You’d think a starting rotation that suffered the loss of Jacob deGrom shortly before the season and then had Taijuan Walker leave his first start early due to injury would be struggling. But, the Mets’ starting rotation has been nothing short of excellent in the first ten games of the season. Overall, the Mets’ pitching staff ranks second in baseball in fWAR and third in baseball in ERA, but if you narrow that down to just the starting rotation, the Mets are atop the leaderboard with a sparkling 1.07 ERA. Tylor Megill in particular has stepped up huge in Jacob deGrom’s stead and David Peterson has shown that he might have a bounce back year. If the Mets rotation can not only stay afloat in deGrom’s absence, but thrive? That’s great news for the team’s success.
The bullpen has been a bit more of a mixed back with Seth Lugo and new acquisition Joely Rodríguez struggling early, but Edwin Díaz has looked strong thus far and Drew Smith and Chasen Shreve have been major pleasant surprises.
It’s been exactly two turns through the starting rotation, so everyone with the exception of Taijuan Walker, who exited his first start early with shoulder bursitis, has had two starts. Walker did look very strong in the two innings he did pitch against the Phillies, however, recording four strikeouts and not allowing any baserunners. David Peterson came into that game in long relief and delivered four scoreless innings of work, protecting the Mets’ early lead. Peterson allowed three hits and two walks and struck out three in the outing. The Mets went on to lose the game due to a bullpen meltdown, but that was no fault of Peterson’s. Peterson also started yesterday’s game and pitched 4 1⁄3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks and striking out four batters. It’s unclear how many more starts Peterson will have to make before Walker returns; Walker should be throwing a rehab outing soon. But, what is clear is that Peterson has likely pitched himself into staying on the roster even after Walker’s return—perhaps as a long man out of the bullpen.
One could argue that Tylor Megill has been the standout performer on the Mets’ entire roster through the first ten games of the 2022 season. Suddenly thrust into the role of Opening Day starter, Megill ramped his velocity up into the high 90s and gave up just three hits to the Nationals on Opening Day over five innings of work. He struck out six and didn’t walk anybody in the Mets victory. Megill followed that performance with 5 1⁄3 scoreless innings against the Phillies on Tuesday and showed that his increased velocity was not a fluke. He was even pumping 92mph changeups into the zone, acting like had been doing it at this level for his whole life. It was easy to feel dismay at the prospect of losing a pitcher as irreplaceable as Jacob deGrom for half a season, but Megill has given a deGromian performance in his first two outings of the season. Obviously there is a lot of season left, but Megill is now 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and earns a no-doubt fireball in the first pitching meter of 2022.
If Megill wasn’t running away with the “biggest pleasant surprise of the first ten games” award, a serious case could be made for Carlos Carrasco, who is a strong runner up in the “pleasant surprise” department thus far. Unfortunately, the two games Carrasco started represent two of the Mets’ three losses, but neither of them were Carrasco’s fault. Carrasco looked shaky in the first inning of his first start against the Nationals, surrendering a two-out solo homer to Nelson Cruz and then a single to Josh Bell and it seemed like the 2021 version of Carlos Carrasco may have remained for this season. However, after that he settled in beautifully and ended up giving up just the one run on those two hits in 5 2⁄3 innings of work. He struck out five and walked none over that span. And the first inning troubles were missing from his second start entirely; he tossed a 1-2-3 first inning with two strikeouts on Saturday. In total he struck out eight and walked two over five scoreless innings of work. Unfortunately Saturday was the one day the Mets offense went to sleep and they were unable to muster any run support for Carrasco, but overall his first two starts have been extremely encouraging.
Similarly, Chris Bassitt has been everything the Mets could have asked for when they acquired him and then some thus far. Like Megill, Bassitt is now 2-0 on the season. Last Saturday, Bassitt tossed six scoreless innings against the Nationals, striking out eight batters and displaying his entire wide-ranging arsenal. He walked just one batter and scattered three hits as the Mets cruised to an easy 5-0 victory. Bassitt also logged a quality start in his second outing, giving up just a solo homer to Daniel Varsho and one other hit over six innings of work. His stuff was not as eye-popping as it was in his first outing and he walked a couple of batters, but he was still very effective, striking out six. And the Mets gave him plenty of run support to work with. Obviously so far the greatest emphasis has been on Megill and how admirably he has filled in for deGrom, but for the Mets to be successful for a couple of months without their ace, they were going to need Bassitt to pitch like an ace and so far, he has done so.
