Mets have a mediocre rotation, no one notices

Wheeler GeeThe comments sections of articles we post here at Mets360 are generally chock-full of well-thought-out points and counterpoints from our incredibly knowledgeable regulars. It’s not uncommon to see very engaging discussions in these comments, whether between the article writer and a regular or between regulars. One such topic that has come up recently in the comments section pertains to a noted lack of coverage relating to the performance of the starting rotation here, at other Mets blogs, and in the Mets mainstream media outlets. Specifically, they’ve been wondering why there has been so much focus on the shortcomings of the offense and no discussion on how the starting rotation has underperformed. They have an excellent point, and we’re going to dive into it a bit here.

To be clear, we’re discussing the starting pitching. The bullpen, as has been the case in recent years, is a maddening discussion of its own. Besides, the alleged key to the Mets’ future success as a team is supposed to lie in a young, powerful rotation that is supplemented by the offense, right? Honestly, this writer isn’t even sure of what the plan is at this point. Digressions aside, let’s take a look at how the Mets’ starting pitching has performed now that we’re about a third of the way through the season.

The Mets’ rotation is 11th in the National League (NL) with an ERA of 3.83. The starting staff has already had eight members this young season, and clearly some of them have performed better than others. The main culprits here are Rafael Montero (5.40), Jenrry Mejia (5.06), Bartolo Colon (4.73), and Zack Wheeler (4.31). When we consider the park-adjusted ERA-, the rotation is even worse. They’re 13th in the NL at 111 (where 100 is league average and lower than 100 is better). When we examine individual pitchers, the same quartet of culprits jumps out at us.

The rotation has a collective WHIP of 1.28 (8th in the NL), a FIP- (also park adjusted and lower is better) of 112 (12th), a K/9 of 7.54 (8th), and a BB/9 of 3.04 (12th). That BB/9 is a huge problem for this team, especially for the younger pitchers. The table below breaks down the aforementioned statistics for each pitcher that has started a game for the Mets this year, ordered by number of innings pitched, and also includes H/9 and BABIP.*

Bartolo Colon 10 64.2 4.73 7.24 0.97 10.58 137 103 1.28 .322
Zack Wheeler 11 62.2 4.31 8.90 3.88 9.05 125 98 1.44 .328
Jon Niese 10 62.1 2.74 6.50 2.74 7.80 80 94 1.17 .267
Dillon Gee 8 52.2 2.73 5.64 2.56 7.01 79 120 1.06 .226
Jenrry Mejia 7 37.1 5.06 9.16 4.82 9.40 147 128 1.58 .324
Jacob deGrom 4 26 2.42 8.65 4.15 5.54 70 128 1.08 .203
Rafael Montero 4 20 5.40 7.65 4.95 9.45 156 178 1.60 .271
Daisuke Matsuzaka 1 6 3.00 9.00 1.50 4.50 87 56 0.67 .188

Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee, the two Mets-veterans in the rotation, have been pretty good this year. They’re both doing it with fairly low BABIP against, though, which may or may not regress to league average as the year progresses. Their WHIP are fairly solid, though Gee’s park-adjusted FIP- is a concern. Wheeler, Mejia, Montero, and Jacob deGrom have clearly been walking too many hitters. Though deGrom has limited the damage by not allowing as many hits per 9 innings, like Gee we can see from his FIP- and BABIP that he’s been the beneficiary of defense and some luck. Montero’s and Mejia’s ERA-, FIP-, and WHIP are just astronomical. It’s no wonder Montero was shipped back to Las Vegas and Mejia was moved to the bullpen (though I was against the Mejia move).

All of this is to say that the Mets’ starting rotation has been pretty mediocre-to-bad so far this season. We definitely have to take into account the fact that Montero and deGrom are rookies, Wheeler is only in his second year, and Mejia, though seemingly around forever, hasn’t had much time in a steady starting pitcher role in the majors. This is not an excuse for poor performance but a reason to not jump the gun and deem the team’s rotation an abject failure. The potential is still there, and with top prospect Noah Syndergaard waiting in AAA for a mid-season promotion and Matt Harvey back in the rotation next year, the future is still bright.

