No Ugly Ducklings In This Mets Rotation


I remember watching the Munsters when I was a kid and even then I didn’t understand the whole Marilyn Munster thing. In what world was she more attractive than Lily? I mean I understand Lily is undead and all, but come on. Sometimes I’d see Al Lewis (sad that he passed) sweeping the sidewalk on Bleecker St. and I always wanted to ask him about his car, but I didn’t want to be annoying.

Anyway as anyone who has ever gone out with good looking people can tell you, it’s tough being the ugly step-cousin … In some ways you’re better off finding odd and repulsive friends so you can come off as “normal,” not that I would know.

A unique reversal of this chemistry is precisely what is plaguing the Mets rotation this winter (in terms of of forecasts). Too many Marilyns and not enough monsters. The ugly stepsisters are as gorgeous as Cinderella. Who has the best breaking pitch? Who can throw the hardest fastball? Who has the best hair? Where do you even start?

The Mets rotation is a victim of it’s own remarkably deep make-up – any one of them would feature prominently on 9 out of 10 teams in the league, yet on the Mets they all play second fiddle, to each other. Maybe it’s because they hit the scene at the same time, I don’t know, but you can’t really say deGrom is in Harvey’s shadow or vise versa and I think Thor will slot in soon if he hasn’t already. So how do you look at the Cubs’ or Nationals’ rotations and manage to rank them above the Mets? That’s just crazy talk.

Carson Cistulli had this to say in the preface to his ZIPS 2016 projection:

Much of what Muhammad Ali said regarding his own self applies also to the pitchers at the top of the Mets’ rotation: the triumvirate of Jacob deGromMatt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard are each some combination of young, handsome, and fast. With regard to the possibility that any of them might be beat, it certainly exists, but not in great volume. Among the 17 clubs for whom projections have now been released, the forecasted WAR for the threesome is surpassed (it would appear) only by the Cubs’ top three pitchers — although the third member of the group (John Lackey) receives a lesser projection than the Mets No. 3, Syndergaard.

I don’t think the Cubs rotation beats the Mets, we need only look at the NLCS to see why. The Nats are the real threat. ZIPS manages to project Strasburg, the presumed Nat #2 starter, above deGrom — on FIP and zWAR — which which I find tough to swallow. Stephen Strasburg hasn’t had a sub-3 era since 2010, since before his TJ surgery, yet Steamer thinks he’ll have a 2.94 era in 2016 while deGrom (who has a career 2.61 ERA mind you) is projected at 3.17? Is ZIPS a Bernie Madoff victim or something? 84 wins Steamer? I think you’ve blanched the arugula quite enough! Why, it’s enough to make Bartolo Colon eat salad.

steven matz nlds

The other issue is depth. Labeling a pitcher a “#1” or a “#2” is nice when you are comparing aces across teams, but on the field the reality is that your #1 is the guy who is pitching that day. If your goal is to convince me that Doug Fister and Tanner Roark are better than Steven Matz and Colon/Wheeler? Fister had a 4.19 era last year and Steamer thinks that will only go up, while Steamer also thinks Matz’s 2.27 era will rise to 3.59 even though he has never had an above 3.00 era at any level (the one exception is his 4.91 era for 3.2 innings rehabbing in A+ last year which I wouldn’t count), no, really.

Matz may regress given his 3.56 xFIP and 2.46 WHIP, but so far he’s been lights out and he can hit. I also remember with Matz that quite a few grounders found holes but there wasn’t much in terms of hard contact with a 21.2% hard hit ball rate (Max Scherzer comes in at 27.7%) which would have been tied for best in the league with Dallas Keuchel if Matz had enough innings … And Matz was gassed when came back from the injury, losing command after 5 innings or so, but they pushed him. So yeah, Matz might regress some, but the hometown kid could just as easily get better.

Anyway I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially if they make predictions for a living or live in Washington and have like access to nuclear codes or zip codes or whatever … but I don’t think the Nats eclipse the Mets in their starting pitching, and honestly, I think it’s because the situation is unprecedented. I can’t remember when a team had this many ace level pitchers in the same clubhouse.

We all know about athletes who played under someone’s shadow, Pippen and Jordan, Koosman and Seaver, A-Rod and Ramiro Pena … but with this Mets rotation their collective shadow is such that they become sort of interchangeable and they get overlooked. They all have this nasty slider, they all throw hard, they all hit and field, and they all order the stuffed mushrooms and linguini white clam sauce at Don Peppe’s, they’re like clones. If you’re playing the Mets you figure you’re going to see beau-coup pitching — so adjust your fantasy rosters!

It’s only slightly outrageous to say that there are five pitchers on the Mets who could potentially win a Cy Young over the course of their careers, five. When has that ever been the case? The 97 Braves? The 2014 Nationals? The 2011 Phillies?

Look, I know calling Matz and Wheeler potential “Cy Youngs” is a stretch, but the stuff is there, and who were the 4th and 5th starters on those other great rotations? Worley? Haren? Ryu? It’s tough to find a starting 5 that match up in terms of raw talent and sheer potential. The only one I can think of is the 1988 Mets because of Cone.

It’s early. This pitching rotation is just starting out … they have a NLCS title and a ROY between them. If they can stay healthy and together, this is going to be fun to watch.

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About Matt Balasis 151 Articles
A Met fan since August 1969 when the Red Cross placed my family on the 6th floor of a building in Willets Point because of a fire. I could see Shea from our balcony. I missed the fall of 86 because I was in Boot Camp and I've been serving penance ever since in Minnesota. I write about the Mets to share with a tradition that made much of my childhood worthwhile. Follow me on twitter: