The Mets are 10-8 in September, despite playing teams in the Division/Wild Card race in 16 of those 18 games. We know the Mets have only two starting pitchers they want in the rotation next year, maybe three relievers who rise to that same level and an offense that is inconsistent. So, how on earth have they managed to have a winning record this month? Well, it’s not the bullpen. Instead, it’s the depth starters coming thru in ways that few could have predicted.
The Mets have used six different pitchers this month and five of them have an ERA under 3.00 with two of those not even reaching a 2.00 mark. All told, their starters have a 2.56 ERA in 105.1 IP. Here’s how it’s been on a game-by-game basis:
9/01 – Kodai Senga, 7 IP, 1 ER
9/02 – David Peterson, 4 IP, 4 ER
9/03 – Tylor Megill, 5.1 IP, 3 ER
9/05 – Jose Quintana, 7 IP, 1 ER
9/06 – Jose Butto, 6.1 IP, 2 ER
9/08 – Senga, 6 IP, 2 ER
9/09 – Peterson, 6 IP, 3 ER
9/10 – Megill, 5 IP, 0 ER
9/11 – Quintana, 5 IP, 2 ER
9/12 – Butto, 5 IP, 1 ER
9/13 – Joey Lucchesi, 7 IP, 0 ER
9/14 – Senga, 6 IP, 0 ER
9/15 – Peterson, 5.2 IP, 2 ER
9/16 – Megill, 5.2 IP, 2 ER
9/17 – Quintana, 6.2 IP, 2 ER
9/18 – Butto, 6 IP, 1 ER
9/19 – Lucchesi, 5.2 IP, 2 ER
9/20 – Senga, 6 IP, 2 ER
It certainly helps that this stretch is book-ended by Senga starts. Still, this group of six pitchers have combined for 10 Quality Starts and six more where they failed to complete six innings but allowed two earned runs or fewer. Essentially, there have only been two “bad” starts from the group and they came on back-to-back days early in the month.
If we pick things up with Quintana’s start on 9/5, in their last 15 games, Mets starters have combined for 22 ER in 89 IP for a 2.24 ERA. That type of starting pitching is going to keep you in a lot of games. Asking a question that we already know the answer to: How is the club’s record not better this month?
The bullpen has allowed 28 ER in 53.2 IP for a 4.70 ERA
The offense has scored two runs in six games and three runs in three other contests
If we knew the numbers this month for the bullpen and offense, we might guess the Mets having a 7-11 record. Shoot, it’s possible that seven wins would be an optimistic number given the non-Quintana and non-Senga pitchers that have made 11 starts in this span. Here’s how the depth starters have done this month:
Peterson: 15.2 IP, 9 ER
Megill: 16 IP, 5 ER
Butto: 17.1 IP, 4 ER
Lucchesi: 12.2 IP, 2 ER
It will be curious to see how the Mets handle their rotation for the final 10 games. It’s possible they skip Quintana’s last start, giving each of our four depth guys two more starts apiece. If they keep faithful to the six-man setup, Lucchesi would have just one start remaining.
Since Peterson has the worst numbers of the group, he’s the one who needs to maximize his final two games, with Megill close behind. Those two have combined for six starts and not once have they completed six innings. The old school people will be horrified that pitchers can’t complete six innings. But the reality is that pitchers vying to be fourth and fifth starters are not going to be giving six innings or more on a regular basis. Still, we want to see them doing that at least occasionally.
While the Mets have shown remarkable faith in Megill and given legitimate shots to Peterson, it’s an open question on how they view Butto and Lucchesi for 2024 and beyond. It’s certainly not outrageous to think that Butto and Lucchesi are better starting options than their teammates with more experience.
Butto has been the biggest surprise to me. When he was coming up thru the minors, the scouting report was that his changeup was very good but there were doubts that his fastball was going to be good enough for the majors. Butto’s shown MLB velocity, with a 94.3 mph average. But it’s clearly not a good pitch. The thing is, his change hasn’t been good, either. Instead, Butto is succeeding thanks to his breaking balls, which he’s combined to throw over 30% of the time. If he can keep winning with his breaking stuff, it’s fun to think what he might be like if his changeup was as successful as it was in the minors.
Lucchesi is tough to figure out looking at his pitch breakdown. We know he throws a “churve” and the broadcasters talk about his slider. But Pitch Values show him throwing a splitter, a “sinker curve” and a changeup. Regardless of terminology, Lucchesi’s fastball has had great results this year and his “sinker curve” and splitter have both been good, too. The one that Pitch Values identifies as a change has easily been his worst pitch. Perhaps those are the “churves” that don’t break – hangers, if you will.
The Mets need to add three starters to fill out the rotation with Quintana and Senga. How many of these 2023 depth starters would they stomach having in the rotation? Fans dream of signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Blake Snell. Those are nice dreams. But are the Mets going to add $40 million-plus to their 2024 payroll on two starters? People think that Steve Cohen will continue to spend at 2023 levels. And maybe he will. Just don’t be shocked if he doesn’t.
David Stearns will have a challenge right away determining if the club can compete for a playoff spot with one or more of these depth starters in the rotation. Among the many possibilities is that they sign Yamamoto and give spots to Butto and Lucchesi. Or perhaps Stearns will use an Eppler idea, having four rotation “locks” and cycle thru the fifth spot with these depth pitchers.
You know, because it worked so well for the bullpen this year.