With the Mets reporting to Spring Training 2.0, the reality of baseball commencing is starting to set in. One of the obvious storylines surrounding the team in regards to the 2020 campaign is how the Mets rotation will fare without Noah Syndergaard this season. While it is a much shorter season than originally anticipated, it still serves as a brutal blow to the Mets rotation. The bad news was delivered back in March when the 27-year old flamethrower went down with a torn UCL in his elbow, and went under the knife for Tommy John surgery. While Thor’s 2019 campaign was a bit uneven, many were expecting a bounce back from the right-hander this season. That bounce back campaign will have to wait until 2021, which uniquely is Syndergaard’s walk year.
In the meantime the Mets rotation depth will be tested in 2020. If there is any silver lining, it can be argued that if you were going to lose your number two starter, you would most likely want it to happen in an abbreviated season, where you would probably only see Syndergaard making between 12-14 regular season starts depending on how the rotation shakes out. BVW and company did a great job however nabbing Rick Porcello from the Boston Red Sox and Michael Wacha from the St. Louis Cardinals in the offseason to build on the team’s rotation depth, which is something the Mets have lacked over previous seasons.
Looking at the starting rotation you have the best pitcher in baseball sitting as your number one starter in Jacob DeGrom. The only question surrounding DeGrom will be can he chase history and pull a 3-peat for the Cy Young Award? Following DeGrom, you have 29-year old All Star Marcus Stroman who the Mets acquired prior to the Trade Deadline last season and will be a key piece in the team’s success in 2020. Stroman struggled a bit with walking batters since debuting with the Mets last summer, as he allowed 23 free passes in his 59.2 innings with the Mets, which was rather high considering he only had walked 35 in his 124.2 innings with the Blue Jays prior to being acquired. I fully expect that number to regress to the mean this season. Stroman finished with a 3.77 ERA with the Mets in his 11 starts which is on par with his career 3.76 ERA. As previously stated I believe Stroman’s walk numbers will improve this season and he will put up solid numbers in his walk year.
Don’t forget the Mets have another former Cy Young Award winner slotted in the starting rotation in Rick Porcello, who is a well known innings eater and a guy you can count to make his starts every fifth day. Over the last four seasons, Porcello has at least made 30 starts, and averaged close to 200 innings pitched each of those seasons, which is the dependibilty the Mets have been needing sorely in the middle of their rotation. In a time of uncertainty you want to have the comfort of having that dependbility in the rotation.
Next lies the curious case of Steven Matz. The 29-year old lefty set a career high of 160.1 innings pitched to a mixed bag of results. Matz was finally able to put together back-to-back seasons of making 30 starts, but his numbers were slightly better in 2018 than in 2019. With health being less of a question surrounding Matz this season, the real question will be consistency. In 89.2 innings at Citi Field last season, the southpaw put up a 2.31 ERA with a spectacular 1.149 WHIP. However on the road in 70.2 innings Matz had an ugly 6.62 ERA to go along with a 1.585 WHIP. He also allowed 19 home runs on the road in comparision to the 8 he allowed at home. Finding consistency on the road for Matz will be one of the biggest factors for the Mets to be able to compete this season, and that will also go a long way towards soldifying the back end of the rotation.
Lastly you have Michael Wacha. The former first round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, Wacha’s talent has never been questioned, but more so his health and consistency has always been a question mark. The 29-year old is a former All Star and NLCS MVP but he has battled numerous injuries and inconsistency throughout his career. Last season was one of his worst season’s statistically as he was removed from the Cardinals rotation after putting up a 5.59 ERA in nine starts and was shifted to the bullpen for the rest of the year. He ultimatley finished the year with a 4.76 ERA and his highest career WHIP at 1.563. Wacha looked destined to turn things around in March after signing with the Mets in the offseason, as he had put up a 1.17 ERA in his three Spring Training appearances and was competing for a spot in the Mets rotation with Steven Matz. Now with the injury to Syndergaard, Wacha is fully entrenched in the Mets rotation for the season. With the shortened season, Wacha may be one of the biggest beneficiaries on the roster due to his previous injury history. It also doesn’t hurt that Wacha has some good career numbers at Citi Field as he holds a lifetime 3.89 ERA with a sparkling 1.183 WHIP in 34.2 innings pitched.
All in all can the Mets absorb the blow that they were dealt back in March? Of course they can. Will it be easy? It’s never easy losing one of the best pitchers in baseball, and replacing his 4.4 WAR from last season, but the Mets put themselves in position this offseason to stay competitive if they lost a member of their rotation due to injury. I am more comfortable having Michael Wacha or Rick Porcello in our rotation, rather than the likes of Jason Vargas, Chris Flexen, Wilmer Font, and Corey Oswalt. The Mets also have left-handed pitching prospect David Peterson waiting in the wings if needed. Don’t be surprised if the front office goes outside the organization if reinforcements are needed later in the season, due to injuries or performance issues.
Final verdict? As of today the Mets are in good shape. Let’s play ball!