With the payroll the Mets have and the relatively easy schedule the club has played to date, few thought that the team would be 27-27 at Memorial Day. It’s probably safe to say that most everyone thought they’d be at least 10 games over .500 by this point. You may ask yourself, well, how did we get here? Most of us would say that one of the primary culprits has been the inability of the starting pitchers to give either quantity or quality on a regular basis.

Incredibly, a Mets starting pitcher has completed at least six innings only 13 times in the team’s first 54 games. MLB teams have had a pitcher go at least six innings 621 times this season, an average of nearly 21 times per team. And to make the deficit even worse, the Mets are 13-0 when their starter goes at least six innings this year. If they had an average number of six inning starts for a team, they’d have that 10-games-over .500 record everyone was expecting.

Injuries have played a role, as the Mets have yet to have even one turn thru the rotation with the five pitchers who the club expected would comprise their Opening Day roster on January 1. And none of their depth starters have been particularly good. That’s why they’re depth starters, and not ones you pencil in at the start of the year. Still, you’d think that just by blind luck one guy might throw a few good outings together, especially with more depth pitchers getting chances. Here are the depth starters, the ones outside the top five, and how they’ve performed this year:

Tylor Megill – 11 starts, 4.67 ERA, 2X with 6 IP or more starts
David Peterson – 8 starts, 8.08 ERA, one 6 IP or more start
Joey Lucchesi – 5 starts, 4.43 ERA, one 6 IP or more start
Jose Butto – 2 starts, 2.79 ERA (as SP), no starts of 6 IP
Denyi Reyes– 1 start, 45.00 ERA (as SP), no starts of 6 IP

These pitchers, ones who in a perfect world would make zero starts, have instead combined for 27 starts, which is exactly half of the team’s 54 games played to date. And they’ve given just four starts of at least six innings pitched. That means in the 27 starts by the four pitchers who the Mets want in their rotation, nine have ended with the SP going at least six innings. That’s not great, either, but markedly better than what the depth guys have given.

We’ve seen Max Scherzer starting to round into form over his last three starts, all wins for the Mets, in which he’s given the team a 1.00 ERA. Justin Verlander was seemingly on the upswing, too, before getting jumped for four runs in the second inning of his last start, which took place in Coors Field. In his second start back from the IL, Carlos Carrasco allowed 1 ER in 6.2 IP.

Things will be a lot better if those successful veteran starters are taking the mound every five days, rather than the depth starters. Then we can hope for better consistency from Kodai Senga and the eventual return of Jose Quintana. In a way, we can see the forming of light at the end of the tunnel.

Let’s put some perspective on the starting pitchers. The chart below shows the starts given from the top eight pitchers for the past five seasons. Note that this is by raw starts, not necessarily by the ones that the Mets hoped would make them. We hoped Jacob deGrom would have made 32 starts last year. Instead, he made 11.

2022 2021 2019 2018 2017 Total AVG
30 33 32 32 31 158 31.6
29 29 32 30 22 142 28.4
29 18 31 29 18 125 25
23 15 30 25 18 111 22.2
19 15 18 20 18 90 18
11 12 11 12 17 63 12.6
9 12 4 5 13 43 8.6
9 8 3 4 9 33 6.6
159 142 161 157 146 765 153

In the past five seasons, at least one starter for the Mets has made at least 30 starts every year. Back when Mickey Callaway was keeping starters healthy, they had four guys make that many starts in 2019 and they would have had a chance for five if they didn’t upgrade to Marcus Stroman at the trade deadline. Contrast that to this year, where it’s likely there won’t be a single pitcher to make at least 30 starts.

With the club having played exactly one-third of the season, here’s the breakdown of starts by pitcher:

11 – Megill
9 – Senga
8 – Scherzer
8 – Peterson
5 – Verlander
5 – Carrasco
5 – Lucchesi
2 – Butto
1 – Reyes

My sincere hope is that Megill doesn’t record 30 starts for the Mets this season. If they’re going to insist on pitching him with extra rest whenever possible, Senga won’t reach 30. There’s an outside shot Scherzer could do that but he’d have to avoid injuries both major and minor the rest of the way, which probably isn’t realistic.

The best-case scenario is that Scherzer, Verlander and Senga combine for 80-plus starts while Carrasco and Quintana can give 25-plus the remainder of the year. But what to do with Quintana’s spot until he’s able to come back, which hopefully will be by the end of June?

My preference would be to promote Lucchesi, who’s had back-to-back 6 IP starts in the minors since being demoted, to replace Megill and use the lefty in the rotation until Quintana returns. At that point, have Lucchesi in the bullpen to assume Trevor Williams’ role last year of swingman. And when he’s in the minors, convert Megill to a full-time reliever, something advocated for last night in the Game Chatter. Early last year, Megill was trying to throw as hard as he could but the Mets had him pull things back so he could go longer. Perhaps they’d be best served having him be a 100-mph reliever, instead.

