Kodai Senga was supposed to start for the Mets Saturday night but instead he was sidelined with a sore right index finger. The Mets were forced to scramble and chose reliever John Curtiss to start the game in Senga’s place. Curtiss hurled a shutout frame and ran his scoreless streak in Grapefruit League play to four innings. While the Mets have given no indication who will claim the final three bullpen spots for the Opening Day roster, it’s looking like Curtiss might have the inside track for one of the openings.

Curtiss joined the Mets last season, as the club gave him a two-year contract despite the fact that he was going to miss all of 2022 while recovering from TJ surgery. Fully healthy now, Curtiss has been absolutely dominating in the small sample of Spring Training appearances. In 4 IP, he has allowed 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB and has 8 Ks.

And as impressive as that line reads, it doesn’t really do justice to how overpowering Curtiss has been this Spring. Here are his pitch-by-pitch logs in his four outings to date:

Ks Ks Ks    
Ball Foul Ball Kl 3U
Ball KL KL Ks  
Kl 53      
Ks Foul 63    
Ball Foul Foul Ks  
Ks Ks Ks    
1B lf        
Ks Kl Kl    
Ball Ks Ks K foul tip  
Ks Ks Ks    
Ks Ks Ks    

In four appearances, Curtiss has thrown 39 pitches and only five of those went for a called ball. That’s an incredible statistic but it might not be the most impressive one we can see in the above chart. Curtiss has induced 18 swings-and-misses. Whiff% is defined as swinging strikes per swing. Curtiss has thrown five balls and has six called strikes so far in his four appearances. That leaves 28 pitches that batters have offered at and they’ve missed 18 times, for a 64.3 Whiff%.

It may be hard to grasp the significance of that number. For context, Edwin Diaz had a 54.7 Whiff% on his slider last year and a 41.2 Whiff% on his fastball.

So, without a doubt, we can’t really compare what Diaz did in a full season versus MLB hitters to what Curtiss has done against the Quad-A hitters in a typical Grapefruit League contest. And it’s only four games. But for a guy who hasn’t pitched since August of 2021, this is beyond good results – it’s virtually impossible for him to have been any better.

Curtiss has essentially been a two-pitch guy in his MLB career, throwing a mid-90s fastball and a slider. Ben Clemens of FanGraphs wrote a nice piece on Curtiss back in June of 2021. In the piece, Clemens detailed how Curtiss made a giant leap forward by throwing his slider for strikes, rather than trying to get hitters to chase the pitch out of the strike zone. Previously, Curtiss had a big problem with walks. In his first three years in the majors, Curtiss had a 4.7 BB/9. But in 2020-21, he cut his walk rate to 1.9 over 69.1 IP before coming down with the UCL tear.

The early Spring Training results show him continuing to pound the strike zone. And in a game where we had Statcast pitch-by-pitch results complete with pitch identification, which we don’t have for every Spring contest, we saw a cutter work its way into Curtiss’ repertoire.

There are many relievers performing well for the Mets so far in Grapefruit League play. Curtiss is one of 13 pitchers in camp for the Mets to have thrown at least 2 IP without allowing a run. Some of those are other relievers ahead of him in the pecking order, like Adam Ottavino and Drew Smith. Others are guys further away, like Nathan Lavender, who aren’t really in the competition for a bullpen spot.

But while others can match his ERA, they can’t touch Curtiss’ WHIP or Whiff%.

So much is made about the nine-digit contracts handed out by Steve Cohen and the Mets this offseason. And while that certainly is a big story, the Mets have flexed their financial muscle in other ways, too. Curtiss was declared a free agent in November of 2021 and did not sign a contract until April of 2022. The other 29 clubs had ample opportunity to sign him but simply chose not to do so. The Mets paid the freight and now seem in line to reap the benefits for their patience and their foresight.

10 comments on “The amazing start of John Curtiss in Grapefruit League action

  • Denis Engel

    Signing JC while he was injured might have been the smartest move of the Eppler Era. Curtiss is a top flight bullpen arm. He’s young enough to hold onto for several more years. But more important: he’s devoted to the Mets because they paid him even though they knew he couldn’t pitch last year.

    • Metsense

      He has two arb years remaining also.

      • deegrove84

        Agreed, he was a great low-risk pickup.

  • Woodrow

    Oh boy….

  • Steve_S.

    Curtiss did look great! I like Nogosek for the pen too! He has looked good as well and is out of options.

    Last one in? Not sure, but maybe Tommy Hunter.

    • Metsense

      Bryce Montes de Oca could have been a good choice but his injury will impend him. Is Eppler going to take a long man to NY? If not, then Hunter would be a good choice.

      • Brian Joura

        Hunter’s not on the 40-man but it’s not going to be as tough to create a spot for him as I originally thought. If Greene doesn’t make it as a Rule 5 guy, that’s a spot. If they cut ties with Darin Ruf, that’s another way. And, the least appealing one of all, if Jose Quintana has to go on the 60-day IL…

        • Metsense

          Greene was put on waivers today.

          • Brian Joura

            He didn’t look good the two times I saw him. And with a 13.50 ERA and more walks than strikeouts, it’s hard to say this is a surprise.

  • NYM6986

    Nice to feel like we have help down on the farm for when we need it. And with a 40 and 38 pair of aces, I’m sure we will.

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