In 2015, the Mets went on an improbable run to win the National League pennant, led by their up and coming pitching staff. But, here in 2017, the pitching staff has been a major let down, after expectations that they could be one of the best not just this season, but in the history of the game. Here’s a look at their staff in 2015, and now in 2017. As a result of injuries and disappointment, the pitchers’ numbers look much different, mainly worse.
In 2015, Matt Harvey was ready for his comeback from Tommy John surgery, and prepared to show the baseball universe he was back. Known as a young phenom, he hit the MLB by storm, impressing many in 2012 and 2013. But, unfortunately during an excellent campaign in 2013, his season was cut short after he needed Tommy John surgery, and a return was not in the cards until the start of the 2015 season. He overall had a great season in 2015 and looked to be back to his normal self, still pumping 95 MPH on the gun. He finished the season 13-8, with a 2.71 ERA, striking out 188 batters in 29 games started. He was the team’s second best starter in 2015 behind Jacob deGrom, even though he had ace like numbers.
But, 2017 has been a tough go for Harvey. After he struggled in 2016, and then had his season cut short due to injury, fans were not sure what to expect from him in 2017. His fastball is down, and he also appears as though he’s lost a lot of weight, which could be hurting his stuff as he is pitching in a different body than he is used to. In addition to drama off the field, Matt Harvey has been arguably the most disappointing Mets pitcher, a guy who was thought to be the staff’s ace for years to come. So far in 2017, he is 4-3, with a 5.25 ERA, striking out 54 batters, and starting just 13 games as he is again on the DL. After being one of the team’s best pitchers in 2015, Harvey is now trying to find any kind of consistency, especially for when he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season. A guy who many thought was going to get a big pay day by someone when he becomes a free agent, is now looked at as a 4th or 5th starter. What a difference 2 years makes for Matt Harvey.
Jacob deGrom has been the most accomplished pitcher on this Mets young pitching staff. The only player who has sustained any consistency, yet the talk has rarely been about him being the ace of the staff, but instead Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard. But, deGrom led the staff in the 2015 playoffs, putting up 2 stellar performances in the divisional round against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2015, he was in the Cy Young conversation, as he seems to be every year, finishing the season with a record of 14-8, with a 2.54 ERA, striking out 205 batters, and starting 30 games. It was one of the more memorable years by a Mets pitcher, and deGrom wasn’t even considered the team’s ace then.
Fast forward to 2017, and deGrom has still been excellent for the Mets. So far in 2017, he is 12-5, with a 3.36 ERA, striking out 170 batters in 22 games started. While his ERA is not as good as it was in 2015, deGrom has been on a tear as of late, and has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since mid June, and has lowered his ERA big time after it was close to 5. Jacob deGrom has been the only bright spot for the Mets pitching staff in 2017, and there’s not much to pick on for him, as he continues to pitch consistent games. All that can be taken away from 2017 is that he is the Mets best and most accomplished pitcher, which means he is the ace.
Noah Syndergaard was great for the Mets in 2015, and was talked about as having potential to be the team’s ace in the future. With a fastball that can hit 100 MPH, he was one of the most feared pitchers in 2015, and still is today. He showed the kind of pitcher he was in the 2015 World Series. Down 2-0 to the Kansas City Royals, the World Series was headed back to Citi Field. So, here was big Noah Syndergaard, starting a game in the World Series as a rookie. For his first pitch, Syndergaard threw a fastball high and over the head of Alcides Escobar to lead off the game, and pretty much set the tone in this one, striking out Esobar on the next 3 pitches, and leading the Mets to a victory. This move showed fans that Syndergaard was an old school pitcher, and that he should be feared on the mound. Syndergaard finished his rookie season at 9-7, with an ERA of 3.24, striking out 166 batters, and starting in 24 games.
In 2017, Syndergaard was viewed as the ace of the Mets pitching staff, after coming off an incredible 2016 season. But, his 2017 season was headlined by a series of events, where he refused to have an MRI. As a result, he was taken out of a game just after that refusal, and has been on the DL for most of the 2017 season. The staff was already struggling with Syndergaard, but when he went down fans could sense what direction this season was going in. He’s started just 5 games in 2017, with a 1-2 record, and a 3.29 ERA, striking out 32 batters. There still may be a chance that the flamethrower returns in 2017, but being where the team is right now with no playoff aspirations, it may be in their best interest to keep him on the sidelines for the rest of the season. Syndergaard’s play was not a disappointment in 2017, but his refusal to have an MRI, which led to injury is what should stand out to fans has been a disappointment. This careless behavior really put a damper on the Mets season, and fans can only hope the 24 year old will be the same for the 2018 season. Syndergaard still has the potential to be the team’s ace, but he now has a lot to prove after letting fans down big time in 2017.
Steven Matz gave the Mets a small sample in his rookie season, showing them both that he was dominant when healthy, but remaining healthy would be an issue. Matz went 4-0, with a 2.27 ERA, striking out 34 batters, and starting in just 6 games. But, he was viewed as someone who had a bright future with the Mets, as a fireballing lefty that could provide stability in the middle of their rotation. Matz being a Long Island guy, had fans on his side and became an instant fan favorite. His potential pretty much ran Jon Niese out of town, as he was their lefty in the rotation. Matz was the team’s 4th pitcher in the playoffs, and showed signs of a bright future.
