The 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.*
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