You know it’s been a good first ten days for the Mets rotation when Max Scherzer has had the worst results of them all. But, like Megill and Bassitt, Scherzer is nevertheless 2-0 on the season. At one point, that trio of Mets pitchers were the only three starters in the big leagues with two wins. Particularly in the second of Scherzer’s two starts, he demonstrated why he has been one of the best starting pitchers in the game for so long; he battled even when he didn’t have his best stuff. In the first inning against the Phillies on Wednesday, Scherzer was struggling to find the zone and walked three batters, loading the bases with only one out. But he hunkered down and got out of the inning without allowing a run thanks to a key strikeout of Didi Gregorious. He went on to give up one run on five hits in five innings of work, striking out seven and not walking another batter after the three walks in the first inning. In his Mets debut against his former team, Scherzer gave up three runs in six innings of work, two of which came on a two-run homer by Josh Bell. He struck out six and walked one in the outing. Luckily, the Mets had their hitting shoes on in both games and gave Scherzer ample run support.
None of the Mets’ losses were due to bad performances from the starters, but they have had some poor (and costly) performances from the bullpen over the first ten games. The worst of these came in the series opener against the Phillies in which the Mets blew a 4-0 lead on a five-run inning by the Phillies in the eighth. Joely Rodríguez and Seth Lugo, both of whom have struggled pretty mightily in the early going, were the chief culprits. Tasked with the eighth inning due to the big lefties (Kyle Schwarber, Bryce Harper) in the middle of the Phillies lineup, Rodríguez still had to face the righty J.T. Realmuto situated between them due to the three-batter rule and was burned, giving up a two-run homer. Rodríguez did bounce back to retire Bryce Harper after that, but the damage was underway at that point. Two days later, the Mets nearly coughed up another big lead and Rodríguez played fireman by striking out Schwarber in a big spot to quash a big inning, but then he stayed in to start the next inning and walked two batters that eventually came around to score. Similarly, Rodríguez pitched a scoreless sixth inning in relief of Carrasco on Saturday, but was left in to face the first batter in the seventh, to which he allowed a single. That runner came around to score and Rodríguez took the loss for that outing. So far, Rodríguez has appeared in four games and has only had a clean sheet in one of them—last Saturday’s shutout victory against the Nationals in which Rodríguez tossed 1 1⁄3 scoreless innings.
Lugo let a disastrous eighth inning get worse on Monday by coming in after Rodríguez and walking Nick Castellanos before surrendering back-to-back doubles to Rhys Hoskins and Didi Gregorious, allowing the Phillies to take a 5-4 lead, which they retained to win the game. Lugo was also the one to allow runners he inherited from Rodríguez to score in Saturday’s loss when he gave up a two-run homer to the light-hitting Sergio Alcantara. Lugo has also pitched three scoreless frames this season, however—the eighth inning on Opening Day, the eighth inning the following day, and stopping the bleeding on Wednesday with a 1-2-3 eighth inning in that contest. It is possible that Lugo is suffering from the shortened spring training this season, but he has been inconsistent so far in 2022.
Outside of Rodríguez and Lugo, Sean Reid-Foley has been the other weak point in the bullpen in the early going. One of the final pitchers to make the team out of spring training, Reid-Foley has been mostly reserved for long relief and mop-up duty, but he has not looked good thus far. Reid-Foley began his season with a scoreless ninth inning after the rain delay in relief of Scherzer in the second game of the Nationals series, but things went downhill for him from there. Reid-Foley was the one who kicked off the near-meltdown on Wednesday by hitting a batter with a pitch and then walking a batter, despite having a huge lead. He then gave up a single to load the bases and then was able to induce two groundouts, but each of them scored a run. His next outing came on Friday and it wasn’t any better. He walked two batters with one out and then gave up a run-scoring double and an RBI groundout. Luckily, the Mets had a huge lead and it did not cost them the game, but Reid-Foley is out of options and may be heading for a DFA if his results do not improve.
