After an eight year career, former Mets pitcher Dillon Gee has announced his retirement from baseball. While Gee spent time with the Royals, Rangers, Twins, and even Japan, he is a New York Mets player through and through. The fact Gee emerged to even be that is quite remarkable.
Gee was a 21st round draft pick out of the University of Texas. He didn’t throw consistently in the 90s. None of his breaking pitches were great. Looking at that profile, you would not immediately peg him as a guy who was going to make it to the Major Leagues.
Overlooked through all of that was Gee knew how to pitch. He could locate his pitches, and he knew how to sequence them. With that knowledge and his underrated stuff, Gee just dominated in the minors. A year after he was drafted, he posted a 1.33 ERA in Double-A Binghamton. He would come to Spring Training in 2009, and he would catch the eye of then Mets manager Jerry Manuel.
You could have expected to pinpoint that as the moment where Gee took off. He didn’t because in Triple-A Gee was 1-3 with a 4.10 ERA and a 1.303 WHIP in just nine starts. He watched on like the rest of us as the Mets dipped down to Triple-A for Tim Redding, Nelson Figueroa, Pat Misch, Fernando Nieve, and Jon Niese. As that 2009 team faltered, Gee was left with us Mets fans wondering, “What if?”
The reason why Gee was no in the mix was a torn labrum leading to season ending shoulder surgery for a torn laburm. As we would eventually see with Johan Santana, that could be a career killer. Fortunately, even with him struggling in the minors in 2010, it wasn’t one for Gee.
Gee would finally get his chance at the end of the 2010 season, and over the course of seven brilliant innings against the Nationals, he proved he belonged. He did that all the more so as Gee had a 2.18 ERA in five MLB starts. That stint established he was a Major Leaguer, and he would become a fixture in the Mets rotation.
There were several highlights from Gee in his Mets years. In 2011, he would start the season 7-0 surpassing Jon Matlack‘s rookie record of six consecutive wins to start a season. He would set a career high with nine strikeouts in a game. And then, once again, there was an issue with his pitching shoulder. This time, Gee had a clot an arterial clot requiring season ending surgery. By the end of 2012, he had a promising start to his career, and he also had two significant and potentially career altering shoulder surgeries.
Once again, Gee would beat the odds, and he would once again establish he was a big league pitcher. While he teetered early on in 2013, he would re-establish himself in May with a terrific start against the Pirates allowing just one run in five innings. After that, he would have two more moments which would be arguably be the highlight of his career. The first was a 12 strikeout performance against the Yankees in the Subway Series:
It was a huge moment as the victory secured the Mets ever, and to date only, season sweep against the Yankees in the history of Interleague Play.
Later that season, Gee would flirt with a no-hitter for six innings against the Braves. It wasn’t the first or last time Gee would have that type of a performance, but it was special nonetheless.
This would lead to his being the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter. Just being an opening day starter put him in the same conversation as pitchers like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Al Leiter, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and Johan Santana. It was a special honor for a pitcher who persevered throughout his career.
Unfortuantely, Gee would have injury issues in 2014, which helped lead to the rise of Jacob deGrom. That coupled with Matt Harvey returning and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz on the horizon made his spot tenuous going forward. With the team being unsure what he was going forward coupled with another injury, Gee’s time was all but over. Finally, Gee would be released by the Mets in June meaning Gee would miss the ride.
Gee missed the ride despite his being a mentor to young pitchers like Harvey. He missed the ride despite him being one of the building blocks who not only had to take their licks pitching in front of inferior Mets teams, but also trying to take this team back to contention. Something, he never got to experience. Instead of being bitter, he was right there with all of us rooting for that Mets team to win the World Series:
— Dillon Gee (@DillonGee35) October 31, 2015
Gee was a Met through and through. For six years, he gave the Mets everything he had. He did not let two shoulder surgeries stand in his way. He rose to become an Opening Day starter, and his fingerprints were all over that 2015 team. In the end, Gee should be proud of everything he accomplished. It was a very good career, and as a fan, it was a privilege to watch him pitch every fifth day.
Best of luck in retirement Dillon Gee!
In September 2015, Scott Boras tried to intervene and limit Matt Harvey‘s innings in what could be perceived as an attempt to save the pitcher not just from the Mets, but also from himself. There would be a modified schedule and some skipped starts, but Harvey eventually took the shackles off because he wanted the ball.
Harvey always wanted the ball.
