The New York Mets live and die by their pitching staff. It carried them to the World Series in 2015, and helped propel them through an injury-riddled 2016 campaign. The starting rotation finally began to show signs of wear and tear in 2017.
Steven Matz began the 2017 campaign on the disabled list with an elbow injury. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler returned to the rotation after rehabbing from surgeries of their own. Noah Syndergaard landed on the DL in late April and has not returned since.
In fact, Jacob deGrom might be the healthiest starter this season. Countless pitchers, from Harvey, Syndergaard and Wheeler, to Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Jeurys Familia, have all gone down with injuries this season. The Mets are not struggling to score runs. Yet, they are out of the playoff picture for one reason: pitching.
Entering Tuesday night, the team ranks eighth in the National League with 512 runs scored. Yet, they have surrendered 576 runs and pitched to a 4.97 earned run average. Both of those totals rank second-worst in the NL, ahead of only the Cincinnati Reds. Terry Collins stressed how crucial pitching is to his team’s success.
“It all revolves on those boys on that bump,’’ Collins told Kevin Kernan at The New York Post. “God, the only thing I wished I could have done was watch those kids pitch 30 games apiece. Because I would have taken my chances, no matter what else happened, I would have taken my chances.’’
Take the Mets ideal starting rotation of Syndergaard, Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler. Syndergaard has only started five games this season. Matz sits at 11 starts. Harvey fared better with 13 starts, while Wheeler currently has 17. deGrom started the most of those five, with 22.
As of now, it seems deGrom will be the only pitcher to reach that desired mark of 30 starts. Those totals speak volumes about why the Mets have not been able to make much of a playoff push for any sustained period this season.
The team attempted to fill the voids in their rotation with a variety of spot starters. These included Gsellman and Lugo, along with Rafael Montero, Tyler Pill, Tommy Millone, and Chris Flexen. The team cannot seem to get quality innings out of their more reliable starters. For instance, Matz has been mired in a slump that spanned his past six starts.
“It’s shocking,” Collins said of Matz’s struggles. “This guy’s got way too good of stuff.”
Matz knows he needs to improve.
“I’ve got to keep my confidence up,” he said. “Because the moment I don’t do that, it starts to snowball. I just need to keep working, try to address some things and keep moving forward.”
The Mets announced that Harvey threw at batting practice on Tuesday, taking another step in his journey back to the starting rotation. Syndergaard is “a couple weeks behind” Harvey in his timetable to return, according to Sandy Alderson.
While both pitchers could return before season’s end, they likely will not have much to pitch for. Either way, Syndergaard will be ready.
“Whether September, and we’re in it or not, I just want to go out there and compete because I am just getting bored,” he told Newsday. “I want to go out there and pitch.”
Jesse Andreozzi is a staff writer at Outside Pitch Sports Network covering the New York Mets. Follow him on Twitter @Jesse_Andreozzi.