In true Mets fashion, it was discovered Mets ace Noah Syndergaard has a torn UCL, and he is going to need Tommy John surgery. With that, the Mets chances of winning the 2020 World Series, if the season is ever going to be played, just took a massive hit.
New York Mets starter Noah Syndergaard has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery in the near future, sources tell ESPN. The procedure will keep him out until at earliest April 2021 and likely into the summer months.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 24, 2020
For all the discussion people want to have about Syndergaard not fulfilling his potential as an ace, Syndergaard remained a very good starting pitcher. In 2019, Syndergaard was 18th in FIP, and he had the second best hard-hit rate in the majors. Over the past two seasons, Syndergaard ranked eighth in FIP, and he had the best hard hit rate in the majors.
Overall, while some of his stats did not bear out that way, partially due to what has been an atrocious Mets defense, Syndergaard has pitched like one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. He’d be the ace on almost any other team. Part of the problem Syndergaard has with respect to how he is perceived is he is in the same rotation as Jacob deGrom, and every pitcher in baseball looks worse than they actually are next to him.
Looking at the Mets, their plan to compete for the division was rolling out a great top three of deGrom, Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman. Now, they are going to have one of the better 1-2 punches in the majors, but not the best, and certainly, no longer the best 1-2-3 combination.
Worse yet, this thrusts Michael Wacha into that starting rotation. Wacha has been shut down multiple times in his career due to shoulder issues. That includes last year. Over the past two years, Wacha was simply not good. He had a 4.76 ERA with a 1.563 WHIP. In fact, he has had an ERA above 4.00 and a WHIP above 1.350 in three out of the last four years.
This isn’t like 2015 when the Mets had Steven Matz and Syndergaard waiting in the wings. No, the rotation really couldn’t withstand an injury to one of their top three starters like this. This serves as a crucial blow to their chances of competing.
Of course, things didn’t have to be this way. The Mets could’ve taken the money being given to Rick Porcello, owner of the worst ERA in the AL last year, Wacha, Jake Marisnick, and Dellin Betances, and they could’ve just given it to Zack Wheeler. That also would’ve given them a little money to spare.
With Wheeler, who is a discount at $118 million, especially with money deferred, the Mets still could’ve had a great 1-2 combination, and even with Syndergaard going down, their 1-2-3 punch would have likely remained the best in the majors. Mostly, it would’ve allowed the Mets to better sustain this injury.
Remember, the Mets aren’t just built on pitching. No, they are built on elite starting pitching. The best staff in the majors. That took a giant step back when the Mets let Wheeler walk, and now, it’s frankly no longer the case with Syndergaard done for 2020. In the end, Brodie Van Wagenen lost sight of this, and now he lost his team’s biggest strength.
Now, the Mets are without Syndergaard, and their chances took a MAJOR hit. Now, their hopes lie with Jeremy Hefner having a profound impact on the Mets rotation, which includes, but is not limited to having Porcello and Wacha turn the clock back 5+ years and having Matz reach his full potential.
The question next becomes what happens if the next pitcher goes down. Unless Corey Oswalt or Stephen Gonsalves are ready to contribute, this all could become a disaster rather quickly. The ultimate point here is the Mets chances of winning the World Series went from legitimately possible to having a real outside shot. That’s just how much losing Syndergaard hurts the team.
At least from a Mets fans perspective, this is the worst thing happening in the world right now. Of course, that really isn’t true. There are far more pressing concerns at the moment.
On that front, one of the things Mets fans were clinging onto was the prospect of the return of baseball at some point during 2020. When that happened, the Mets had that type of rotation which could have taken them their first World Series title since 1986. Now, there may not even be that to look forward to at at time when we are just sitting around waiting for things to improve.
On a day like today, when it is reported Syndergaard won’t pitch at all in 2020, it does not seem like things are going to be any better anytime soon.
During Spring Training, there was what seemed to be a contrived race for the fifth starter spot in the rotation between Steven Matz and Michael Wacha. That was even with the case of Matz being the better of the two, and really being a better pitcher than Rick Porcello over the past few seasons.
As we were headed towards the end of Spring Training, we really had no indication of who was in the lead for the spot, and we even heard the Mets were toying with the idea of mixing and matching Matz and Wacha as the fifth starter using them based upon the match-ups.
Of course now, it is a moot point as no one quite knows when or if we are going to play baseball again. When that happens, there is going to be an abbreviated return to Spring Training before we get back to games. Typically speaking, that would be fine as players, especially pitchers, were ramping up to begin the season.
However, teams have shut down their Spring Training facilities to their players and sent them home. Players live in different areas of the country, and places where they would typically go to work out have been shut down as well to help prevent the further spread of COVID19. In the end, this means we have no idea how in shape players will be.
That’s not an issue of laziness or them not being serious about their craft. Rather, it is a practical reality based upon the reality of the situation. It is difficult to ask people to be prepared for the season when they can’t work out at a facility or work with an instructor. To a certain extent, you know they are all doing something, but it may not be sufficient.
For pitchers, that is going to be especially dangerous. As has been noted, there is a fear the ramp up, cool down, and abbreviated re-ramp up can lead to pitcher injuries. This is going to demand teams be judicious in how they use pitchers and allow them to use the earlier part of the season as an extended Spring Training.
Fortunately, the Mets are actually well-built to do that with their having six starting pitchers.
With their having six starting pitchers, they can institute a plan similar to that they implemented at times during the 2015 season. There was push-back from some of the starters, namely Matt Harvey, but ultimately using pitchers like Jon Niese in the rotation and later Logan Verrett, it did help keeps arms fresh. That was a key to the Mets winning the 2015 pennant.
That’s exactly what the Mets need to do here. They need to use a six man rotation to help keep these pitchers fresh and to help them get through the season. They can do it strategically by taking into account the off days. At times, they can mix in Robert Gsellman here and there given his presence as the long man in the bullpen, and possibly, they can use a Stephen Gonsalves or Corey Oswalt for the occasional spot start or even as an “opener” for starts made by the other pitchers in the rotation.
In the end, this is still a Mets team built on pitching, and they need to keep their pitchers fresh and healthy to succeed in 2020. That is going to require them to utilize a six man rotation at times, so in the end, it means that Porcello, Matz, and Wacha will all win a spot in the rotation.
From there, the Mets can judge based upon who is pitching best in the regular season, and they can adapt to injuries in the even they unfortunately come.
All offseason, we’re hearing Steven Matz is in a competition for a spot in the rotation. This is despite the fact he’s very clearly the team’s fourth starter. Anyone who takes the time to look at the data and trends can see it.
Remember, it’s 2020.
What matters now is Matz is better than those two. Fact is, the ONLY reason why he wouldn’t be in the rotation is the GM didn’t acquire him. Yes, it would be the only reason, and if that happens (much like Robinson Cano batting third much of 2019), it’s unacceptable.
It’s time the Mets stop this nonsense, and stop the flood of tweets, including those from reporters well connected to the Mets, and just say Matz isn’t just in the rotation, but he’s the team’s fourth starter.
After all, of the three, he’s the only pitcher guaranteed to be here in 2021, and more than that, right now, in 2020, he’s the best pitcher of the three. Considering the strides he made last year, he may even prove to be more than that.
It is not even Opening Day, and the New York Yankees pitching rotation is getting decimated. Luis Severino is done for the year after opting for Tommy John surgery. James Paxton had a microscoptic lumbar discectomy and is out until June. Throw in Domingo German being suspended for the first 63 games of the 2020 season.
Right there, the Yankees will enter the season missing 3/5 of their rotation. This has them relying on J.A. Happ more than they intended, and they are going to have to hope a couple of pitchers step up. That includes Jonathan Loaisiga, who struggled last year, and Jordan Montgomery, who is returning from Tommy John, and Luis Cessa, who has proved to be more reliable in the bullpen.
When you consider one of the more “reliable” arms in the Yankees rotation is Masahiro Tanaka, who has a torn UCL. Looking at that and everything going on, the Yankees need arms. To that end, there is no surprise the Yankees reportedly called the Mets to inquire on Steven Matz.
