The 2018 season will likely go down in Mets history as just another mediocre season that was rather unspectacular and saw the Mets deal with injury issues and setbacks that ultimately led to the team’s postseason hopes disintegrating by the end of June.
However, in actuality, there was something very special in the making this season that should breed tons of optimism for the 2019 campaign. That thing was the culmination of years of waiting for a super-rotation.
Jacob deGrom was not only pitching like a true ace this season, but was the best pitch in all baseball with 1.70 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 269 strikeouts in a career-high 217 innings.
Unfortunately, as many will point out, that did not translate to results record-wise as he finished a mere 10-9, despite his historic season in Flushing,
That being said, at some point the results will come for him (we can at least hope), and judging by what he can control, in any potential playoff series, this is the guy anyone should want on the mound for that game.
Moving on to Noah Syndergaard, the right-hander dealt with some injury issues this season, but despite “struggling” at times, he still managed to go 13-4 with a 3.03 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 155 strikeouts in 25 starts.
The 25-year-old really capped off the season well, though, as he threw two complete games in September (including a complete game shutout on the last day of the season) while going 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over the course of his final six starts.
Going further, the next two arms I’ll discuss were probably the biggest beneficiaries of having a former pitching coach as a manager (Mickey Callaway) and the addition of Dave Eiland as the team’s pitching coach.
Zack Wheeler broke out and in a big way this season with a 12-7 record to go along with a 3.31 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 179 strikeouts in 182 1/3 innings pitched, the second highest total of his career and highest in four years.
This was all despite the fact that he ended the month of May with a 5.40 ERA. From there, he saw an uptick in velocity that rose to 96.5 MPH on his fastball, higher than any other point in his career, while having his mechanics aided and adjusted by Eiland along the way as seen fit.
Wheeler will also be entering a contract year next year so he will likely have an extra chip on his shoulder looking to capitalize in free agency. Everyone knows deGrom and Syndergaard are as good of a one-two punch as you can get, and Wheeler compared to the average third starter is as scary as it comes, especially in a short playoff series were the team to get there.
Just when teams are sitting there and had enough of the Mets top-notch pitching, they get Steven Matz now.
Many people probably look at Matz’s stat line and see an overall solid, but not overly impressive one. In 30 starts (154 innings), the left-hander went 5-11 with a 3.97 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 152 strikeouts. However, many forget that he got torched while trying to play through injury for three starts. In that span, he allowed 16 runs in 11 2/3 innings which allowed his ERA to raise almost a full run from 3.38 to 4.35.
After he returned from the DL on August 16, the 27-year-old did not settle in immediately as he allowed six runs (four earned) in two innings to raise his ERA all the way up to 4.60. From there, though, he was smooth sailing as he had a phenomenal month of September in which he had a 2.51 ERA and 39 strikeouts in six starts (32 1/3 innings pitched).
So, while it’s easy to sit here and say that Matz is just average to slightly above, Matz actually was pretty phenomenal for most of the year outside of a few rough starts in the middle and a rough month of April where had a 4.98 ERA.
Lastly, I will briefly talk about Jason Vargas, who will be here for at least one more year, much to the dismay of many as he went 7-9 with a 5.77 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and 84 strikeouts in a mere 92 innings (20 starts) of work while spending a large amount of time on the DL in the first year of a two-year, $16 million contract.
While that final stat line is pretty ugly for the 35-year-old, it doesn’t tell the whole story at all. In fact, Vargas actually had a remarkable recovery in the second half of the year.
After finishing off the first half with a 2-6 record and 8.60 ERA, Vargas bounced back pretty nicely going 5-3 with a 3.81 ERA after the All-Star Break.
The month of September was his best of the season, also, as he went 2-1 with a 3.27 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 23 strikeouts in 22 innings of work (four starts).
This comes a year after Vargas had a reversed season in Kansas City where he had 12-3 record and a 2.62 ERA before the All-Star Break followed by a 6-8 record and 6.38 ERA in the second half.
Which Vargas the Mets get will be crucial in determining whether or not the Mets have their fifth starter in-house or not, but if he can be anything close to the starter he was in the month of September this year, then the Mets will have one that is as good as any other team’s number five starter in their rotation.
Even if he’s closer to the 2018 version of himself, the Mets happen to have four starters at the top of their rotation that, when healthy, cannot truthfully be rivaled by any other team in the league. If the Mets get the necessary offensive pieces and bullpen help to secure leads and victories for them, the team could very well be playing deep into October in 2019.