But, in 2017 it’s been much of the same for Matz. But, not only has he been injury prone, he’s also no longer producing when he’s healthy. In 2017, so far he has a 2-4 record, with a 5.50 ERA, striking out 36 batters, and starting 10 games. He got off to a decent start coming off the DL, but Matz has had problems getting going since. Hitters look very comfortable at the plate against him, and he continues to get plummeted, letting up hit after hit. Fans were hopeful that if Matz was healthy, he could be one of the underrated pitchers on their staff, but in 2017 he’s showing he might be worn down, being that he’s been injured so much.
Back of the rotation starters
In 2015, the Mets also had some veteran help in their staff from Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese. Both were apart of the staff for most of the year, representing the Mets backend of the rotation and letting the young pitchers flourish. But, having some veterans on this staff proved to be very important to this Mets team, and Niese and Colon provided stability to the rotation. Colon finished 2015 with a 14-13 record, an ERA of 4.16, striking out 136, and starting in 31 games. Colon was a solid swing pitcher, who could pitch on short rest if needed, or come out of the bullpen, which he did in the playoffs. Niese, who had been with the Mets for quite some time, was never an ace, but was always a solid middle of the staff pitcher for the Mets. In 2015, Niese fielded a record of 9-10, with an ERA of 4.13, striking out 113 batters, and starting 29 games. For Niese, his time was up as the hope was for Matz to be the staff’s lefty. But, Niese was very valuable to the 2015 Mets, and like Colon moved to the bullpen during the playoffs, and actually had decent success. The 2017 Mets are certainly missing a guy like Colon or Niese, and it’s hard to dispute that as the staff has been one of the worst in baseball this year.
The 2017 Mets have had 4 guys field that spot as the 5th starter, but due to injuries have been asked to do a lot more than expected. Those players are Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and Rafael Montero. Wheeler, who had Tommy John surgery and hadn’t pitched for the Mets since 2014, got off to a pretty good start. The hope was for Wheeler to be the 5th starter for the Mets, but he had to step up when Harvey and Syndergaard went down. But, Wheeler has not been good this year, with a 3-7 record, an ERA of 5.21, striking out 81 batters, and starting 17 games. Plus, he’s had several stints on the DL, and the Mets did not know what to expect from him. He’s had trouble with his command all year, and who knows if he will have a future with the Mets.
Seth Lugo has found some success this year after starting off the season on the DL, and he still could have a future with this team. After coming up big for the Mets as they made a run to the playoffs in 2016, Lugo has been so-so for the Mets in 2017, with a 5-3 record, an ERA of 4.55, striking out 44 batters in 10 games started. Lugo has shown the Mets that he could be a relief pitcher if needed, and also a 4th or 5th starter. He doesn’t have ace talent, but he at least has been solid. They can’t ask for too much of him. This is a guy who might’ve been 6th or 7th on the Mets pitching staff depth chart to start the season if all were healthy.
Then there’s Robert Gsellman, who like Lugo came up big for the Mets down the stretch in 2016. But, 2017 has not been as kind to Gsellman, as he has a record of 5-5, with a 6.16 ERA, striking out 57 batters, and starting 14 games. Gsellman has been on the DL for quite some time now, and also was needed when some pitchers on the staff started to get hurt for the Mets. But, he has been very unreliable this year, and many times has gotten shelled. The Mets viewed Gsellman as a solid 5th starter going into the year, but it’s been anything but that for him in 2017.
Lastly there’s Rafael Montero. It seems like Montero has been given so many chances by the Mets, and never found success. Someone who wasn’t even on the Mets radar to start the season, all the sudden is being asked to start games on a consistent basis. In 2017, he’s 1-7, with a 5.78 ERA, striking out 63 batters, and starting 8 games. Montero has had a rough go of it again, but the Mets have had no choice being that their starting rotation has diminished.
It’s interesting to compare the 2015 Mets starting pitching staff, to that of the 2017 team. They certainly were the X-factor for the team going into the 2017 season, viewed as a staff that could carry this team to the World Series. They were viewed as a staff with 3, maybe 4 aces. But, this year it’s been deGrom and everybody else. Due to injuries and just lack of performance, they’ve been nothing but a disappointment. The feeling was the staff would have a lot of depth, and in a perfect world their staff would be Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, Matz, and Wheeler when all healthy. But, due to injuries, the staff currently consists of deGrom, Lugo, Matz, Montero, and now a young pitcher promoted from double A by the name of Chris Flexen, who’s had a rough go of it through 2 starts. The hope is that this staff will bounce back in 2018, but at this point we just don’t know what to expect. There are similar faces from the staff in 2015 today, yet they are not finding the same success they did 2 years ago. If this staff continues to struggle, and never again gets it going, expect documentaries about the mid 2010s Mets pitching staff, a staff that had so much promise, but never amounted to anything. It’s shocking how poor this staff has preformed this season, and all it has done is leave Mets fans scratching their head and have them thinking about what could have been.
All Stats via Baseball Reference.