The Mets front office spent the off-season beefing up their roster. The 2018 team struggled to score runs, so Brodie Van Wagenen brought in more bats. Last year’s team struggled to overcome injuries, so the GM added more depth to the roster. And he bolstered a week bullpen with more quality relievers. However, the rotation was seen as the strength of the team with five proven starters and Van Wagenen was content to go to battle with the five arms in place. You can call his decision not to add more insurance into question, but given the track records of the five starters, it’s hard to argue with his level of confidence in the group.
Led by the reigning Cy Young award winner, backed up by three powerhouse pitchers in their prime and a proven fifth starter, we all expected great things of this rotation and figured the improved offense and bullpen would put this team in the playoff hunt. The bullpen hasn’t been at full strength, but the offense has shown signs that it can sustain effectiveness. The problem no one could have seen coming is that our vaunted rotation has been a major disappointment.
The five mainstays have been reasonably healthy, missing just a few starts collectively, but none have been great. Mets starters have an ugly 4.47 ERA and have averaged under 5.5 innings per start. The former stat puts additional onus on the lineup, while the latter strains and exposes a taxed bullpen. The lineup is starting to look good now that Todd Frazier is hitting and the team has found a way to get Dominic Smith at bats. Reinforcements are coming as Robinson Cano and Jeff McNeil are not expected to miss a lot of time. Eventually, Brandon Nimmo and even Jed Lowrie will join the hit parade. The bullpen will get bolstered by the return of Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson and Luis Avilan who are all nursing minor injuries. But there’s no cavalary coming to bail out the rotation. Even if Van Wagenen shocks us by signing Dallas Keuchel or trading for Mike Minor or other available starter, that’s just one arm.
The hopes of this team and the fate of our season rest on the production of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom. These guys all have great stuff but have all been too hittable. Maybe they’re adjusting to their new catcher. Maybe their pitch selection is off. Maybe they’re tipping pitches. They effectively have two pitching coaches on board to help them sort it out. Matz, Wheeler and Jason Vargas all seem like they’ve turned the corner of late. deGrom and Syndergaard need to follow suit, or this season will very quickly spiral down the drain.