He wanted the ball in the NL East clincher against the Reds. Instead of the five innings he was supposed to pitch, he pitched into the seventh because, well, he wanted to get ready for the postseason, and the Mets were lucky he did.
Harvey won a pivotal Game 3 of the NLDS. With that series going five games, it was Harvey who got the ball in Game 1 of the NLCS. In front of a raucous Citi Field crowd, Harvey set the tone for that series. As he stepped off the mound with two outs in the eighth, he wasn’t tipping his cap. No, he was pumped up like all of Citi Field was because he knew what we all knew . . . this team was going to the World Series.
When telling the story of Matt Harvey, we will forever go back to Game 5. With the Mets team trying to rally back from a 3-1 series deficit, Harvey wanted the ball for the ninth. Terry Collins initially wanted Jeurys Familia, but he relented, and he gave Harvey the ball.
You’d be hard pressed to find a time in Citi Field history louder than when Harvey took the mound in that ninth. A blown lead and Game 5 loss later, you’d never find Citi Field more despondent.
Now, looking back, that Game 5 was the microcosm of Harvey’s Mets career.
He came in, and he gave us all hope the impossible could happen. He brought us all along for the ride. There was no one we wanted out there more than Harvey. And yet at the very end, despite all the hope and brilliance he brought, we were all left in disbelief, and yes, some in tears, over the how and why Harvey was still out there.
Mainly, Harvey was there because despite no matter what anyone said, Harvey wanted to be there, and he was not going to let anyone stop him.
And you know what? Back in 2013, no one could stop him.
In 26 starts, Harvey was 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, 0.931 WHIP, and a 9.6 K/9. His 2.01 FIP that year would not only lead the Majors, but it would be one of the 10 best over the past 100 years. His WHIP still remains a single season Mets record. It may have seemed premature to put him in the conversation with Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, but really, it made sense. Harvey was just that good.
He was the reason to watch a terrible Mets team, and on May 7th, he may have pitched the game of his life. If not for an Alex Rios infield single Ruben Tejada could not turn into an out, Harvey likely pitches a perfect game. Instead, he had to settle for a no decision despite allowing just one hit and 12 strikeouts in nine innings. Just file that away next time someone points out his win-loss record.
That game was the signature Harvey moment. He took the mound with a bloody nose. He was reaching near triple digits with this fastball. He was becoming a superstar. He was making Citi Field his playground.
When we look through the history of Citi Field one day, it will be Harvey who emerged as it’s first superstar. He was the one who brought the crowds. He started the first All Star Game at Citi Field. Arguably, he pitched the two best games ever pitched by a Met at that ballpark.
It would be that 2013 season Harvey broke. He tore his UCL, and he needed Tommy John surgery. Mets fans everywhere who were once so hopeful were crushed. There were many low moments in Mets history since the team moved to Citi Field, but that one is among the lowest.
But when he came back in 2015, hope returned. He may not have been 2013 great, but he was great. For all the criticism over his innings limits, he would throw more innings than any pitcher in baseball history in their first season back from Tommy John.
Looking back at that 2015 season, Harvey gave the Mets and their fans everything he had. He pitched great in the regular season, and he was even better in the postseason. Just like in 2013, he was trying to will the Mets back to prominence. He was taking an organization on his back and trying to win a World Series.
It broke him in 2013, and apparently, it broke him again in 2015.
Really, when he stepped off that mound in Game 5 of the World Series, Harvey was done as we knew him. In 2016, he’d be diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome requiring season ending surgery. Last year, Harvey was rushed back to the rotation before he was physically ready, and he suffered a stress reaction. This year, he was healthy, but lost.
Looking back, no one will ever know if Harvey listened to Boras if he’d still be The Dark Knight instead of a guy now looking for a job.
The real shame is how Harvey went out. The same guy who heard the loudest ovations from the fans, the same one who heard Mets fans serenade Stephen Strasburg with “Harvey’s Better!” chants, was booed off the mound the last time he ever pitched on what had once been his mound.
There are some who will find behavioral excuses why Harvey faulted, and maybe they do exist. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a pitcher who was at the top of his game in November only to completely lose it by the next April. Most pitchers get a transition period to figure things out. Harvey’s cruel fate was he had more injuries followed by his getting about a month and a half before being given an ultimatum.
In what once seemed impossible, Harvey was designated for assignment. Sure, Mets fans always expected him to leave one day, but we all thought it would be Harvey who spurned the cheap Wilpon family, not the Wilpons kicking him out the door despite the team still owing him around $4 million.
