With the news that Major League Baseball will have a 60-game season, assuming the pandemic doesn’t make that impossible before it even gets underway, let’s start refreshing our memories a bit with a look at the team’s rotation.
Last year, Mets starting pitchers had a 3.84 ERA, which was the seventh-best mark in baseball, from a starting rotation that consisted of Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and the combination of Jason Vargas before he was dealt away and Marcus Stroman after he joined the Mets. In addition to performing well as a group, those pitchers accounted for the vast majority of the rotation’s innings pitched, with the trio of Walker Lockett, Chris Flexen, and Wilmer Font accounting for just 33 of the rotation’s 941.1 innings—just 3.5 percent.
This year, the rotation still features deGrom, who is coming off back-to-back Cy Young awards, in its top slot. But Wheeler left in free agency over the winter, which feels like years ago now, as he signed with the rival Phillies. Syndergaard had Tommy John surgery right around what would have been the start to the season in a world that wasn’t in the midst of a pandemic. Those two combined for 393 innings pitched, 42 percent of the rotation’s total workload.
Behind deGrom, the Mets still have Stroman and Matz, and they will presumably plan to use both Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha the starting rotation to begin the year—assuming, of course, that none of those pitchers miss time either with a traditional injury of some sort or by contracting COVID-19. While Stroman had a more modest 3.77 ERA and 4.15 FIP with the Mets last year after putting up a 2.96 ERA and 3.51 FIP with the Blue Jays before the trade, he’s put up a low-threes ERA in two of the past three seasons, though his injury-shortened 2018 season saw him post a 5.54 ERA and 3.91 FIP.
Beyond Stroman, things start to get dicey. Matz has been solid but unspectacular over the past two seasons, putting up a 4.21 ERA and 4.60 FIP last year and a 3.97 ERA and 4.62 FIP the year before. Porcello had a 5.52 ERA and 4.76 FIP with the Red Sox last year, and his Cy Young season a few years ago certainly looks like the outlier in his career. And Wacha had a 4.76 ERA and 5.61 FIP last year with the Cardinals and has missed time with injuries in each of the past two seasons.
If the Mets have to fill in for any of those five pitchers, David Peterson, who ranked seventh on our list of the team’s top prospects for 2020, figures to be in the mix to get a shot at the major league level, though with no minor league games happening, it would be a bit of trial by fire for any prospect making a big league debut this year. Chris Flexen is pitching in Korea, but Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt, both of whom have pitched in the big leagues with not-so-great results in recent years, are still around.
Perhaps it won’t matter if the Mets’ rotation isn’t quite a powerhouse. If all five pitchers stay relatively healthy and more or less replicate what they did last year, that’s probably enough for the team to compete. But there’s no doubt that the Porcello-Wacha duo is less inspiring than the Wheeler-Syndergaard duo, and rotation depth still looks thin.