Here’s how the Mets could outsmart and outpitch the league.

Mets pitchersIt sure feels like Christmas for Mets fans with a deep-pocketed, new owner ready to spend and a capable and familiar President of Baseball Operations ushering in a new front office equipped to recognize and harness the talent this franchise needs to get us back to playing baseball in October.

As much as the off-season has gotten off to a slow start, the Mets have been dominating the hot stove discussions. Nearly every big name free agent or trade candidate has had their name tied to Queens in off-season rumors. So far so good, but the heavy lifting is about to begin.

Preparing this Mets team for 2021 will take more than an aggressive free agency; it will require a well thought out approach that puts us a step ahead of the competition. Just as we’ve watched other teams revolutionize the game with the use of analytics, shifts, launch angle, and more, the Mets have a chance to have a secret winning strategy of their own this coming season.

We all know the Mets need to add a new starting pitcher. But MattyMets is here to argue we need at least two, if not three. Prediction: rotation depth will be the key to the 2021 season for all teams.

As it stands, our rotation is led by the best pitcher in baseball, followed by a solid number two. You could argue that we could add one quality starter and patch together the back end between the untested David Peterson, the enigmatic Steven Matz and the miscast Seth Lugo. MattyMets disagrees.

Even if the upcoming season ends up being 162 games with a familiar set of rules, it will be a wonky season. Here’s why. There will need to be innings limits imposed on every single starting pitcher, or else we’re going to see a rash of elbow injuries like we’ve never seen before.

If you give merit to the Verducci effect, pitchers are far more susceptible to arm injuries when there is a significant increase in innings pitched from one season to the next. Going from one 32-start/200-inning season to the next, a pitcher is prepared. But, going from an injury-shortened (or Covid-shortened) 12-start/70-inning season to a full one leaves a pitcher very vulnerable. The leading 2020 innings eater was Lance Lynn with just 84 IP. Jacob deGrom threw 68, Peterson threw 49.2, Marcus Stroman threw zero innings and it’s not yet clear who will fill out the rotation. This is a problem.

Smart teams will be prepared with deep bullpens featuring a few old-school long reliever/spot starter types (where’s Terry Leach when we need him?). Shrewd GMs will stack their triple A affiliate with veteran arms who can step in as needed. Signing former Phillies pitcher Jerad Eickhoff was a good start. Though he struggled recently, he has a live arm and some solid seasons behind him. He’s still 29 so there’s a chance for a bounce back and he’s worth a look. The Mets should look for a few more guys like that.

The smartest and boldest move of all would be to implement a six-man rotation. This way there are reasonable expectations placed on starters, injury risk is reduced, and there’s a better chance of them having some steam left heading into the post-season, which the Mets plan to attend in 2021.

Rather than putting all their eggs in one basket, like say spending $30mm on Trevor Bauer, the Mets might be better served bringing in two $10-$15 million arms, plus taking a flyer on a few guys coming off down years or injuries. The teams that succeed will be the ones that best prepared for the certain uncertainty of 2021.

How long is the leash for Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom?

Jacob deGromAfter losing yet again last night, falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3, the Mets find themselves once again in last place. After a decent start to the season, they were 15-11 on April 29, the Mets have lost 14 of their last 19 games and are now five games under .500, while occupying the NL East basement all to themselves.

Several factors weigh heavily into the Mets recent funk. Notably, the offense has been wretched and even worse has been the performance of the bullpen. Among the factors hindering the Mets thus far this year, starting pitching has been the least of their problems.

However, that’s not to say that the rotation hasn’t been a problem.

Who knew losing Dillon Gee would be so devastating?

At the same time the Mets shifted Jenrry Mejia to the bullpen and Gee going on the DL on May 14, the team has gone 1-6. We have documented the struggles of Bartolo Colon and Zack Wheeler enough already here. So it begs the question, are Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom ready for prime time?

Collectively, they have made four starts, and while three of those have been quality outings, they still have combined to allow 12 earned runs in 23.1 innings pitched while giving up 20 hits and 11 walks. More alarming is the six home runs they have allowed in those 23.1 innings. Between the high number of walks and home runs, it has been an inauspicious start for Montero and deGrom.

Surely, this is a small sample size and they definitely need more time to mature and grow into their roles. Besides, with Gee set to come back sometime next week, one of them is either being demoted or moved to the bullpen. It was supposed to be deGrom that was pushed to the bullpen, but aside from the home run binge on Wednesday night, he has looked the better of the two. Nevertheless, both have shown some holes in their pitching.

Most rookie pitchers will have their usual set of ups and downs and that’s ok, it’s perfectly natural. But can they be able to keep the Mets afloat while the team continues to flounder?

The Mets are on the brink of breaking down completely, and if they don’t show signs of life soon, the season may collapse from beneath them. It should be interesting to see how the team responds and how long of a leash Montero and deGrom get and what exactly their roles will be going forward. Also of note is, when do the Mets bring up the most-heralded prospect on the farm in Noah Syndergaard and make the rotation even more crowded? The Mets at some point this season will have seven quality starters (excluding Daisuke Matsuzaka and Mejia) for five spots.

