The Mets’ rotation has one last trick up their sleeve

If the season ended right now this writer would have accurately picked five out of six division winners. We all had high hopes for the Mets coming into this year. We’ve been dealt a really bad hand in 2017. The 2015 season is starting to look a lot like 2006 and we’re trying to bluff a winning hand out of ace high and not much else.

The big five – or “the five aces” as this stupid writer opined – was supposed to be our foundation for a decade. This was the second coming of the 70’s Orioles and 90’s Braves. We had five young power arms, four of them playoff tested and one was better than the next. Our off-season discussions centered around which one we’d trade for a haul as we couldn’t possibly afford to lock up all five of these potential aces. Now we’re reduced to the big two (assuming Noah Syndergaard comes back strong) plus three guys who can’t stay healthy long enough to establish trade value.

At any given time it seems two or three of the guys are on the disabled list. We’re yet to see the big five pitch even one complete rotation. The one time we had four of them healthy for a long stretch we landed in the World Series. Last season two additional starters emerged in Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to give us rotation depth that was the envy of the league. Sandy Alderson’s phone reportedly rang off the hook with offers last winter. He held firm. Feeling as confident in his starters as this writer and many of you reading this, Alderson let the sturdy veteran Bartolo Colon leave, as well as Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa, two of his best AAA depth options, in a 40-man roster crunch.

We entered spring training with seven healthy quality starters, albeit a few coming off of off-season surgery, and we debated fiercely about whether it made more sense to use Gsellman or Lugo as the long man out of the bullpen. By the end of spring training, Lugo and the eggshell fragile Steven Matz both began  the season on the disabled list, but we didn’t fret. Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey were all lights out in the opening series of April. Zack Wheeler and Gsellman struggled in their starts, but we didn’t worry. This five man rotation would be among the best in baseball and just wait until Matz and Lugo come back!

Then Syndergaard got injured and so did our closer Jeurys Familia. Gsellman continued to struggle and after a good start to the year, Harvey suddenly didn’t look right. deGrom handled ace duties and Wheeler looked good for a stretch. Then he too started to struggle. By the time Matz and Lugo came back things were dire. Our once formidable rotation was being filled out by guys who were not in the off-season plans – AAAA pitcher Rafael Montero, minor leaguer Tyler Pill, cast-offs Tommy Milone and Adam Wilk, and, most recently, straight outta double A Chris Flexen. This motley crew has accounted for 18 starts and counting so far – explanation enough for the team’s disappointing record. Shortly after Lugo and Matz returned, in succession, Harvey, Gsellman, and Wheeler all joined Syndergaard on the crowded disabled list.

For the time being, deGrom continues to be terrific and Matz, while seemingly healthy, doesn’t look right. Lugo has been good but is pitching with a partial UCL tear. Montero, who nearly got traded for next to nothing in the off-season, made his ninth start of the season, nearly twice as many as Syndergaard. The fifth spot in the rotation, currently handled by the wild armed Flexen, should go back to Gsellman pretty soon, but there’s not telling how effective he’ll be as he got consistently hit hard before going down with a hamstring strain. Harvey, Syndergaard, and Wheeler are all expected back before the season is over, but at different times and who knows how cautious the front office will be or how effectively they’ll be able to pitch.

Hopefully, everyone rests up and gets healthy in this winter and steers clear of heavy weight lifting, late night clubs and anything else that might impact their delicate minds and bodies. 2018 will likely be Harvey’s last as a Met. That gives us just one last chance. We could begin April 2018 with five straight wins reeled off by deGrom, Syndergaard, Harvey, Matz and Wheeler.  That’s the dream.


6 comments for “The Mets’ rotation has one last trick up their sleeve

  1. Metsense
    August 4, 2017 at 10:00 am

    It is difficult to project the 2018 rotation until Syndergaard, Harvey, Wheeler and Gsellman get back on the mound in 2017 and show us what they have. The Mets should not assume that they will pitch like their previous selves because that will only open the door to a 2017 repeat. If these pitchers (including Lugo and Matz) can’t pitch effectively (command, distance and velocity) before the end of the season then they should not be counted on in 2018. Afer deGrom, all the candidates have a plus 5.00 ERA except Syndergaard. In the off season the Mets will have the money coming off the books to acquire a solid #3 starter. That would leave 5 starters for two remaining spots with the three losers candidates for the bullpen. 2017 proves that you never have enough pitching.

    • MattyMets
      August 4, 2017 at 11:23 am

      I would argue that finding a reliable, middle of the rotation veteran to eat innings might be the team’s #1 off-season priority. I had my eye on Edinson Volquez but he just went down for TJ surgery. Another option I like to be our new Bartolo is CC Sabathia.

      Most teams are not like the Dodgers where they can afford to pay 10 quality starters, but adding a sturdy veteran and stashing a few guys in AAA should help avoid a repeat of this year.

      • Jimmy P
        August 5, 2017 at 12:46 pm

        But just look at what you wrote. We can all agree that, sure, it would be great to have a reliable veteran who can take the mound every 5th day and keep the Mets in every game. A workhorse. But your #1 target just went down with TJ surgery. You’ve also mentioned CC Sabathia, another aging candidate for injury. Or he might have a brilliant season. It’s impossible to know. So while I can nod when you express the wish, I find it hard to bridge the gap between the wish and the actual guy. I don’t know that I’d make a big investment in an innings-eater. I might bottom-feed more aggressively, seek out more options, without spending too much. If team seeks a sturdy #5, that shouldn’t be too impossible. And yet I still think that it’s not insane to think that maybe Harvey and Wheeler come back healthier and better in 2018.

        The question is: Was the thinking process wrong about building a staff with these talented pitchers? Or did you just get the year wrong?

        I don’t know.

        I do know that I felt this winter and spring that SA didn’t do enough for the other areas of the team. It was too reliant on the starters. We were slow, bad a defense, a good but not great offense, and a very thin bullpen. I want to see the overall roster improved. A guy like Rosario — with speed and defense — helps move us in the right direction. There’s a lot of decisions to be made and a lot of different areas to address.

  2. August 4, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Hopefully Met management has learned that its not always the strongest athletes that perform well. They need to address their strength and conditioning program this off season. Where’s the common sense that you have to throw a baseball 100 mph to be successful?

  3. August 4, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Back in 2014 we were debating if Wheeler went deep enough in games. He had a stretch where he went six or more innings in 11 of 13 starts that year. This year, in his last six starts, he went six innings just once.

    I have no idea what the answer with Wheeler is. Maybe if he went to the pen and threw as hard as he could, he could be a dominant reliever. All I know is that my overwhelming preference right now here in early August is that Wheeler not be in the rotation in April of 2018. Part of me wants him to go to the minors and prove he can pitch deep into games on a regular basis first.

  4. BK
    August 4, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    The only pitchers we can count on going forward are JDG and Thor. Anything we get from the others is gravy. I still think Wheeler will have a career at the back end of a bullpen.

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