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.

7 comments on “Mets hang tough versus playoff-contender schedule thanks to depth starters

  • T.J.

    In general September games should be very discounted for teams out of it. However, as you note, these games have been very meaningful for the opponents, and the Mets have been very competitive. As this analysis shows, it always begins with starting pitching. Yes, the lineup has sucked in a lot of games, but quality starts give a team the opportunity to win every time.

    These baby Met performances in September should not be ignored either. Yup, no pressure so to speak, but the opponents are trying their best, and these kids are battling for 2024 positions. Kudos to the kids and to Buck for keeping the team competitive.

    I’d try to add 2 starters for 2024…I’d only go big on Yamamoto if they deem him worthy, and go for an inning eater with the other free agent – maybe a Sonny Gray or Lugo if he opts out, and older guy bat wouldn’t break the bank long term. Let these depth guys battle it out and see who emerges from the next wave of prospect starters over the next year or two. This Sept has put a tad more optimism on 2024 big spending winter or not.

  • ChrisF

    butto, lucchesi, peterson, megill have them duke it out for the 6th and 7th starters and toss the other two to the sharks.

    thats not the make up of a winning team.

    we must break the stockholm syndrome of finding fringe players acceptable – and call the team contenders.

  • T.J.

    I can live with one winning the #5 spot, one being a boil pen piece, and the other two as AAA depth along with Vasil and some Bingo grads. With the addition of 2 solid starters and some bullpen upgrades they can certainly compete for a playoff spot next year while some kids settle in. I wouldn’t consider that a Stockholm syndrome approach. I mean, what do the other playoff contending teams have as #5-6-7 pieces?

    • Brian Joura

      Let’s look at the Braves. The first five guys to start a game for them this season were: Fried, Strider, Shuster, Morton and Dodd.

      Shuster was 24 and making his MLB debut. He had 10 games and 9 starts at Triple-A.
      Dodd was 25 and making his MLB debut. He had 1 game at Triple-A.

      The Braves were hoping for Kyle Wright and Mike Soroka to take their places at some point but those two were limited to 13 starts between them. Instead, Bryce Elder has come on to be a rotation fixture. Here are their starts:

      30 – Strider, Elder
      29 – Morton
      13 – Fried
      11 – Shuster
      7 – Wright
      6 – Soroka, Dodd

      Other pitchers have made 20 starts for the Braves this season. If you want to consider Wright and Soroka the Braves’ fourth and fifth starters, then their 6-7-8 guys had a combined nine starts in the majors – all by Elder – and nothing special in AAA. Elder had a 4.46 ERA at AAA in 18 games there in 2022. Shuster had a 4.25 ERA in 10 games and Dodd had a 4.05 ERA in 1 game.

  • Metsense

    I am pleased by the performance of the depth starters especially Butto and Lucchesi. All four of them are pitching better and I can see one of them being the fifth starter and two being long relievers in the bullpen. I’m one of the dreamers that want Snell and Yamamoto and if not them then try to sign the next best starter and so forth. The some the AA starters should be ready by 2025 and one of them hopefully might be an impact pitcher in 2026. It is nice to build the minor leagues but you can’t rely on them in the beginning and it takes patience to bear fruit. That is the reason why they need two quality starting pitchers if they’re going to compete before 2025.

  • Woodrow

    Butto,Peterson,Luchessi and MeGill should be in the BP next season. No more Triple As with options Raley,Peterson and Luchessi would give you three LHs in the pen.

  • Mike W

    The Mets will try to sign Yamamoto. If they don’t sign him,then plan B is Snell. After they sign one of those pitchers, they will sign Jordan Montgomery.

    Then there is the bullpen. Rumblings are that Robertson may want to resign. They will still need to revamp the pen, maybe a signing or two and maybe by trade.

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