Unfortunately, that means we’re still talking about potential and not results in 2014. It’s a trudge towards (hopefully) success that has taken longer than Mets fans (and probably the front office) had hoped. Fans are understandably running out of patience.

The key thing to remember here is that potential. Despite the mediocre results so far, the sky is still the limit for the future of the Mets’ rotation. The same can’t be said for the lineup. The rotation has included young players with upside and reason to expect/hope for improvement going forward. The lineup is full of mediocre players with unsurprisingly mediocre results and no one in the minors that is expected to change that any time soon.

So yes, we’re not talking about pitching because, as a collective, it seems as though we’re not all that concerned about it. In fact, there is still a lot of excitement about the potentially dominating rotation that may be in the Mets’ future. Perhaps ignoring the warning signs is unwise at this juncture, but what else do this team and its fans have to hang their hat on moving forward?

*Statistics are as of games completed through 5/31/14

26 comments for “Mets have a mediocre rotation, no one notices

  1. Larry Love
    June 1, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Jonathan niese and Gee are good when healthy Wheeler work in process. Degroom looks like the real thing and Montero. Colon if he pitches like last year starting in June should be solid 5 th starter now they have legitimate closer. Only 2 games under 500 June 1. Only 4 games out of first. Still hope if Duda starts hitting and Granderson and young can get over 200.

  2. eraff
    June 1, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Here’s a different view—Note the Quality Starts…. Near the top of the league:

    None of these stats stand alone…. the “averages” tend to be skewed by outliers…bad games. The quality start stat provides a different view—The starting staff is keeping the team in a lot of games. They’re ties for 3rd most Quality starts among all MLB teams—that’s an astounding stat.

    I’m not in love wit this stat (or any stat)—but I think it’s pretty revealing…and very positive

    • Name
      June 1, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      The main gripe with the QS stat is that 6 IP/3ER is considered quality. Yes, that technically keeps your team in the game and a shot at a chance to win, but that’s a 4.50 ERA. A guy with a 4.50 ERA in the long run is a 4th/5th starter and not what should be considered quality. I counted 8 such instances for the Mets this year.

      My change for the stat would any outing of 6+ innings and < 4 ERA

      I'd also like to see an extension that i would call Dominant Start (DS), which would encompass an outing of 7+ innings and < 3 ERA. These are games you expect to win the vast majority of times. The Mets have only 9 of these. Meanwhile, Julio Teheran has 7 all by himself.

      • jcb
        June 1, 2014 at 10:29 pm

        The Mets have had 36 quality starts this year and only 7 were the 6/3 kind. So, that’s about 20%.

        People act like the majority are 6/3 when it’s nowhere close to that.

        • Name
          June 1, 2014 at 11:39 pm

          I don’t have time to go through every list, but I think the 20% number for the Mets is probably on the high end. I went through the Marlins and they only have 1.

          So the Mets have 36 QS and the Marlins have 30 QS. If you take out the 6/3 outings, Mets have 28 and Marlins have 29.

          So taking out 6/3 is significant and would explain why the Marlins are doing better than the Mets.

    • June 3, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      I’m not the biggest fan of the quality start, and Name does a good job of explaining part of the shortfall below. It’s essentially akin to judging a pitcher based on ERA (since it does not take into account literally anything else but IP and ERs). It has it’s place, but is severely lacking. From a Joe Posnanski article on the subject:

      “In July 2000, Mark Mulder went 6 2/3 innings, gave up 15 hits and nine runs — but only two were earned and so that was a classified as a quality start.”

      But again, it has it’s place but I wouldn’t judge a rotation on it alone.

  3. eraff
    June 1, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    btw—they also have 10 Blown saves!!!!

    I’ll debate the “Save” stat all day—-but I concede it means “something”. …and The Blown Save—– well, that’s a pretty definitive Stat—a “better ” stat than the Save Stat itself.

    Despite the Lineup holes…. all of those blown save considered alongside the Quality Starts paints an interesting picture of what’s ahead. You hope that the Quality Starts will continue…and the Blown Saves will fade.