While it would make sense for the Yankees to attempt to obtain Matz from the Mets, it doesn’t make much sense for the Mets to trade Matz away.
Matz is the only left-handed option for the Mets rotation. He is under team control through the 2021 season, which is all the more important considering Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha are free agents after this season. More than that, Matz has potential for a real breakthrough season.
No, the Mets need Matz in the rotation in 2020 and 2021. Moreover, trading Matz runs counter to the Mets plan of building starting rotation depth over re-signing Zack Wheeler and keeping their aces together. Still, even with Matz being off the table, there is a realistic trade between the Mets and Yankees.
Walker Lockett is out of options, and realistically speaking, there is no path to him to make the Opening Day roster. This leaves the Mets in a position to lose Lockett, a player they acquired in the Kevin Plawecki trade last year, for nothing.
Instead of risking a Lockett falling to them in waivers, the Yankees could obtain Lockett now. If they did that, they get the added benefit of seeing how he works with their own coaching staff. Another added benefit to acquiring Lockett is he’s a groundball pitcher, which could be useful to a team with a good infield defense and a home run friendly ballpark.
Ideally, the Mets return could be a player similarly out-of-options. While ideal, it is not realistic as Kyle Higashioka, Michael Tauchman, and Gio Urshela will very likely make the Yankees Opening Day roster. Maybe the Yankees would be willing to part with a player like Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada, each of whom have an option remaining, but really that doesn’t seem likely for a player the Yankees could wait out to obtain on waivers.
Really, the Mets potential return for Lockett is really limited, but it is better they seek out what they can get for him now instead of risking losing him for nothing. With the Yankees, they at least have an obvious fit. The question is whether these two teams can find a middle ground, or really, if the Yankees would have any interest whatsoever in Lockett.
The New York Mets signed Dellin Betances to be a big piece of their bullpen. The question for Betances and the Mets is when exactly that is going to happen.
Betances dealt with shoulder issues entering the 2019 season, and he would never quite regain his full velocity. When he was able to finally pitch he would partially tear his achilles. That set forth a trip into free agency with a number of questions marks and suppressed value on the market.
With there being just weeks before Opening Day, Betances has yet to play in a Spring Training game. Moreover, Betances’ velocity is still down, which isn’t all that unusual for him at this point in the year.
With the velocity down and Betances not appearing in a Spring Training game, the conversation about his availability for Opening Day needs to begin. While he COULD theoretically be ready, the Mets need to discuss whether he SHOULD be there.
No matter what the decision, one thing should be clear – the Mets don’t need to push Betances because the Mets have viable short-term alternatives at their disposal.
At the outset, it should be noted the Mets do have a bit of a Spring Training battle for the last spot in the bullpen. With Brad Brach, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, and Justin Wilson guaranteed spots, there are three bullpen spots up for grabs. One of those is likely going to Michael Wacha, and when he is healthy, Betances takes the other leaving one.
It’s very likely that last spot goes to Robert Gsellman, but the Mets do have him spend the offseason preparing to be a starter. In the potential absence of Betances, he should be all but guaranteed a bullpen spot. That leaves some interesting options behind him.
Jacob Rhame is out of options, and as noted, he may be a sneaky candidate to make the Opening Day roster. Walker Lockett is in the same position as Rhame, but he does not have the same spin rates or velocity as Rhame, and he has also been more of a starter in his career.
Paul Sewald is continuously overlooked, but when he gets his chance, he does pitch well in spurts. He has shown versatility as a one inning reliever and as a late inning reliever. With the exception of one poor outing, he allowed one earned or less in 16 of his 17 relief appearances. His penultimate one last year yielded his first Major League win.
As enticing as Sewald may be, Daniel Zamora may be more so. With the new three batter minimum rule, left-handed relievers who can get right-handed batters out become all the more valuable. In his professional career, Zamora has reverse splits, and he has pitched well against them during Spring Training.
In terms of Zamora, with the three batter rule, you could argue he should be a leading candidate for the Opening Day bullpen even if Betances was ready.
