We all heard it too many times to count over the offseason: If the Mets’ pitchers can stay healthy, 2018 will be something special. The staff has a lot of talent. We know that. The season is three games in, but which of their weapons specifically will be most effective this season? Here’s a look at the best five pitches the team’s hurlers have to offer using PitchF/X data from Baseball Prospectus.
#5 Jerry Blevins’s curveball
The curveball is such a huge part of Blevins’s game. Just over half of his 2017 pitches were curves, and that’s a good thing because it sort of dominates left-handed batters.
Blevins threw 457 curves against lefties in 2017, a mark that led all relievers, so you’d think batters would start to catch on, but they really haven’t. Of the 15 relievers who threw 100+ curveballs against lefties in 2017, Blevins had the second-highest whiff/swing rate at 46.3%, meaning that 46.3% of all swings against the pitch were whiffs. That helps to explain his impressive 31.8% strikeout rate, a mark that was top 25 among relievers in 2017 and best among Mets relievers.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Mickey Callaway hands Blevins the ball more against righties than Terry Collins ever did. But no matter what, we know he can be trusted on the mound against left-handed hitters, and there are some pretty good ones in the National League East.
#4 Jacob deGrom’s fastball
Not many starters get more whiffs on their fastballs than deGrom, whose 28.4% whiff/swing rate is sixth in all of Major League Baseball in the Pitch F/X era. That’s likely a result of two things:
- It’s a fast pitch, with an impressive average velocity of 95.2 mph.
- It features some really nice arm-side run.
Check out the way he locks up Jose Piréla here:
It starts significantly outside and finishes well inside the strike zone. And at 96 mph, there’s very little Piréla can do. His hair may be short now, but with that fastball, deGrom will be no less intimidating.
#3 Noah Syndergaard’s fastball
No starter in modern baseball throws the ball as hard as Noah Syndergaard does. Thor’s average fastball velo of 98.3 mph is the fastest in the Pitch F/X era.
There’s really not much to say other than that. The pitch doesn’t move too much, but so what? When a pitcher throws this fast and isn’t afraid to establish the inside of the plate, there’s no way for a batter to get comfortable. We’ve seen before that Thor is more than willing to throw inside, and now, pitching coach Dave Eiland is instructing such aggressive tactics.
What’s scarier than Syndergaard’s fastball? The fact that it’s arguably not even the best pitch in his repertoire.
#2 Jeurys Familia’s sinker
Remember all those times when Jeurys Familia worked himself into a jam and magically escaped unscathed? Well, there’s a reason for that. Familia’s sinker comes in second on this list.
I truly believe he can return to 2015 form this year with the coaching of Eiland and Callaway, so let’s look at the numbers from that season. His average sinker velocity of 97.8 mph was good for fifth among all relievers, and it was a really tough pitch to hit. That contributed to Familia’s Top 20 finishes in both soft contact percentage and ground ball rate, both of which help to generate double play balls.
Familia has thrown his sinker over 60% of the time in the past three seasons. With an increasingly competent infield behind him this year, it could prove to be even more effective in 2018.
#1 Noah Syndergaard’s slider
This shouldn’t be news to anybody. It’s a beautiful pitch. And most importantly, it gets the job done. Syndergaard’s slider doesn’t feature quite as much movement as some of the game’s best (see Corey Kluber and his absurd 9 inches of horizontal movement), but it doesn’t need to. When Thor threw his slider in 2016, he posted a swinging strike rate of 48.1%, good for the fifth-best mark among starters. Look no further than that to see just how difficult it is to read the pitch.
Oh, and he throws it really, really fast. Its career average velocity of 91.5 mph makes it the fastest recorded slider in the Pitch F/X era, and it’s about 1.4 mph faster than the second-fastest (Stephen Strasburg’s). Data like this is certainly helpful, but sometimes, the eye test is enough.