Though his 127 strikeouts were modest compared to other "number 1" pitchers, Glavine started 36 games last year, tops in the NL, and was good for 7 strong innings before giving it up to the bullpen. In the field, Glavine has compiled a perfect fielding percentage in each of the last three seasons. Teammates and coaches simply know what to expect from this two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Glavine appeared to breakdown at different points during last season. He was 11-4 with a 2.27 ERA prior to the All Star break, winning 11 of his first 13 decisions, but was 7-7 with a 3.93 ERA after the All Star break. Thought of as a lock to reach the 20 win plateau, Glavine clearly lost something as the season progressed. Was it his ball placement? His velocity? His age? Though it was hardly a Pedro Astacio-type meltdown, it must have concerned Manager Bobby Cox and Pitching Coach Leo Mazzone.
The Year That Will Be
1- Will Glavine get the same respect he received when he was with the Braves?
Glavine is best know for his ball placement. He hits the corners and normally gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to high/low calls. It is remains to be seen whether the change in uniform will impact the calls he gets from umpires.
2- Will age be a factor?
His post-All Star break swoon in 2002 has to cause concern for Mets fans. Though we don't know for sure what caused such a reversal in virtually every statistical category, age seems to be the logical rationale. While Glavine's September numbers last year were not terrible, his post-season was atrocious, giving up 13 runs and 17 hits in only 7.2 innings of work. For the Mets to make the post-season, Glavine must be in top form at the beginning and end of the season.
3- Will he continue his streak of 11 consecutive post-seasons?
This is the all-important question for Mets fans. Both Glavine and former Yankee Mike Stanton have considerably long post-season streaks. Will those streaks be continued or be snapped?
Where Does Glavine Fit in the Rotation?
What a silly question! Glavine is the clear-cut "number 1" pitcher on this team. He shows up every fifth day and performs at the highest level. In fact, Art Howe has already designated Glavine as the Mets opening day starter against the Chicago Cubs. Glavine should ease much of the pressure that has been placed on Al Leiter over the past few years.
Is There Any Room for Improvement?
Who am I to comment on what a perennial All Star and future Hall of Famer can improve on? If there is anything, it's that he maintains his strength and conditioning throughout the season so that fatigue is not a factor and he can be consistent for the entire 2003 season.
What Can We Expect?
When compared to last year's number 1 starter, Al Leiter, Glavine is a significant upgrade. Glavine posted five more wins than Leiter and finished with an advantage in most statistical categories. Glavine can be counted on for 18-20 wins, 220 plus innings, solid hit and walk totals, and a top-five ERA. He hits the corners, makes few mistakes and has earned the respect of his fellow teammates. He is certainly a winner and a great player to have in the clubhouse.
Glavine In Perspective
Can you recall a character in a movie or television show that reverts to the good side after years of lies, deceit or destruction? Think about it, you have been bred to hate this character for his evil and manipulative ways and for everything else that he/she has done to you and to your favorite characters. Could you imagine rooting or cheering for The Dark Side? For Skeletor? For the Decepticons? For Gargamel? For Bud Selig?
This is what most major sports have become. We are forced to root and cheer for people who just a few months ago were our greatest enemies. All because he changes his jersey? (Note to readers: please see the Seinfeld episode on this notion, it's hysterical!). Like all Mets fans, I will be cheering for Tom Glavine on opening day as if he hadn't beaten the Mets over the past 15 years. The best thing is, I can't wait to cheer him on! Isn't sports great?
Cerrone's Certain Facts
-- Tom Glavine has started at least 30 games per season for seven consecutive seasons; during that time he has had 4 years with an ERA under 3.00, and all but one season with an ERA under 4.00.
-- Talk about consistency, Glavine's career ERA is 3.37; during home games it is 3.33, away 3.40, during the day 3.54, at night 3.30, pitching on grass it is 3.38, on turf 3.32, before the All Star break it is 3.28, after 3.47, at Shea it is 3.07, at Turner Field 3.14.
Matthew M. Cerrone is a MLB research coordinator for NYFansOnly.com
This column is part of a continuing series previewing the 2003 Mets season. Friday will feature Al Leiter.