Of course, Betances could be ready for Opening Day making this all academic. Still, the Mets need to prepare for that eventuality, and perhaps even if Betances might be ready, they could opt to give him some additional time. After all, Betances has thrown all of 0.2 innings over the past year.
If nothing else, you wonder how deep into the season he can go after not throwing many innings at all last year. No matter what the Mets do, they need to remember it is not about Opening Day. It is about October – how to get there and how to win when they get there. Fortunately, they have the depth options to get Betances there.
With the New York Mets signing Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha this offseason and purportedly promising them rotation spots, the Mets are in a position where they need to figure out how to make it work with six starting pitchers. Right now, the Mets are trying to figure things out, and there was a report in the New York Post that the Mets may keep all six pitchers in the rotation with Steven Matz and Wacha alternating who gets that start based upon match-ups.
While this is an intriguing strategy, there is an inherent problem. Looking at things from this perspective ignores how Matz is really the Mets fourth best starting pitcher. Take a look at the last two years.
Without going deeper, Matz has the best ERA and strikeout rate of the group. He also has the second best ERA+, FIP, and walk rate. Taking these and other stats into account, Matz has showed himself solidly as one of the five best starters on this team. When we delve a little deeper, his case is further solidified.
Last year, Matz (2.2 WAR) was at least doubly productive a pitcher than either Porcello (1.1 WAR) or Wacha (0.2 WAR) were. He was the only one with an ERA below 4.76, a WHIP lower than 1.394, a strikeout rate about 7.4, an ERA+ above 90, and he was the only pitcher with a complete game shutout.
Matz also was the only pitcher who did not allow over 10 hits per nine, and he yielded the best home run rate. Of the three pitchers, the only thing you could look at was Porcello pitching more innings. However, when you dig deeper, both Matz and Porcello averaged 5.1 innings per start.
There’s another important factor. While Porcello had the worst ERA in the American League last year, and Wacha was shut down with a shoulder injury, Matz figured something out last season which made him a much better pitcher.
After working with Phil Regan to move to the middle of the rubber, he was on a completely different level than either Porcello or Wacha.
In the 14 starts since that adjustment, Matz was 6-4 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.120 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, and a 2.6 BB/9. That July 16 start was his first start since coming back out of the bullpen, and he was limited to just four innings. Beginning with his July 21 start, Matz was 6-4 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.181 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, and a 2.6 BB/9 while averaging nearly six innings per start.
Right there is the reason you go with Matz, and that is before you consider he’s the only left-handed option in the rotation. He is the pitcher who has turned a corner in his career, and he is the pitcher who is really the best out of the three. Ultimately, when you break it all down, Matz is the Mets fourth best starter, and he is a good bet to improve off of his 2019 season.
During the 2019 season, there were rumblings the Mets pitching staff was not happy with Wilson Ramos‘ work behind the plate. While Noah Syndergaard was the only one who went public, we did hear rumblings about other pitchers.
For example, there were issues early on in the season between Ramos and Jacob deGrom. This led to deGrom briefly using Tomas Nido as his personal catcher to get his season back on track and to get him moving towards winning his second straight Cy Young.
Behind the scenes, deGrom and Ramos worked together to get on the same page. Beginning on June 7, Ramos again caught deGrom the majority of the time. From that point forward, deGrom was 8-3 with a 1.88 ERA. In essence, the two figured it out, and once again, deGrom was deGrom.
All we know is that the two worked out what needed to be worked out, but we never quite knew the issue. In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Zack Wheeler described what the issue between Ramos and really the rest of the pitching staff might’ve been.
Wheeler mostly tabbed unfamiliarity as the issue saying, “I wanted to go up there [with high fastballs] but he wasn’t calling it, so I didn’t throw it up there. Nothing on him. He was getting used to us also. But I knew I needed to go up there a good bit, even early in the count.”
Looking at Wheeler’s first half, he struggled. In 19 starts, he had a 4.69 ERA. The second half was a different story. As Wheeler noted, Ramos was calling the pitches up in the zone more, as he had wanted, and Wheeler rebounded to have another big second half.
