MMO Fan Shot: The Skinny on Wheeler, Matz and Harvey

An MMO Fan Shot by Roberto Correa

If you were to ask a Mets fan which part of the team had the worst performance last season, it would be extremely likely that they would note our pitching.

The Mets sat 28th in team ERA, 29th in WHIP and 27th in Left on Base Percentage. Our staff could not keep runners off the base paths or from crossing the plate.

Pitchers and catchers are set to meet on Feb. 12 and it seems the starting pitching free agent bubble is yet to burst. It sits there awkwardly like a freshly born zit on the face of a young teen, but won’t pop.

Gerrit Cole’s trade to Houston didn’t ignite the market the way pundits may have expected it to evolve. Talk of potential trade pieces like Chris Archer and Julio Teheran have simmered down. Here in Queens, we’ve already heard that the Mets are not likely to sign any impact starters.

Mike Puma reported that the Mets are likely to bring “1-2 non-roster starting pitchers into camp.”

Given that likelihood, lets see what we may have to look forward to next year, and where we have cause for concern.

Team health wasn’t the brightest mark for the Mets last season. Everyone in the rotation short of Jacob deGrom was hurt at some point last season. Going into 2018, deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are considered to be the only solid parts of the rotation. Nevertheless there are some upsides to the rest of the original “Fab Five.”

From April 18 to June 7, Zack Wheeler had nine starts and was an inning short of six frames per outing. In that time, he had an 8.14 K/9 accompanying his 2.72 ERA, and an excellent 46.7 percent ground ball rate.

His BB/9 was just above four, but he was out of baseball for two years so that’s to be expected given his track record. His previous start before the 18th was 5.22 innings with three earned runs. If you include that start, the ERA comes in at 2.91, and his FIP drops to just under 4.00, but the strikeout rate drops under eight.

After June 7 is when we first started getting reports of him pitching through pain. Still, there’s reason to be optimistic about Wheeler in 2018 more than any of the other back end three.

Steven Matz is a bit tougher for me to get a read on. His second to last start was good, but other than that, his best run came when he returned from the disabled list.

From June 10 to July 3, Matz had five starts, in which he went seven innings in four starts and six in the other.

His K/9 was a mere 5.82, but his BB/9 was 2.38, accompanied by a 1.03 WHIP, 2.12 ERA, and an excellent 50 percent ground ball rate. The concerns loom considering his LOB rate which was 96.4 percent and his BABIP of .214, which shows in his 4.57 FIP.

His fastball also averaged 93 MPH in that time, down from 96.1 in 2015, and 93.9 in 2016. Even hurt in this time, Matz was able to keep good control of his pitches, and produce ground balls. An improved infield defense would work wonders for his performance.

Matz had a procedure done on his ulnar ligament, the same surgery that deGrom had back in September of 2016. Perhaps this sets Matz on a healthy track to pitch as effectively as he did the prior two seasons.

Matt Harvey’s last handful of years have been marred by injuries and surgeries, the most notable of these his Thoracic Outlet Surgery in 2016.

It goes without saying that Harvey’s season was less than ideal, and the highlights for him were extremely limited. At this point, we’re looking at two sides of a coin.

Harvey could go the way of Josh Beckett and Chris Carpenter, both who had their careers shortened by the TOS, or he could face the good fortune only some have seen so far.

Guys like Jaime Garcia and Clayton Richard, while not giving stellar performances, both gave a good amount of innings in 2017, and were good back end pieces. The big difference between them and Harvey is the ground ball rate (59.2 percent for Richard  54.8 percent for Garcia and 43.0 percent for Harvey).

These facts withstanding, there must have been something there that new manager Mickey Callaway and new pitching coach Dave Eiland see in him that makes them want to hold on.

It was reported earlier this offseason that they both requested that Alderson not trade Harvey, and that they are very enthusiastic to work with him. I believe Harvey will not be the big strikeout guy he once was, so his season will mainly depend on whether or not he can locate well, and produce soft contact.

All in all, there is plenty of room for cautious optimism for our 3, 4 and 5 starters.

There is still time to potentially improve the infield defense, and help shorten innings that were extended in 2017. Of course some things have to fall in the right place, and health will be a year long worry, but the upside that is they could make the Mets a very strong team in 2018.

Only time will tell.

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This Fan Shot was written and contributed by MMO community member and die-hard Mets fan Roberto Correa. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Send your article to GetMetsmerized@aol.com or use this Contact Form. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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