Much has been made of the Mets crop of starting pitchers, the group who brought them to the 2015 World Series. Make no mistake, Harvey was the best out of the group. Better than Jacob deGrom. Better than Noah Syndergaard.
Really, he was better than anyone not named Seaver or Gooden, and if things had broken right, Harvey could have been a Hall of Famer. He was that good when he was healthy, but he wasn’t healthy making him this generation’s version of Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, or Jon Matlack.
Harvey being designated for assignment wasn’t a shock. With every struggle on the mound, and yes, some personal issues that emerged, he was getting closer and closer to this point. It doesn’t mean this doesn’t hurt the Mets fan, the ones who got to experience in the joy of seeing the real Harvey pitch, any less.
There will come a day down the line where all will be forgiven, and we can all just look back and appreciate all Harvey did for the Mets. We can take a step back and marvel how he potentially sacrificed his entire career to win that one World Series. Really, he has never been thanked or appreciated enough for that.
Now, he is looking for a new team and a new fan base. Hopefully, Harvey rediscovers some of that magic he once had, and hopefully, he gets those cheers again. He’s certainly earned them.
And when he does return to Citi Field, whether it be this year or the next, let’s hope he gets that true standing ovation he deserved, the one he might’ve received on Thursday had we all known it was going to be his last game in a Mets uniform.
No matter what happens, Mets fans everywhere should wish him the best of luck. There was a time we showered him with all the love we had, and he returned the favor by giving us everything he had. Everything. Here’s hoping he gets everything he is looking for in his next stop.
I know no matter what he does, I’m rooting of him. More than that I appreciate Harvey for all he did as a Met. Really, best of luck to you, Matt Harvey.
The Mets Fan
How You Became A Mets Fan
I was born into a Mets family. One of the earliest life lessons I can remember getting from my big brother was that we rooted for the Mets and hated the Yankees. And thus has it ever been! I attended my first game — a 7-6 win over the Astros — in 1971 and still have the ticket stub to prove it.
Favorite Mets Player
When I first started rooting for the Mets, I somehow decided that I loved Tommie Agee. Not really sure why. Was also very fond of Jon Matlack during that period. Later became a huge Keith Hernandezfan. And always loved Ed Kranepool and thought they should have retired his number just because he played every season dating back to 1962. These days, I really like Jacob deGrom.
Favorite Moment in Mets History
The Buckner game, of course.
Message to Mets Fans
We all know we deserve better than the Wilpons, but the situation is what it is. Hang in there — we were in the World Series just a few years ago, so the pendulum can swing our way again.
In 2000, the New York Mets made the postseason in consecutive years for the first time in their history. It was a two year run that produced some of the most memorable moments in Mets history.
In the Mets first ever NLDS game, Edgardo Alfonzo hit two home runs, including a grand slam. The Mets would win that NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 10th inning walk-off home run from Todd Pratt in a moment dubbed Pratt’s All Folks. The NLCS featured Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single, and Mike Piazza‘s opposite field home run against John Smoltz which capped the Mets rallying from an early 5-0 and 7-3 deficits in what was a heart wrenching game.
In the 2000 NLDS, John Franco froze Barry Bonds to get a 10th inning strikeout to rescue the Mets from an Armando Benitez blown save. In Game 3, Benny Agbayani would hit a walk-off 13th inning home run giving the Mets a 2-1 lead in the series setting the stage for Bobby Jones‘ brilliant one-hitter to cap the series. In the NLCS, Timo Perez became a folk hero as the Mets swept the hated Cardinals to return to the World Series for the first time since 1986.
None of this . . . not one single moment would have been possible without Al Leiter.
Starting on September 21st, the Mets lost seven games in a row and eight of nine. The losing streak saw the Mets four game lead in the Wild Card turn into a two game deficit. It appeared that for the second season in a row, the Mets were going to blow a fairly sizeable lead in the Wild Card race and miss the postseason all together. Fortunately, the Mets would win out and force a one game playoff against the Cincinnati Reds for the Wild Card and the right to face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1999 NLDS.
After Rickey Henderson and Alfonzo hit back-to-back home runs to open the game, Leiter would do the rest. Leiter was simply brilliant in a complete game two-hit seven strikeout shutout. This start came off the heels of Leiter’s last start of the season where he out-dueled Greg Maddux to snap the the Mets eight game losing streak and put the team back in position to make a run at the Wild Card.