Akin to deGrom and Wheeler, we saw clear first half and second half splits for the Mets. In the first half, the Mets were outside the top ten in most pitching categories including their having a 4.88 team ERA, which was 10th worst in the majors. In the second half, the Mets staff was significantly improved to be among the best staffs in the game with a 3.48 ERA, which was fourth best in the Majors.
Perhaps it is of no coincidence the Mets were a completely different team in the second half. After being 10 games under .500 in the first half, they were 20 games over .500 (.644) in the second half. With Ramos figuring things out behind the plate and getting on the same page with the Mets pitchers, they were a completely different team.
It seems the only pitcher Ramos couldn’t quite figure things out with was Syndergaard, but to his credit Ramos is working on it by changing his stance. This should allow him to better catch and frame for Syndergaard leading to better results.
Across the board, there should be better results. After all, the awkward feeling out period between Ramos and the staff isn’t really present. In fact, aside from Dellin Betances, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha, Ramos has worked with this staff. He knows what they need to do to succeed, and more importantly, what he needs to do to help them succeed.
Overall, Ramos was a a part of the problem in the first half – a big part. However, he was part of the solution in the second half, and now, he may be a big reason why the Mets win in 2020.
Major League Baseball has implemented new rules which not only restrict the use of left-handed relievers (i.e. LOOGYS), but they have also severely restricted the ability of position players to pitch in games. In fact, according to the new rules, a position player may not pitch unless it is extra innings or “his team is losing or winning by more than six runs when he enters as a pitcher.”
There is a caveat there where a position player can freely enter a game if they are designated as a two-way player. A two way player is someone who has 20 games started as a position player and has pitched 20 innings. As the rule implies, this is a status a player achieves during the course of the season.
Obviously, the 20 way player rule was implemented for a player like Shohei Ohtani who serves as both the Angels DH and a member of their pitching rotation. However, that does not mean other teams should not look to take advantage of this rule.
For the Mets, that means pitching J.D. Davis every opportunity they get.
When the Mets traded for Davis, one of the justifications for the deal was he could step in a reliever if needed. In fact, in his brief Major League career up until that point, Davis had made three relief appearances for the Houston Astros allowing an earned run over 2.2 innings. In those 2.2 innings, he struck out four and walked one.
That was his first pitching experience since college. While at Cal State Fullerton, Davis had 20 appearances. While pitching 43.1 innings, he had a 2.70 ERA, 1.177 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, and an 8.1 K/9. In his draft report, Baseball America noted ” shows good arm strength off the mound, showing 91-93 mph heat and a decent breaking ball, but his fastball is straight and his arm action isn’t great.”
Put more succinctly, Davis isn’t a Major League quality reliever, but he is a capable pitcher who could help a team out of the bullpen in a real pinch. The thing is you never know when that pinch is going to come.
Far too often, we see times in the season where the Mets pitching staff is completely gassed. The pitchers weren’t giving the length needed. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have begun piling up the multiple inning outings. That puts more of an onus on the one inning relievers to push harder than they typically should. Following the Mets, this happens at least twice a year.
With those stretches, an already questionable Mets bullpen will cost the Mets some games they wouldn’t otherwise lose. The job for new manager Luis Rojas and new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is to find ways to mitigate against that. While being more judicious in how you use your pitching is one element, another is knowing when you send out a position player to pitch.
Early in the season, whenever the Mets have a six run lead or deficit, they should put Davis into the game to accrue innings necessary to achieve that two way player designation. Later in the season, that will allow the Mets to use him in four or five run games when they feel they need to save their pitching staff to give them a break.
Remember, this is an extremely talented Mets bullpen, but it is one with some health issues. Lugo has the torn UCL. Gsellman partially tore his lat. Dellin Betances is coming off an Achillies, and he had shoulder issues prior to that. Justin Wilson pitched through elbow soreness. Edwin Diaz has bone spurs in his pitching elbow. Michael Wacha was shut down with shoulder problems multiple times in his career.
Point is, bullpens, even the best bullpens, need breaks whenever they can get them. That can come in the form of a Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard complete game, and it can come in the form of Davis coming into a game and eating an inning here or there when the opportunity presents itself.