Obviously, the Mets need to get back the services of Gee and fast. Maybe it will all be for naught, as the Mets may be headed for another losing season. But it should be interesting to see how long Montero and deGrom will last (not to mentioned how they’ll be used) with the Mets while they are up here.

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Jenrry Mejia’s struggles could lead to promotion of Montero and or deGrom

Jenrry Mejia2Like it or not, Jenrry Mejia may be ticketed for the bullpen after all.

Reports are surfacing that the New York Mets are strongly considering the idea of promoting either Rafael Montero and/or Jacob deGrom and using one of them in the rotation while pushing Mejia to the bullpen and possibly grooming him to be the closer. Then again, maybe Montero or deGrom will be used in the bullpen.

At this moment, it’s a very fluid situation and it’s mostly just speculation about who goes where and when. Make no mistake, though, help is probably on the way.

Maybe Mejia belongs in the closer role. He has been sensational to start games, as the first two times through an order he is masterful. It’s when he gets his pitch count up and deep into games that he breaks down-almost predictably.

Sure, Mejia wasn’t a hit in the bullpen when he first went there in 2010, but that was a foolish plan from the start. For a guy who has been around the block for a few years, maybe this is where Mejia finds his stride.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s still a little too early to dictate if he should head to the bullpen. However, if his late-inning troubles persists, the Mets will be left with little choice. Safe to say, he is skating on this ice.

With the Mets having a deep crop of steady pitching especially with Montero, deGrom and Syndergaard only a call away, perhaps it’s time to kill two birds with one stone and call up either Montero (who is more likely to get the call if they need a new rotation member) or deGrom. This way you still put an elite arm in the rotation and upgrade a huge weakness (fortifying the bullpen) in the process.

With such a deep and talented stable of arms (especially young and tantalizing ones), what exactly do you do? If proponents of Mejia want to keep him in the rotation, what do you decide to do with Las Vegas arms? Because, it’s sounding as if they’re ready and why delay it any longer?

I suppose keeping Mejia in the rotation and having him overcome his struggles could up his trade value, so there is some logic there. Even if the Mets do move Mejia to the bullpen, and call up Montero and put him in the rotation, they still basically have (including Daisuke Matsuzaka) eight pitchers that could be part of this year’s staff and 10 (when you include Matt Harvey and Jeremy Hefner) for next year.

With that glut of pitching, you almost certainly have to be thinking trade at some point.

In the meantime, though, this is move that just may have to happen out of necessity.

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Should Mets try experimenting putting Montero and deGrom in the bullpen?

Rafael MonteroJohn Harper of the Daily News had an interesting proposition for the New York Mets the other day in his column, which you can read here, and that was exploring the idea of putting guys like Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom in the bullpen given the current anemic state of the relief corps.

As it is right now, the Mets are playing with fire every time they rely on the bullpen late in games while leaning on retreads like Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth. (Anyone see how the Mets had to sweat it out last night with an amazing tag at the plate by Travis d’Arnaud?). It’s gotten so bad that the Mets are relying on a veteran, who has been a starter all his career, in Daisuke Matsuzaka to pitch in important innings late.

Maybe the Mets could use an injection of youth in the bullpen after all.

As Harper points out, it’s the same approach that pitching-rich clubs like the Braves and, in particular, the Cardinals have took and maybe the Mets should take a page out of the same book.

Now, no one is saying that Montero and deGrom should be groomed to be future relievers, but if the Braves and Cardinals have told us anything, it is that this experiment works. Just look at what it did for guys like Alex Wood and Kris Medlen (injury notwithstanding) for the Braves and Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, etc. for the Cardinals.

When you’re getting late into games, you want guys who can throw hard and that is where Montero and deGrom can help out. This way, you kill two birds with one stone. First, you have them get acclimated to the majors in relief and use their talents to fortify a major weakness in the process. Then come the next year, you can stretch them out in the spring and have them ready to be part of the staff if you want.

The one person, though, the Mets should avoid in regards to this plan, should be Noah Syndergaard, as Harper also points out. He is certainly an ace in the making and he will no doubt be a part of the rotation for years to come. So, obviously, there is no need to tinker with those plans.

With a bullpen full of veterans on their last leg, well, that certainly doesn’t look like a sustainable plan.  The Mets, for all their warts, are not doing a bad job this year and are keeping their heads above water. If they can strengthen their bullpen this way, it could go a long way in making the team a much stronger unit and make the season an exciting one.

Again, no one is suggesting that all pitchers should be treated this way, as this would only be a one-year experiment. See how it works. Considering how long it took Jenrry Mejia to come back to form after constantly being jettisoned back and forth from the staff to the bullpen, well, it’s natural to be be skeptical.

Simply put, though, if you want to utilize Montero and deGrom in 2014, this may be the only way to go. If the Mets’ starters stay healthy (and you can include Matsuzaka for this exercise) and you want to bring up Syndergaard eventually, too, what role can Montero and deGrom have with the big club this year otherwise?

The intention should be to inject some youth and energy to the relief corps and give the Mets the best bullpen it can possibly assemble. Bring up Vic Black and Jack Leathersich while we’re at it.

You have to admit, it’s a tantalizing idea.

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