  4. Jim OMalley
    June 1, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Mejia’s back to back meltdowns didn’t help the starting pitching numbers. Not sure how many runners scored off relievers at the expense of the starters too but I’m sure those are skewing the numbers.

  5. Name
    June 1, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Thank you Rob for taking up my cause! Hopefully main stream media will take notice, and if not, at least you’ve opened the eyes of the readers here.

    I think most if not all fans would have agreed at the beginning of the season that in order to contend or succeed this year, it would have to be with our young pitching and that this would be a pitching-oriented team. So why is all the negativity put on the offense when it was never designed to be our strength? Meanwhile, the thing that was supposed to be our strength hasn’t even been average yet.

    I think this sums it up. “Unfortunately, that means we’re still talking about potential and not results in 2014”

    • June 3, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Yeah, I was actually pretty surprised to see the peripherals on these guys. It’s still only a third of the season, so good chance it all evens out in the end.

  6. meticated
    June 1, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    It’s the Draft …June has arrived…Our middle lineup can’t crack .200 or hit double digit HRS. ..The catcher is debatable as a slugger…we blatantly lack simple fundamentals. ..baserunning. ..bunting…even fielding infield flies…turning get the double play is a comedy…Risp is a disaster zone. ..and Abreu is our strongest offensive threat. ..Thank god our shortstop is a monster and our leadoff hitter rakes…Oprah buy us please now

    • June 3, 2014 at 12:28 am

      I’ll take Bloomberg. Oprah’s too soft and Bloomberg has billions to spare.

  7. June 1, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Unless the Mets can solve their bull pen issues(and that includes closer) there is no point in hyping up the future all-stars coming aboard. Teams will simply take more pitches and work towards that magical 100 pitch count and then comes disaster. Though the kids say the right thing when the bull pen blows game after game you have got to believe it’s eating away inside of them.It’s time for SA and the Wilpons to ride off into the sunset and allow this team to truly have a future.

  8. DeGriff
    June 2, 2014 at 11:48 am

    What?! I couldn’t disagree with this article more.

    First of all, there are 5 starts by Colon and Mejia in which they combined for a 12.85 ERA. Mejia is out of the rotation and almost certain to never return. Not sure what to say about Mr. Colon other than he is good most of the time, and occassionally, he is horrible.

    Gee and Niese, two guys projected in the mid to back end of our future rotation, have been awesome with 2.7 ERAs.

    DeGrom, who’s numbers over 7 starts in AAA this year (4-0, 2.58 ERA) give reason to believe his MLB campaign isn’t an aberration, looks like Bronson Arroyo 2.0.

    Wheeler has been the only genuine disappointment.

    Nonetheless, 3rd highest in the MLB in QS without our ace, with Wheeler struggling, and with our top pitching prospect still in the minors… I’m happy and optimistic. If we had a mediocre pitching staff we would be more than 2 games under .500.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • Name
      June 2, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      If you took out every team’s 5 worst starts as a SP, the rankings would likely look nearly identical so that argument is moot.

      The point of the article,which the author stressed, was to evaluate the performance of the SP up to date, which has been bad. As in, we’re looking at the past rather than the future. The author makes the point that the talent and potential is still sky-high and there is reason for optimism.

      • eraff
        June 2, 2014 at 2:25 pm

        Nonsense—-the pitching has been generally Good…very competitive. “Averages are interesting”—- I’m interested in Starting Pitching that eats some innings and keeps us in Games. They’ve generally done that….and they’ve (to my surprise—Check the Stats that I provided) much more frequently than most staffs! They are also in the upper third for IP/Start.

        • Name
          June 2, 2014 at 3:36 pm

          The Mets are only doing well in QS because they have 8 outings of 6 IP/3ER starts, which is likely on the high end. That’s a 4.50 ERA and can hardly be considered quality. If the SP gave you 6/3 every single time, you would have 162 QS, but rank dead last in SP ERA.

          Also, the Mets get to play half their games at the uber pitching friendly Citi Field. As Rob points out, when you adjust for park factors, the SP is in the bottom 5.