Typically, that was the type of pitcher Leiter was in a Mets uniform. He rose to the occasion in some when the Mets needed him. He was the guy who helped pitch the Mets into the 1999 postseason. He was the guy who helped turn around the 2000 NLDS by shutting down the San Francisco Giants over eight plus innings. He was the pitcher who gave everything he had in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series. Much like the Mets in that two year time frame, he was terrific, but time and again, he came up just short. In seven postseason starts for the Mets, he was 0-2 with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.080 WHIP. Taking out the 1999 NLCS Game 6 start against the Braves he made on three days rest and couldn’t record an out, his Mets postseason ERA and WHIP respectively drops to 2.58 and 1.015.
Leiter’s greatness as a Met extend far beyond the superlatives of his moments in big games and how well he pitched in the postseason. He was also very good in the regular season.
Leiter first came to the Mets in a February 1998 trade that featured the Mets sending prized prospect A.J. Burnett to a Florida Marlins team that was dismantling their World Series winning club. The trade was a sign the Mets were interested in moving on from a team that was rebuilding to a team that was ready to start competing. Adding a pitcher like Leiter, while a risk, certainly paid dividends.
In 1998, Leiter would arguably post the best year of his career going 17-6 with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.150 WHIP. That season Leiter was unquestionably the ace for a Mets team that surprised everyone by competing for a Wild Card spot deep into the season. For much of Leiter’s seven year career he served as either the Mets ace, 1A, or number two starter.
In his entire Mets career, Leiter was 95-67 with a 3.42 ERA, 1,360.0 innings pitched, 1,106 strikeouts, and a 1.300 WHIP. In that seven year span, Leiter posted a very good 124 ERA+ and a 28.0 WAR. He would make an All Star team and he would have one Top 10 Cy Young Award finish. With strong numbers like these, it should be no surprise Leiter’s name is scattered across the Mets record books:
- Wins (95) – sixth
- Games Started (213) – sixth
- Innings Pitched (1,360.0) – seventh
- Strikeouts (1,106) – seventh
- WAR (28.0) – 11th
In terms of all-time Mets pitchers, Leiter’s WAR ranks him as the sixth best pitcher in Mets history behind Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Sid Fernandez, and Jon Matlack. In terms of left-handed starters, Leiter ranks third in wins, seventh in ERA, third in starts, fourth in innings pitched, and third in strikeouts.
In terms of advanced statistics, Leiter’s 1998 season was the seventh best by a Mets pitcher by ERA+. In fact, his Mets career ERA+ ranks him as the eighth best pitcher in Mets history. Among pitchers that have thrown more than a thousand innings, his ERA+ is second all-time to just Seaver. Adjusted pitching runs ranks him as the third best pitcher in Mets history just behind Seaver and Gooden, and adjusted pitching wins ranks him fourth. In terms of WPA, he ranks fourth all time, third among starters, and second among left-handed pitchers.
Simply put, Leiter had a terrific career in a Mets uniform. His 1998 season was one of the best by a Mets starter. By most measures, he’s a top 10 or top 5 pitcher in Mets history. He has came up big in big moments time and time again. He was also part of a group of Mets players that welcomed Piazza after the trade with the Marlins and made him feel welcome enough for Piazza to re-sign with the Mets.
More than any of the aforementioned stats, there is another factor. There is no way you can adequately tell the history of the Mets franchise without discussing Leiter. Leiter was an important member of two Mets teams that made the postseason. He is a major part of one of the best eras in Mets baseball, and he’s a part of one of the most beloved teams in Mets history. Moreover, he is a part of a core group of Mets that have been long overlooked for the Mets Hall of Fame. Despite 1997 – 2001 being one of the better stretches in Mets history, Piazza and Franco remain the only Mets from those teams to be represented in the Mets Hall of Fame. They were not the only contributors to this run.
This era of Mets baseball has been long overlooked by this team. It is time some of those important Mets get inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. Leiter is one of the Mets that deserve induction.