Even though there have been some disappointments and poor performances in the bullpen in the first ten games of the season, there have also been some really pleasant surprises. Namely, Drew Smith has been excellent. Smith was good in 2021 when healthy, but his season was marred by injury and he has not been healthy for long enough in his big league career to establish a true track record of success. Hopefully 2022 changes that for him. So far, across five appearances, Smith has pitched 5 2⁄3 scoreless innings and racked up two holds. Those 5 2⁄3 innings are the most among Mets relievers so far and the Mets will have to watch his workload to keep him healthy and effective. But, Smith earns himself a fireball for his work so far and will likely move ahead Lugo in the pecking order in high-leverage spots if he continues to pitch this well.
Chasen Shreve has also been a huge pleasant surprise for the Mets so far. Before the Mets acquired Joely Rodríguez, Shreve was one of the only viable lefty options to fill the void left by Aaron Loup. And he has gone from battling in spring just to get a spot on the roster to being one of the Mets’ best relief pitchers so far this season. Shreve pitched two scoreless innings and earned the win in yesterday’s game and struck out the side in relief of Chris Bassitt in Friday’s victory. He also contributed a scoreless inning to Tuesday’s combined shutout of the Phillies. So far, the only mark on his record came in the series final against the Nationals. After recording a key groundout of Juan Soto in relief of Carrasco to finish the sixth inning, Shreve also pitched a scoreless seventh, aided by a caught stealing. But, he was left in for one final batter to start the eighth inning because that batter was left-handed and he gave up a single. That runner would come around to score the tying run. But it’s hard to dock too many points off Shreve’s scorecard for that.
It was Trevor Williams who ended up being the goat for that loss in the series finale in DC, but it was a bit of a hard luck inning for Williams. With the inherited runner from Shreve on first base, Williams gave up a single. Then, the Nationals executed a suicide squeeze to score the tying run, but Pete Alonso did not play the bunt well. With one out, Williams got the double play grounder he needed, but was once again bitten by poor defense from Alonso and the inning did not end. Then, he gave up the go-ahead, seeing-eye RBI single to Cruz that ended up being the death knell for the Mets that day. Williams did not pitch again until a week later in yesterday’s game when he came in the fifth inning in relief of David Peterson with one man on and one out and got out of the inning without allowing that runner to score, despite allowing a single to Ketel Marte.
The early season has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the bullpen’s other Trevor—setup man Trevor May. His first appearance of the season came on Opening Day, when he pitched the sixth inning immediately following Megill’s sparkling 2022 debut. He gave up a solo homer to Juan Soto, but it did not end up biting the Mets and Juan Soto hitting a home run is sort of par for the course. Then, his next outing came in the disastrous series opener against the Phillies. The Mets already had one pitcher depart the game due to injury (Taijuan Walker) and May ended up doing the same. May pitched a scoreless seventh inning, but then was asked to start a second inning of work for the first time in a very long time and his body did not respond well. He walked Alec Bohm and then departed the game with discomfort in his biceps/triceps. Joely Rodríguez came in to replace May and the inning snowballed from there. Luckily, the arm issue for May was minor and did not require a stint on the injured list. May bounced back to pitch a scoreless eighth inning in Saturday’s loss.
Adam Ottavino—the Mets’ major offseason acquisition in the bullpen—also pitched a scoreless inning (the ninth) in Saturday’s loss. Ottavino has been solid so far; he’s had one shaky outing and three good ones. On Opening Day, he pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning with two strikeouts. In last Saturday’s shutout victory, Ottavino recorded the last two outs of the ninth inning after Rodríguez started the inning off by getting Juan Soto to ground out. The only time Ottavino has struggled has been when he entered the game with inherited runners. In Wednesday’s victory, Joely Rodríguez walked two batters to lead off the seventh inning and Ottavino came in and allowed a double and a sacrifice fly to score them both. But, with the Mets having built up a large lead, he escaped the inning with the lead still in tact and the Mets managed to hold on to win.
Closer Edwin Díaz gave up a leadoff home run to Bryce Harper in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game, but it ended up to be meaningless with the cushion the Mets had built up. That is the only run Díaz has given up so far this season. He has appeared in four games, but only one was a save situation. That save came in Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over the Phillies. He gave up two hits in the ninth inning of that game, but struck out three hitters to hold the Phillies scoreless and complete the shutout. Díaz also pitched a scoreless ninth on Opening Day despite the four-run lead and worked around a walk to pitch a scoreless ninth in yesterday’s game with two strikeouts. Díaz missed a few games due to the death of his grandfather, but has looked very good so far this season.