5 comments on “A look at the Mets’ starting pitching at the one-third point of the season

  • ChrisF

    The Athletic has posted its weekly power rankings, and while there wasn’t much to expect from the Mets, the commentary about their status was centered on the pitching woes. I encourage anyone with an account to read it.

    A couple things did stand out from their reporting: Mets pitching has allowed an NL worst 75 home runs. Additionally, Mets pitchers have tallied the worst barrel rate and highest launch angle in the NL. Mets pitching is also bottom of 0-2 counts and in throwing strikes. All this says one thing: our starters are basically pitching batting practice. No amount of offense, which seems to come inconsistently anyway, will offset the poo-poo platter coming from the hill. There’s no way around that Scherzer and Verlander are massive disappointments, even failures, 1/3 the way in. It is not obvious there has a been a “warm up” period for these guys, more that they are not doing well for all the reasons we see. It’s hard to *expect* a dramatic change going forward. So the team is in real dire straights until this get straightened out. Basically at the 1/3 pole Met pitching is shit.

    • Brian Joura

      Expected rotation was: Scherzer, Verlander, Senga, Quintana and Carrasco. Here’s how they’ve done by month:

      March/April – 27 actual team games, 12 starts by expected rotation members, 59 IP, 33 ER, 35 BB, 57 Ks, 12 HR
      May (to date) – 27 actual team games, 15 stars by expected rotation members, 85 IP, 39 ER, 27 BB, 80 Ks, 11 HR

      This group went from an ERA of 5.03 in April to 4.13 in May
      This group went from a 5.3 BB/9 in April to a 2.86 BB/9 in May
      This group went from a 1.83 HR/9 in April to a 1.16 HR/9 in May

      I think that’s a pretty substantial improvement, one that would look even better without Verlander’s start in Coors Field.

      The key is to get more starts from this group going forward. Additionally, with Verlander providing more starts like he did versus the Tigers, Reds and Indians (20 IP, 4 ER, 3 BB, 17 Ks, 3 HR) and fewer starts like versus the Rays and Rockies (10 IP, 12 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 2 HR). Scherzer’s been terrific in starts 6-8 this season. Verlander’s next start will be his sixth.

      Without a doubt they have to pitch better. But we have seen this group pitch better already just going from April to May. It’s not unrealistic to expect the improvement to continue. And if nothing else, the total number of innings pitched by the expected guys should increase and innings pitched by the depth guys to decrease.

      • ChrisF

        Let’s not forget we’ve been plying through a seriously “easy” part of the season. So while things look a little better, the fact is competition is gonna get much harder, for example this coming home stand with the Phillies and Braves. So we need more length, more strikes, and less HR versus teams that eat pitching mistakes all day and all night. If this team can right the ship on the mound and get more consistent hitting by scoring runs in multiple ways and not just in 1 inning or 1 game, by the ASB they could be 5-10 under .500. At the pace they are making ground back it’ll be end of summer before they look serious, presuming the braves haven’t pulled away by then. Yes, there’s lots of games left, and possibly a trade deadline to consider, but it’s hard to imagine trading any youth right now for an Ohtani. By the end of June, it will be time to start giving the gift of goodbye to anyone not the future. If Scherzer and Verlander do better, I’d dump them both and get some younger arms. In my eyes the team is nearing the cross-over point with continued invest in 23 or planning ahead for 24.

        • Brian Joura

          Since I mentioned it in the very first sentence of the article, chances are excellent that I didn’t forget it.

          FWIW, the Mets have a better record against .500 and better teams (.522 winning percentage) than they do against teams under .500 (.484)

          We’re still at a point where it’s impossible to tell how things are going to play out. At this point in 2021, Conforto, Lindor, McNeil and Smith were all massively under-performing. Lindor turned it around immediately from this point, Conforto struggled for two more months before returning to his usual production, while McNeil and Smith never recovered. Maybe the guys struggling now turn it around like Lindor did. Maybe they’re more like Smith and never do. There’s just no way to make an informed decision at this point.

          You can be concerned about how the team has played until this point and believe that it will continue this way for the rest of the season. But you can also be concerned about how the team has played until this point and see reasons to believe that positive regression is in the cards.

          Ted Lasso wouldn’t want you hitting the panic button on an MLB season on 5/29.

  • Metsense

    Too many depth starters have been pitching for the Mets. That wasn’t the plan. The regular starting pitchers have been inconsistent this year when they have been starting. They don’t give length which is taxing the bullpen. Senga is being used cautiously which is compounding the problem with the rotation. Peterson was a huge disappointment. Megill is a MLB fifth starter having a FIP of 20.6% of the starters in MLB. That’s okay for a depth starter. Lucchesi was also a good depth starter but he wasn’t giving length either. But he also didn’t pitch for two years. They will need a starter for this homestand because they are holding back Senga again. Lucchesi should get another chance. Let’s see what happens with his start.

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