Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez are slated to pitch in the upcoming WBC.  Some people are worried that they will suffer a hangover from pitching in the tournament but I’m hoping they do exactly what they did in 2006.

The two most important pitchers for the Mets this season are Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez.  The team is counting on Santana to be the ace who gives them the edge each time he takes the mound and for Rodriguez to come in and signify to the other team that the game is all but over.

Both of these pitchers are slated to play in the upcoming World Baseball Classic and represent their native country of Venezuela.  There are some doubts if Santana will participate, as he is still not 100 percent after off-season surgery.  But both players hope to pitch for their country in the WBC.

Both Santana and Rodriguez are veterans of the WBC, having appeared in the inaugural 2006 edition.  Santana went 0-2 but with a 2.16 ERA while Rodriguez was unscored upon in three outings.

But as many people might recall, there was an after-effect of pitching in the WBC.  According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the 24 starting pitchers in the 2006 edition began April with a 25-31 record with a 5.53 ERA, which was a half-run higher than the league average.  And Erik Bedard and Gustavo Chacin started off 7-0, so the other 22 pitchers were, well, terrible.

Santana began the 2006 season 0-3 with a 4.81 ERA in his first four games.  Meanwhile, Rodriguez gave up runs in four of his first six outings and started the year with a blown save and a 6.75 ERA.

In a season where most experts predict that the National League East will come down to the wire between the Mets and the Phillies, can the team afford having their two most important pitchers stumbling out of the gate?

It’s a discouraging thing to think about for Mets fans, especially on the heels of losing the division by one game each of the past two seasons.  But there is a silver lining for the team if Santana and Rodriguez duplicate their full 2006 seasons.

Santana had arguably the best year of his career in 2006.  He finished the season at 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA.  Santana won the pitchers’ Triple Crown, as he led the American League with 245 strikeouts.  And to top it all off, he was a unanimous selection for the Cy Young Award.

And Rodriguez rebounded from his rough start to post the lowest ERA of his career, as he checked in with a 1.73 mark.  He led the AL with 47 saves.  Rodriguez had a 12.03 K/9 ratio that year and his 3.45 BB/9 was the lowest mark in that category for his career, with the exception of his debut season when he appeared in just five games.  Rodriguez finished fourth in the Cy Young Award balloting.

Another thing to consider is that Pedro Feliciano also was a participant in the 2006 WBC and will do so again this year.  Perhaps you remember Feliciano’s big year following his appearance in the international tournament.  He went 7-2 with a 2.09 ERA, easily his best season in the majors.

Perhaps the outstanding seasons for Santana, Rodriguez and Feliciano in 2006 after appearing in the WBC were just a coincidence.  But the same could be said for their poor starts, too.  So, before you complain about the team’s best pitchers missing huge chunks of Spring Training to compete in the WBC, look at the whole picture.  It could end up being the best thing that could happen for the Mets.