The Mets have received strong pitching performances recently. With four of the five starting pitchers you can point to a definite start where they turned things around. For the fifth pitcher, we’ll just pick the start that fits best. Here are their before and after numbers:
|R.A. Dickey||1-5, 5.08||2-2, 2.23|
|Jonathon Niese||2-4, 5.03||3-1, 1.34|
|Mike Pelfrey||1-3, 7.39||2-1, 4.11|
|Chris Capuano||1-1, 8.76||4-5, 3.52|
|Dillon Gee||2-0, 4.72||5-0, 2.59|
There’s no real cutoff point for Pelfrey. His before numbers are his first six starts and his after numbers are his final seven. But included in those final seven are two starts where he gave up 12 ER in 11 IP. Still, his ERA in those seven, including the two bombs, is three full runs below his stinker to open the season.
The overall National League ERA this year is 3.76, down from 4.02 a year ago. Of course, we are now entering the summer months and we should expect the numbers to go up from here to the end of the season. Still, it’s a good number to use right now to judge how the Mets’ pitchers are doing.
Four of the five pitchers are below average and three of them – Dickey, Niese and Gee – significantly. Combine this strong pitching with the Mets offense seemingly delivering 10 or more hits on a nightly basis and it’s easy to understand how the team has gone 9-5 in its last 14 games, including 6-2 in its last eight.
At some point Johan Santana will come back and the question will be: How should the Mets handle their rotation? Of course, this is still a month away and plenty can change between now and then. But assuming that the Mets pitchers continue more or less on their recent path, what should the team do?
The most likely scenario is that Capuano moves to the bullpen. He has experience relieving and would give the team another lefty out of the bullpen. Also, Capuano has generally struggled his third time through the opposing team’s lineup. Finally, the Mets might prefer not to have three lefties in the rotation.
But is Capuano really better suited for the pen than Pelfrey? Even with Capuano’s much-discussed trouble the third time through the order, they have virtually the same number of innings pitched over their last 10 starts, with Pelfrey holding a 62.1 to 61.0 edge. However, Capuano has delivered much better quality in that span, with a 3.54 ERA compared to a 4.33 mark for Pelfrey.
Despite Pelfrey’s attempts to diversify his repertoire, he is still more of a one-pitch guy than Capuano. According to FanGraphs, Pelfrey throws his fastball 65.3 percent of the time and his other four pitches make up the remaining 34.7 percent. Meanwhile, Capuano throws his fastball 58.4 percent of the time while he uses changeup 26.6 and slider 15.0 percent of the time.
Subjectively, Pelfrey feels like a reliever, the type of guy who could add 2-3 miles per hour to his fastball if he didn’t have to pace himself. And with Capuano coming off all of the arm troubles he’s had in the past few years, is it really in his best interest to be pitching multiple times each week? Pelfrey could be in the mix for 7th inning or later duties. Could you really imagine Capuano coming on with the bases loaded and a one-run lead?
Of course, the Mets could go in another direction and look to protect Santana and Capuano by going to a six-man rotation down the stretch. It’s unorthodox but it might be the right thing in this situation. Nobody right now is screaming to be moved out of the rotation and this move babies the pitchers who have had recent arm troubles.
This will be another test for manager Terry Collins, as much as how he handles the lineup once the injured corner infielders return. Generally, Collins has done a good job keeping the Mets afloat under difficult circumstances through the first 65 games of the season. Will he have the necessary creativity and fortitude to make the right calls for the final 65?