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Getting to know Mets pitcher Tommy Milone

You wouldn’t have guessed that Milone would end up pitching for the Mets this year, but that’s happening.

Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins - Game Two Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

When spring training got underway for the Mets back in February, nobody figured that Tommy Milone would ever factor into the team’s plans this year. At the time, the left-handed starting pitcher was with the Brewers after signing a one-year, $1.25 million contract with them back in December. And the Mets’ starting pitching depth chart looked something like this:

  1. Noah Syndergaard
  2. Jacob deGrom
  3. Matt Harvey
  4. Steven Matz
  5. Robert Gsellman
  6. Zack Wheeler
  7. Seth Lugo
  8. Rafael Montero

Thanks to injuries to Syndergaard, Matz, and Lugo and the complete ineffectiveness of Montero, however, the Mets had a need in their rotation a few days ago. That’s when they plucked Milone off waivers from the Brewers shortly after Milwaukee designated him for assignment.

Now 30 years old, Milone was drafted in the tenth round back in 2008 by the Nationals. After working his way through their organization, he got his first stint in the majors with five starts late in the 2011 season. They went well enough, as he didn’t strike out many batters, walked very few, and had a 3.81 ERA. That December, Washington sent him to the A’s as part of the package that netted them Gio Gonzalez.

The following year, Milone made thirty-one starts for the A’s and finished the year with 6.5 strikeouts and 1.7 walks per nine and a 3.74 ERA. Even in the American League, that wasn’t an overwhelmingly good ERA at the time, but it was pretty decent. He threw 190 innings that year, which is still his highest total in a single season.

Milone followed up that season with a similar, albeit slightly less effective, one. He made twenty-six starts and a couple of relief appearances and ended the year with a 4.14 ERA. And after sixteen starts in 2014—during which he had a 3.55 ERA—Oakland traded him to the Twins at the deadline for outfielder Sam Fuld. He only made six appearances for the Twins after that and got rocked to the tune of a 7.06 ERA.

From there, Milone had a decent year for Minnesota with a 3.92 ERA in twenty-four appearances, all but one of which were starts. But that was his most recent good season.

In 2016, Milone had a 5.71 ERA through twelve starts and seven relief outings and spent some time on the disabled list and in the minors along the way. And his numbers with the Brewers this year weren’t pretty, either, as he had a 6.43 ERA in his 21.0 innings there.

In total, Milone has a 4.21 ERA and 4.39 FIP over the course of his major league career. He’s struck out 6.46 batters per nine innings and walked 2.23, and he’s allowed 1.33 home runs per nine. In terms of stuff, he hasn’t changed much over the course of his career aside from the addition of a slider in 2016. Per Brooks Baseball, Milone sports the following pitches, with average velocities from this year in parentheses:

  • four-seam fastball (88.68 MPH)
  • two-seam fastball (87.99 MPH)
  • changeup (81.77 MPH)
  • slider (77.04 MPH)
  • curveball (75.59 MPH)
  • cutter (86.25 MPH)

Those velocities haven’t changed much at all since 2012. And as far as usage goes, the four-seam fastball has led the way every year of his career, though he had used it 58.41 percent of the time with the Brewers, the highest rate at which he’d ever gone to that pitch. After that, in terms of frequency, it’s his changeup, curveball, cutter, slider, and two-seam fastball, with the last three pitches rarely entering the mix. And although he’s left-handed, Milone doesn’t really have significant platoon splits.

So the Mets are getting a pitcher whose best years weren’t outstanding but were serviceable. If Milone can mimic that kind of performance, even if he’s sporting a 4.50-ish ERA, that would give the team more stability in the fifth spot of their rotation than they would have with Montero in it instead. Ideally, some combination of the Mets’ injured pitchers will make it back and bump Milone from the rotation. But for now, he’s better than the alternative, and for a team that’s still very much hoping to contend this year, even a marginal upgrade could be helpful.