There are many factors to consider when voting for a candidate today. At this point, they have all be regurgitated and discussed at length, and hopefully, you have made your decision based upon sound criteria. However, if you are looking for a reason to change your mind or reason to have your mind made up for you, or you really want to base this important decision on how the Mets have fared with a Republican or a Democrat in office, you are in luck. Here is how the Mets have performed under each President in their 54 year history:
|John F. Kennedy||1962 – 1963||91 – 231||0.283|
|Lyndon B. Johnson||1964 – 1968||303 – 506||0.375|
|Richard M Nixon||1969 – 1974*||478 – 433||0.525|
|Gerald R. Ford||1974* – 1976||263 – 277||0.487|
|Jimmy Carter||1977 – 1980||260 – 388||0.401|
|Ronald Reagan||1981 – 1988||662 – 573||0.536|
|George H.W. Bush||1989 – 1992||386 – 423||0.477|
|William Jefferson Clinton||1993 – 2000||562 – 506||0.526|
|George W. Bush||2001 – 2008||651 – 643||0.503|
|Barack Obama||2009 – 2016||630-666||0.486|
* Nixon resigned from office August 9, 1974
Here are the cumulative results:
|Democrat||1,846 – 2,297||0.446|
|Republican||2,440 – 2,349||0.510|
Here are some interesting Mets postseason facts when there was a Democrat or Republican in the White House.
Democrat Postseason Facts
- The two times the Mets have been to back-to-back postseasons was when there was a Democrat in the White House (1999 & 2000 – Clinton; 2015 & 2016 – Obama)
- The Mets have only had an NLCS MVP when there was a Democrat in the White House (Mike Hampton – 2000; Daniel Murphy – 2015)
- The Mets have only won the division once (2015) with a Democrat in office. The other three postseason appearances were as the Wild Card.
- The Mets have appeared in four total postseasons and two World Series. The Mets are 21-17 in postseason games with the following records per round:
Wild Card Game 0 – 1 NLDS 9 – 4 NLCS 10 – 4 World Series 2 – 8
Republican Postseason Facts
- The Mets have won their only two World Series with a Republican in office (1969 – Nixon; 1986 – Reagan)
- In all five of their appearances in the postseason with a Republican in office, the Mets were the National Leauge East champions.
- In three of the five appearances, the Mets won 100+ games with the high water mark coming in 1986 with 108 wins
- In four of the five seasons the Mets appeared in the postseason with a Republican in office, the Mets had the best record in the National League (1973 is the exception). In two of those seasons (1986 & 2006), the Mets had the best record in baseball.
- In total, the Mets have appeared in five postseason and three World Series. The Mets are 30-20 in those postseason games with the following records per round:
NLDS 3 – 0 NLCS 16 – 12 World Series 11 – 8
If you wish to mainly focus on player performance over how the team has fared during each administration, Mets players have received more awards during Republican leadership:
Cy Young Award
Rookie of the Year
- Republican 3 (Seaver 1967; Jon Matlack 1972; Darryl Strawberry 1983; Gooden 1984)
- Democrat 1 (Jacob deGrom 2014)
Rolaids Relief Man
Sports Illustrated Man of the Year
- Republican 1 (Seaver 1969)
- Democrat 0
- Republican 14 (Tommie Agee 1970; Bud Harrelson 1971; Keith Hernandez 1983 – 1988; Ron Darling 1989; Carlos Beltran 2006 – 2008; David Wright 2007 – 2008)
- Democrat 6 (Doug Flynn 1980; Rey Ordonez 1997 – 1999; Robin Ventura 1999; Juan Lagares 2014)
- Republican 14 (Hernandez 1984; Gary Carter 1985 – 1986; Strawberry 1988; Howard Johnson1989 & 1991; Mike Piazza 2001 – 2002; Jose Reyes 2006; Beltran 2006 – 2007; Wright 2007 – 2008)
- Democrat 5 (Piazza 1998 – 2000; Edgardo Alfonzo 1999; Hampton 2000)
Roberto Clemente Award
From the Front Office side, Republicans have a 2-1 edge in executive of the year with Johnny Murphy winning in 1969, Frank Cashen winning in 1986, and Sandy Alderson winning in 2015. Baseball America named the Mets the top organization in baseball once in a Republican (1984) and once in a Democratic (1995) term.
As a general rule of thumb, the Mets and their players have performed better with a Republican in office. As you enter the voting booths today, take that as you will. Hopefully, you have more sound criteria for choosing your candidate.
On August 22, 1973, the Mets won their second game in a row to raise the Mets record to 57-67 leaving them 6.0 games out in the National League East behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals.
From that point forward, the Mets would be the hottest team in baseball going 25-12 carrying them to an unlikely division championship. The Mets rode the hot streak to beat the Big Red Machine 3-2 in a best of five NLCS, and they came within a win of disrupting the Oakland A’s dynasty.
The popular story was the Mets were spurred by Tug McGraw screaming “Ya Gotta Believe!” after a M.Donald Grant “pep talk” in July. However, the truth is that team just got healthy at the right time, and when the team was at 100%, they were among the best teams in baseball.
