The Mets entered 2017 with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman as potential starting pitchers for their five rotational spots. With quantity and quality pitching like that, what could possibly have gone wrong?
Unfortunately for the Mets the answer was: everything. What was supposed to be one of the top rotations in MLB became one of the worst due to injuries and underachieving. Mets starters combined for a 3.61 ERA in 2016 which was good for third best in MLB. That declined drastically in 2017 as starters combined for a 5.14 ERA which ranked 27th in the majors.
Alderson admitted that the Mets will live or die on their pitching.
“If the pitching doesn’t come around, it doesn’t come around,” Alderson said according to Newsday. “The strategy to compete is really predicated on the pitching. That’s the strength of our team. If we end up with the same problems with the pitching this year that we had last year, it ain’t going to happen. We’re not going to be competitive.”
Beyond Syndergaard and deGrom, there really aren’t any guarantees in the Mets rotation at this point. Of course with the pedigrees the other pitchers have, they could easily bounce back to put up similar numbers to that of the past. However, many feel that the Mets would be wise to add another starting pitcher; even if it is just a veteran innings-eater.
While it looked like that was on Alderson’s to-do list for the offseason, it seems like he has backed off that recently as reported by Mike Puma.
“As usual, we’ll try to be creative,” Alderson said. “At the same time, we definitely want to be competitive and feel like we can be competitive.”
That creativity appears to include changing how the pitchers prepare for the upcoming season, shortening their starts during the season, and improving the bullpen so they aren’t relied upon as much during each outing.
Another large part of Alderson’s plan to fix the rotation without acquiring another starter is building up the training staff. The plan is to have a new head trainer, two assistant trainers, and a specialist who will use technology to monitor workloads with the use of biometrics.
One potential reason for Alderson’s position in regards to starting pitcher could be something Joe D. speculated about on Sunday.
“How are the Mets going to do everything they say they want to on a $30 million budget? With top relievers earning $10 million dollars or more annually, how are we going to also add a quality starting pitcher, a big bat in the outfield, plus an everyday second or third baseman, and a bench piece? Obviously two of those items are not happening.”
As mentioned before, it’s not impossible for this rotation to be a solid one. It has happened before and it can happen again. It just involves a lot of hoping that everything goes right. However, that type of elusive hope is not something a fan base wants to deal with when there are also questions at many other positions around the field.