The Mets pitching staff has been feared by many teams in the past as they have always had the ability to be as strong as anyone’s, but have struggled to put it all together over the years, outside of 2015.
However, 2018 was a different story in that regard as, arguably the most crucial offseason addition, Dave Eiland, helped bring his pitching staff to new heights.
We all knew Jacob deGrom was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, but nobody expected him to have the type of season he did in which he finished the year with a league-leading 1.70 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 269 strikeouts in 217 innings. It is almost certain that the right-hander will win the Cy Young Award as the only thing that wasn’t strong for him was out of his control to some extent: his record (10-9).
The 30-year-old also set multiple MLB records as he had the longest streak of starts allowing three or fewer runs (29 starts) and hurled 24 straight quality starts.
Meanwhile, Zack Wheeler established himself as one of the best starters in baseball as he went 12-7 with a 3.31 ERA (11th in the NL), 1.12 WHIP, and 179 strikeouts in 182 1/3 innings pitched.
That was despite ending the month of May with a 5.40 ERA. After working with Eiland, Wheeler started to fine-tune his craft and went 9-1 with a 1.68 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in the second half of the season.
Wheeler gave a lot of credit for his personal success and the pitching staff’s overall dominance to Eiland.
“I think we all made strides. Jake’s going for the Cy Young. I had a good second half. Steve (Matz) is looking like a new and better pitcher and I’m happy to see that. Noah has been hurt for the most part this year, but he’s taken some great strides lately to get back to where he was. And (Jason Vargas) has turned his season around. So hopefully we can all stay on this path.”
Moving on to some of the guys he later mentioned, Steven Matz put together his best, and by far most durable season of his career, as he finished the year with a 3.97 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 152 strikeouts in 30 starts (154 innings).
That stat line does not even completely do him justice for how well he pitched for the majority of the season after the month of April. He made the poor decision to pitch through injury which caused him to have a three-start rough patch before he went on the DL followed by a bad first start upon his return to the team on August 16 which saw his ERA rise to 4.60. At his best, he saw his ERA drop to 3.31.
However, Matz was incredible in the final month of the season as he registered a 2.51 ERA which saw him reclaim his midseason dominance.
Noah Syndergaard, despite missing significant time with injuries, still managed to make 25 starts while going 13-4 with a 3.03 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 155 strikeouts in 154 1/3 innings pitched.
Eiland worked with Syndergaard extensively in the final couple months of the season and, in September, the results started to show as he went 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA and 1.03 WHIP while tossing two complete games and recording three shutout performances. That was of course highlighted by his last start of the season in which he threw a complete game shutout while only allowing five hits.
Lastly, Eiland was able to work with a familiar face this season in Jason Vargas, who many considered a very poor signing after his dreadful first half of the season that saw him go 2-6 with an 8.60 ERA.
Vargas figured things out in the second half, though, as he went 5-3 with a 3.81 ERA, 1.12 ERA, and 52 strikeouts in 11 starts (54 1/3 innings pitched).
The left-hander also recorded two shutout performances in the final two months of the season while also having four quality starts in that span as well.
While his 5.77 season ERA is pretty ugly for a player the Mets handed a two-year, $16 million contract to, he did manage to figure things out in the second half which should give the team some hope that he can continue the positive trend next season.
Eiland intimated a lot of faith in this pitching staff towards the end of the year that, as a collective unit, finished two strikeouts shy of the team’s record of 934 strikeouts in a season and had an MLB-best 2.36 ERA in the month of September.
“We have deeper starting pitching here than I had with either one of those World Series-winning clubs, “referring to the 2009 Yankees and 2015 Royals. “As far as starting pitching goes we are in good shape. I just hope we do some other things to build around it.”
“With this kind of starting pitching, you can win a championship. I will put our rotation up against any in baseball in a five-game or seven-game series. It takes more than just that to win, but that part of it is in place. Now it’s just the rest of it and I’ll let somebody else talk to that.”