          It’s also important to note that we are comparing the Mets to other team’s SP; not compared to our offense, or some arbitrary standard such as whether they “keep us in games”. Unless you are an avid watcher of many other teams and pay attention to their SP and have first hand knowledge, you have to go by what the stats say. And they say the Mets SPs are below average so far.

  9. Patrick Albanesius
    June 2, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    The reason the rotation isn’t getting much flack is because they have been below average, while showing signed of improvement. Meanwhile the offense has been horrid, with four players near the Mendoza line, and a 40 year old as the team’s best hitter. True, our pitching is not great compared to the rest of the league, but it’s not the biggest problem we have. That’s why the rotation is getting a pass.

    • Chris F
      June 2, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      I’m pretty much with you there Patrick. Of all our sins, it’s not the worst.

    • Name
      June 2, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      The other point of the article was the lack of coverage regarding the mediocrity of the SP. Lack of coverage is probably too generous, it’s been more like non-existent coverage. I’d challenge anyone to find me one article where the main point is that the SP hasn’t been very good.

      In that regards, the fans and media get a big fat F for not analyzing the team properly. An analogy would be a Manager and he only looked analyzed the revenues and completely ignored the Expenses. He would fired in an instant.

      I can get why the fans might want to turn a blind eye, but pretty amazed that no one from the media, people who are getting paid to follow and critique the team, are completely missing this.

  10. eraff
    June 2, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    I am amazed by the “lineup” feeling the SP is bad…????

    OK… 50 games in and I believe the SP has been Good—yes, they lack a Hammer (Harvey).

    The offense is woeful, and they have Eleven Blown Saves—– the stats say they’re doing ok with starter Innings pitched—Just over 6…. So…how do you guys explain the fact that the starting Pitchers, in That Environment, have suffered so many blown saves?????

    They are being ***Carried*** by their starters…and it looks promising to continue. Their Starting staff lacks a true ace—a vet hammer who can give you something like a Complete Game….but they are in games now Only because of their starters.

  11. SL
    June 2, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    This is a perfect example of the absurdity of many of the modern “stats”.
    First, FIP is useless, and I mean useless. It violently overvalues strikeouts, or rather strikeout pitchers. Dillon Gee, for example, will never show well in that stat.
    Second, as for the rotation, the biggest culprit in terms of inflating the negative numbers is Colon, not pitching to his career averages. Some regression is expected due to age, but those 2 horrible starts he had last month have damaged his numbers which are now coming back.
    As for Wheeler and Montero, I’d say that we are seeing exactly what you’d expect from young pitchers, particularly in Montero’s case for a young pitcher without dominant “stuff” i.e. 95+ on his 4 seamer. It will be interesting to see if he develops the confidence to let his natural movement get hitters out.

    As I have now said over and over, stats tell you where you’ve been, the job of a scout or a gm is to figure out where you’re going.

    • June 3, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      Seeing the phrase “absurdity of many modern ‘stats'” would have usually been a non-starter for me, but I feel like you’re doing yourself a disservice if you really feel that way. FIP is absolutely not a useless stat. It encompasses the three true outcomes in baseball. I disagree that it “violently overvalues strikeouts.” A pitcher with high strikeouts does a good job of accomplishing one of those true outcomes, but he still has to pitch well outside of them.

      For instance, Mejia was striking out over 9 batters per nine innings, but he was also walking almost 5 per nine. His FIP- stinks.

      Stats can be broken down into “where you’ve been” and predictors of performance. For example, Gee’s FIP and very low BABIP against suggest that his ERA isn’t a true indicator of his performance and that it will likely be much higher at the end of the season.

  12. June 3, 2014 at 12:33 am

    With Harvey out for the year I think everyone’s expectation was lowered to the point of oh,well wait til next year. The FA signings of Granderson and Young took the focus away from the SP.The fact that the two have been fairly inconsistent and sometimes just plain awful have added to the distractions from the SP.

  13. June 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Thanks for reading and all of the comments, everyone! I’ll address some of the comments above.

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