Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, and Chris Bassitt all had at least one thing in common this season: they each blew some of the Mets’ biggest games in at least half a decade. Scherzer and Bassitt even did it twice in a row. It was about as disastrous an outcome as could be expected for a season in which the Mets won over 100 games for only the fourth time in their history.
After Scherzer’s second implosion against San Diego in the Wild Card series, and even following the stay of execution provided by deGrom in between, we all kind of knew before the final game that Bassitt was going to blow it didn’t we? As the season circled down the drain while the Padres knocked Bassitt out after four innings, it all felt oddly inevitable.
This led me to wonder if the feeling of foreboding before the big game was standard Mets fandom pessimism, or if the thought that Bassitt wouldn’t perform well against a quality team was based on an underlying understanding of his track record without actually having referenced relevant statistics beforehand. Did Bassitt actually perform well against quality opponents during the season? Quality, in this case, is defined as opponents with a record at or above .500.
As it turns out, we can answer this question rather easily via Baseball Reference’s player splits statistics. Below you’ll find a table with a succinct summary of how the Mets’ starting pitchers fared against opponents at or above .500 and those below it this season. Please note that the Mets had eleven pitchers start at least one game in 2022, though I’ve limited the information below to only those with a realistic shot at starting the 2023 season as a member of the rotation.
A quick primer on the tOPS+ and sOPS+ stats: tOPS+ is relative to that player’s total OPS+ against them for the season while sOPS+ is relative to the league’s split OPS+. In both cases, a number greater than 100 is worse while below 100 is better.
Logic dictates that pitchers, no matter how generally good they are, would naturally have worse numbers against better teams. This is basically the case across the board in the table above, but some pitchers clearly have more pronounced splits when compared to their own OPS+ and/or compared to the league.
Bassitt and Walker are the biggest culprits in terms of tOPS+, but interestingly Bassitt is still above average against quality teams compared to the league while Walker’s performance matched the eye test. He tended to dominate against weaker opposition while wilting against the league’s best. The numbers for deGrom and Megill are skewed due to small sample sizes with deGrom’s terrible outing in Oakland the biggest culprit for his splits. Scherzer is just an animal all around.
Despite the ups and downs, the Mets’ rotation fWAR of 15.9 was fifth best in the majors. The team is potentially looking at all of Walker, Bassitt, and deGrom becoming free agents, and they have a looming decision on a $14 million club option for Carrasco. That’s three of the team’s top four starters in terms of games started for them in 2022.
Even considering two final performances that will likely place Bassitt on the wrong side of Mets’ history, it would seem to make sense to try and bring him back to fill out a rotation with so many question marks. In contrast, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for the team to pick up that $14 million option on Carrasco if they think they can get a similar performance for less. Walker will be looking for a major payday after essentially resurrecting his career with the team, but the Mets may be better off going with Peterson or Megill to fill that spot.
It’s sure to be an active and fascinating offseason in Queens, but if you were the Mets how would you handle what could effectively be a full rebuild of the rotation?