Seth Lugo’s Last Start Is Just the Beginning

Tonight marks Seth Lugo‘s last start in what has been an already incredible season for him.  More than any other pitcher in the Mets organization, it was unlikely that Lugo would find himself in this position.

After 14 starts and a 6.93 ERA for AAA Las Vegas, the Mets organization decided Lugo should not be a starting pitcher.  It was certainly understandable.  The Mets major league team was flush with young starting pitching with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven MatzZack Wheeler was supposed to join them soon as he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.  If the Mets needed a spot starter, there was Logan Verrett, who did the job quite admirably last year, and Sean Gilmartin, who pitched well in the majors last season.  When you also consider the Mets had well regarded pitching prospects in Gabriel Ynoa and Robert Gsellman, it was seemingly time to move Lugo to the bullpen.  At 26 years old, it was probably his best chance to make it to the majors.

Lo and behold, that’s exactly how he would make it to the bigs.  In his first major league appearance, he unleashed what was then the best curveball ever thrown in the Statcast Era.  The pitch fooled Anthony Rizzo, a player who finished in the top four in MVP voting last year, is a three time All Star, and is hitting .305/.395/.579 with 23 homers and 72 RBI off right-handed pitching.  Right then and there Lugo not only showed that his curveball may be the best pitch in the entire Mets system, but that he belongs in the major leagues.

Lugo would continue to show he was a major leauger in his next nine appearances.  In those appearances, he pitched 17.0 innings with a 2.65 ERA and a 0.941 WHIP.  In those appearances, he limited batters to a .185/.273/.222 batting line.

Then disaster struck – not to Lugo, but to the Mets starting rotation.  With Lugo pitching well out of the bullpen, he soon found himself in the one place no one thought he was ever going to be.  The starting rotation.  In his first start, Lugo was much better than anyone ever imagined pitching 6.2 innings against the Giants.  He was able to be economical with his pitches thereby allowing him to go deep into the game despite it being his first start in two months.

From there, Lugo has shown he belongs in the rotation.  In Lugo’s seven starts, he is 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA and a 1.104 WHIP.  When there are runners in scoring position, Lugo has shown the ability to bear down (some would call it luck) adding a few extra MPH to his fastball and relying a little more heavily on a curveball that generates both swings and misses as well as groundballs.  As a result, batters are only hitting .163/.259/.233 off of him in those situations.

That’s where Lugo finds himself on his last start of the regular season.  He’s taking the mound against the Marlins in the hopes of dropping the Mets magic number to clinch one of the Wild Card spots from four to three or two.  He’s also making his case that he should pitch the Wild Card Game in the event Syndergaard has to pitch in the regular season finale on Sunday.  He’s also making the case he should be the third starter over Gsellman this postseason.

He’s also making the case that he belongs in the long term plans of the New York Mets.  He’s already done a terrific job of doing that so far.  Another strong start here and a good postseason, it’ll be a guarantee.

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