During that year, the team was hampered by injuries. Jerry Grote, John Milner, Bud Harrelson, and Cleon Jones all missed significant time. Rusty Staub player through injuries all year. On top of that phenom Jon Matlack was having a down year a year removed from winning the Rookie of the Year Award. He was joined by Jerry Koosman in having a surprising down year. Willie Mays looked to be every bit of his 42 years of age. Young fill-ins like Don Hahn just were not producing. The Mets were forced to do anything they could do to improve the team like releasing dead weight like Jim Fregosi. About all that went right that season for the Mets was Tom Seaver; that and the fact that no one ran away with the division allowing the Mets to enter the postseason with an 82-79 record.
Isn’t that what this Mets season has been. With Matt Harvey, David Wright, Lucas Duda, Adrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis Cespedes, we have seen this Mets team be hampered time and again by injuries. We have seen countless Mets play through injuries like Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz with their bone spurs. We’ve seen replacements like Eric Campbell, Ty Kelly, and Matt Reynolds not play up to snuff. Players like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto had surprising down years. About the only thing that has gone right for the Mets this year is the fact that Jacob deGrom has continued to pitch like an ace, and the fact that no one has ran away with the second Wild Card spot.
Maybe, just maybe, this is 1973 all over again. That 1973 team was much further back in both the standings and more teams to leapfrog in the standings. All they needed to do was to get healthy and to get hot. Right now, with Cespedes back and hitting home runs for the Mets again, this team is healthy, and they are on the verge of getting hot. If that happens, the Mets can very well take that second Wild Card spot and get into the postseason.
As we saw in 1973 as well as last year, with great Mets pitching, the Mets can beat anyone in the postseason. They can shock the world. Anything is possible so long as they get hot and get into the postseason.
Lost in all the offensive struggles is the fact that this Mets team is built upon pitching. As a franchise, the Mets always have and always will be built upon pitching. It started with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack in the late 60’s. It was continued in the 80’s with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, and David Cone. The mantle was supposed to be picked up this year by the Mets young rotation.
However, the rotation has had some struggles. Matt Harvey struggled mightily going 2-4 in May with a 5.91 ERA. To a lesser extent, Jacob deGrom struggled in May going 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA. The concern with deGrom was not so much the results but the seemingly precipitous drop in velocity. These were to the two aces the Mets road all last year and into the postseason. These were supposed to be the two aces this year leading the team while the younger starters developed. Instead, the reverse has been true.
Noah Syndergaard has taken the next step this year. He is 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA and a 0.958 WHIP. He is throwing fastballs up and over 100 MPH, and more impressively, he is throwing sliders around 95 MPH. He is as dominant a pitcher as there is in baseball right now.
Steven Matz was named the National League Rookie of the Month for the Month of May. It was a well deserved honor after going 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA and a 0.757 WHIP. In fact, if you take away his first nightmare of a start, a start he made after a long period of inactivity, Matz is 7-0 with a 1.51 ERA and a 0.932 WHIP. Matz has been the pitcher everyone has imagined he would be and more since he burst onto the scene last year beating the Reds from the mound at the plate.
Overall, Syndergaard and Matz have taken the next step. On almost any other rotation, they would be the unquestioned ace. That was the same thing that has been said for Harvey and deGrom. On that front, there is some great news as well. In Harvey’s last start, he went seven innings allowing only two hits, no runs, and one walk with striking out six. In deGrom’s last start, he went seven innings allowing five hits, one run, and two walks while striking out 10. More importantly, deGrom’s velocity is returning with him getting his fastball up to 96 MPH.
So yes, it appears like the 2016 Mets are continuing the franchise’s legacy of having great pitching. With Syndergaard and Matz being ahead of schedule in their development coupled with Harvey and deGrom starting to return to last year’s form, the Mets rotation is stacked with four aces. If you’re a baseball player or a poker player, you know four aces is next to impossible to beat no matter whatever else you have in your hand . . . even if that hand contains the deuce that the Mets offense was over the month of May.
Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured.
Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:
I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level.
The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them.
One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common? They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery.
Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point.
Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck? Could this all have been avoided? Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury.
In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Rick Aguilera, Randy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career.
In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational? Is it bad luck? Is it preparation? For his part, Harvey wonders what if:
I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen.
That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation? Is it good genes? Is it just good luck? Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it.
It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously. There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him.
Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com