In order to really accomplish that, the Mets should remember a 162 game season is a marathon, and they need to prepare in April and May for problems which may come into play in July and August. Those problems are usually bullpen exhaustion related. To best prepare for that, the Mets should begin implementing strategies to get Davis qualified as a two way player so he is available when they really need help down in the bullpen.
Finally, after an eventful winter, even by Mets standards, pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. While the Mets may have an idea as to what their 26 man roster will be, that doesn’t mean this organization is truly ready for the 2020 season.
Even with Dellin Betances and presumably Michael Wacha, you’d ideally want one more big arm in the bullpen, especially when you can’t be sure what you’re getting with Jeurys Familia or Edwin Diaz. That leaves the Mets hoping either they or likely Robert Gsellman can be that guy.
This speaks to overall depth issues. While there enough bodies, we don’t know if they’re the right or good enough ones. We see that with Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera battling for the backup catcher spot.
Part of that money, which, of course, goes back to the ownership issue. We’ve known for over a decade now the Mets needed new owners, but only now do they realize that themselves.
Of course, they won’t go quietly into the night trying to get to run the Mets for five years with someone else’s money. Maybe their best argument to any new owner is they did that effectively in 2006.
Overall, this is a Mets team which could win the World Series. However, it’s going to need some help to get there and a lot to break right. If they get there, no one should bet against Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the postseason.
That’s an odd thing to say considering this time last year we were promised no more ifs.
With Major League Baseball’s new rules, teams can only carry 13 pitchers, and seeing how the Mets have operated the past few seasons, the Mets will very likely carry 13 pitchers in 2020. With the five man rotation, this means the Mets will have an eight man bullpen.
Right now, barring injury, the Mets have Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Brad Brach as absolute locks for the Opening Day bullpen. That is going to leave two bullpen spots open with one of them going to the pitcher who loses the bullpen battle. That pitcher is most likely going to be Michael Wacha.
That is where things begin to get a bit interesting.
On the surface, it would seem Robert Gsellman has an inside track for the last bullpen job. After all, he has been a reliever for each of the past two seasons. However, he has not performed well out of the bullpen with an 87 ERA+ and 4.03 FIP over that stretch. When you combine the Mets wanting him to spend the offseason working as a starter, you wonder if a pitcher who still has options remaining will begin the year in Triple-A as a starter.
On the topic of options, Jacob Rhame is out of options, and the Mets will have to expose him to waivers if they are going to keep him in the organization.
Rhame is coming off a season where he had ulnar transposition surgery. That is the same surgery Jacob deGrom underwent in 2016. In his first year after the surgery, deGrom was a good starting pitcher, and in the ensuing two years he emerged as the best pitcher in baseball.
Now, that is obviously not Rhame’s ceiling. However, we do see after undergoing that surgery a pitcher can reach their full potential. While many may debate what exactly that is for Rhame, the Mets clearly have some interest in finding out as they have kept him throughout this offseason despite fully knowing he is out of options.
With Rhame having a career 6.23 MLB ERA and a Triple-A 4.05 ERA, you have to wonder what exactly the Mets are seeing in him.
Looking at Baseball Savant, Rhame throws in the mid-90s, and back in 2018, before he needed the transposition surgery, he had above average movement on that fastball. While he did not get much vertical movement on his splitter, it had very good horizontal movement, which is part of the reason why it was a swing-and-miss pitch for him.
Ultimately, that is what the Mets see in Rhame – his potential. Since the day they obtained him from Curtis Granderson, they knew they were getting a big arm with relatively untapped potential. He still has the ability to generate strikeouts, and as we saw with Rhys Hoskins, he has a bit of a nasty streak where he won’t back down or take anything from the opponent.
Based on what we have seen this offseason, the Mets are going to allow Rhame to work with new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner to show his potential can yield results. Presumably, he is going to get an opportunity to show the Mets he is a better option in the bullpen than Gsellman, who may belong in the rotation, or Walker Lockett, who is also out of options.
In the end, the Mets have kept Rhame around for a reason. Perhaps, that reason is to have him be a part of the 2020 Opening Day roster. With pitchers and catchers reporting soon, he is going to get the opportunity to prove he belongs.