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The Mets’ 2021 rotation could be the team’s best in years

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The best pitcher in baseball headlines the Mets’ stellar rotation in 2021.

Houston Astros v New York Mets Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Mets’ starting rotation has changed quite dramatically over the course of the last few months. By the start of the 2020 season, the group was being held together by Jacob deGrom and a dream. Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha were mid-rotation starters instead of back-end help that they had been signed to be. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman had to be stretched out during the season due to injuries and opt-outs.

Now, the Mets have a rotation worthy of competing with the top dogs. Led as always by the best pitcher in baseball, Jacob deGrom, they have tried and true starters in Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker behind him. And they have David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi as back-end starters with promise, both of whom might not even be in the rotation past June once Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard return. Simply put, the Mets have completely revamped their rotation in just a few short months.

The ace of the Mets’ rotation, deGrom is a two-time Cy Young winner and the premier ace in Major League Baseball. Showing no signs of slowing down—in fact quite the opposite— deGrom has been adding speed as he’s gotten older, with the 32-year-old sitting in the high-90s with his fastball, touching as high as 101 miles per hour. With a career 2.61 ERA, 1.047 WHIP, and 1,359 strikeouts, deGrom has been dominating hitters in baseball for the past six seasons, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be again.

It seems pointless to list all of deGrom’s incredible stats, as Mets fans know them all and have seen them firsthand. If nothing else, know this: Jacob deGrom has been worth 36.1 bWAR in his career, the sixth-highest total in franchise history, trailing Tom Seaver, David Wright, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, and Darryl Strawberry. Every fifth day, Mets fans get to watch franchise history in action.

Stroman returned to the Mets after accepting the qualifying offer this offseason. He missed the 2020 season, at first due to a calf injury, and then he opted out of the season, citing concerns about COVID-19. But now he’s back, and he’s one of the Mets’ top starters, looking to prove himself ahead of free agency this upcoming offseason. Stroman has found himself underrated by Mets fans, as his only showing for the team has been an eleven-game stretch in which he had a 3.77 ERA at the end of the 2019 season. During that time, his strikeout rate went up a bit, but his walk rate and home run rate did, too. In total, he had a 3.22 ERA in 2019, and if he pitches like that this year, he’ll be an essential part of the Mets’ success.

Walker was a late pickup, having signed a few days after pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. He has a history of highs, lows, and injuries, but he’s looking to put all that behind him in his first year with the Mets. Walker has always had a ton of potential but has never quite lived up to it. He has a career 3.84 ERA with 8.2 strikeouts per nine and and a 21.4% strikeout rate with a 108 ERA+. He’s been slightly above average, with his best season coming in Arizona in 2017, with a 3.49 ERA and a very good 135 ERA+. Walker’s worst single season came in 2015, when he had a 4.56 ERA and 84 ERA+ for the Mariners in 29 starts. If he pitches like he did in 2017 or better, that would be a tremendous help to the Mets.

On the back end, Peterson is coming off a good rookie season and is looking to solidify his position in the Mets’ rotation. In 49.2 innings with the Mets last year, he walked 4.35 batters per nine, a significantly higher rate than any stop in his minor league career, but he was good at escaping trouble. If he can remain close his 3.44 ERA and 1.276 WHIP from last year, Peterson should be able to avoid a sophomore slump.

The Mets brought Lucchesi in as pitching depth in a three-way trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Diego Padres, but with Carrasco out for now, he got the nod for a spot in the Mets’ rotation to begin the season. He only pitched 5.2 innings during the shortened 2020 season, but before that he was a regular member of the Padres’ rotation in 2018 and 2019. In total, he has a 4.21 ERA, 95 ERA+, and 3.0 bWAR in his major league career thus far. Lucchesi has significantly worse numbers the third time through the order, which could lead to the Mets using an opener ahead of him or a long reliever behind him on a regular basis. Once either Carrasco or Syndergaard return, he’s likely to be the first pitcher out of the rotation.

In terms of depth, the Mets have a few options. The team added Jordan Yamamoto in a trade with the Miami Marlins, and should another starter get hurt, he’s probably the next man up. After putting up a 4.46 ERA with 9.4 strikeouts per nine and a 96 ERA+ for the Marlins in 2019, Yamamoto struggled mightily in just 11.1 innings of work in 2020. As a result, he has a career 6.20 ERA and 70 ERA+ now. He’s might not be fantastic, but he’s better than pretty much any depth starters the Mets have had to rely on in recent years. Beyond Yamamoto, the team has a few options in the upper minors, including Franklyn Kilome, Sean Reid-Foley, and Corey Oswalt.

The Mets also have two tried and true starters waiting in the wings, ready to jump straight into the rotation once they’re fully healed and ramped up. Carrasco was acquired as part of the Lindor trade, and he’s quietly been one of the better pitchers in baseball during his career. Once he returns from his hamstring injury, he figures to slot in near the top of the Mets’ rotation. As for Syndergaard, he’s looking to come back in early June after having Tommy John surgery shortly after spring training was suspended last year. Over the course of his major league career thus far, he’s been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.

The Mets’ rotation is pretty good as of Opening Day, and it has the potential to be one of the best rotations in baseball once Carrasco and Syndergaard return.