6.0 or 7.0 innings by the time their final start of the spring rolls around, most of them use these games to get their bodies in shape and hone their pitches -- not to compete at anything resembling a regular season level.
Noah Syndergaard might spend one start working on his slider, while Jeurys Familia spends one appearance focused on pounding the lower third of the zone with sinkers and nothing else.
Hitters are working on things
If your spot on the roster is safe -- as is the case for every Mets position player and most of their bench players -- these at-bats are for getting into game shape, adjusting to pitchers who are ahead of you, and honing your approach.
While it will still be exciting if Alonso and Michael Conforto hit back-to-back bombs, no one should read into that -- just like no one should read into it if some of the Mets regulars have terrible/great games or overall bad or great springs.
The lineups leave a lot to be desired, especially on the road
Even if you want to care about how pitchers or hitters look (again, you shouldn't), these games are often played with more than half of the key players missing. When the Mets are on the road, they will often only bring three players who are projected to be regulars. Even when they're home, it will be rare to see a full lineup go out there.
And when the games get into the later innings, the regulars who are in there are subbed out and replaced by bench players, prospects, and minor leaguers who are destined for Triple-A and Double-A.
Meanwhile, in order to get through the spring slate (and especially split squad games), the pitchers who trot out in relief are often not even considerations for the big league roster (let alone regular late-inning guys). And it's those players and pitchers who could decide the final score.
The managers are not managing to win
Luis Rojas will want his players to take these games seriously, but he won't actually be going all-out to win them. Even if he wants to win them, the players on the field in the later innings reveal how much these games matter.
Sure, there will likely be some instances where Rojas will bring in his lefty specialist to face a bunch of left-handed hitters. And he might want to see how Edwin Diaz reacts to a ninth-inning situation. Perhaps Yoenis Cespedes will be called on to pinch-hit in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth.
But as he navigates the Grapefruit League schedule, Rojas will not be managing these games like he will in the regular season. And again, it is only then that results will actually matter.