With the Mets hiring both Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland coupled with the team possibly only adding Anthony Swarzak to the pitching staff this offseason, it appears much of the hope for the 2018 Mets are tied to the current Mets pitchers improving. Fortunately, the team has both the right coaching staff in place as well as a talented group of pitchers who underwhelmed last year. Here are five different pitchers who may take a step forward next season under Callaway’s and Eiland’s tutelage:
After his 2016 stint in the majors, many believed Gsellman would emerge as one of the front-runners for the Rookie of the Year Award. Instead, he had about as poor a 2017 season as you could imagine with him being ineffective, suffering an injury, and his being dismissive of Sandy Alderson’s critique of his performance.
Looking over his stats last season, none of his pitchers were really working. That should come as no surprise when opposing batters hit .280/.345/.462 off of him. Still, as we saw in 2016, this is a pitcher with talent, and he is now working with a coaching staff that helps get a pitcher maximize his talent.
While much has been discussed about Callaway’s focus on the two seamer, fact is he has also successfully worked with sinkers. As noted by Let’s Go Tribe, Callaway has gotten his sinker ball pitchers to focus less on pounding the sinker and more in mixing their pitches and throwing a more diverse fastball selection. From that, we have not only seen Corey Kluber emerge as a perennial Cy Young candidate, but we have also seen pitchers like Trevor Bauer and Carlos Correa maximize their talent.
A similar handling of Gsellman, who threw his fastball and sinker 63% of the time last year, could well yield similar results to those pitchers in Cleveland.
One thing that was clear from Lugo last year was he struggles the third time through the lineup. In his brief Major League career, batters have hit .299/.352/.425 during his third time through the lineup. In that sense, Lugo is not unique as we have seen that happen to other quality pitchers.
However, if utilized properly, Lugo could very well be a very good Major League pitcher. All that is needed is someone to be forward thinking in how he is handled.
One example of this is Kyle Hendricks. He historically struggled the third time through the lineup, so his manager Joe Maddon limited the times Hendricks did this, and the result was Hendricks finishing third in Cy Young voting in 2016.
Another avenue to pursue is to make Lugo a reliever. We have seen Eiland have success converting starters into relievers with his work with pitchers like Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis. Also, given Callaway’s influence on how the Indians utlizied Andrew Miller, Lugo could become a real weapon in that bullpen.
Robles is prone to stretches of both complete dominance and complete ineptitude. For example, from Opening Day to May 18th, Robles had made 18 appearances going 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, and a 9.5 K/9. During that stretch, opposing batters hit just .169/.295/.277. After that, he had a three appearance stretch that saw him give up at least four earned in each appearances leading to his demotion to Triple-A where he continued to struggle.
One of the reasons why we see those stretches of dominance from Robles is his stuff. He throws a mid to high 90s fastball with a good mid 80s slider. What he needs is to learn how to become more consistent. That could be accomplished with a more defined role, conservative usage, and really, better coaching.
Smoker has great stuff. He combines a mid to high 90s fastball with a devastating split. It’s a large reason why even when things go wrong, the left-handed pitcher struck out 10.9 batters per nine at the major league level. Aside from the stuff and the good strikeout rate, there were many problems with Smoker.
Smoker had shoulder issues again, likely related to his being overused, and he struggled with left-handed batters, at least until September. Perhaps most alarming, and possibly a reason for his struggles, Smoker walked 5.6 batters per nine last year.
At this point in his career, Smoker needs someone who can help him better command his stuff. With Callaway being an exceptional teacher and proponent of the curveball, he could get Smoker to make that pitch a that could be a weapon against left-handed batters. If so, Smoker can get back to the point where he was entering the 2017 season – a hard throwing reliever with real upside.
Look, 2015 is a long way away, and 2013 is even further away than that. During the last season, we not only saw Harvey broken down physically (again), but we finally saw some cracks in his self confidence. This wasn’t the Dark Knight anymore. This was just plain old Matt Harvey. And we don’t know if Matt Harvey can be an effective Major League pitcher.
What we do know is that he was completely mishandled from the get-go last year. By Dan Warthen‘s own admission, Harvey was not going to be 100% until May. Despite that, Harvey was in the Opening Day rotation, and he pitched and pitched until he could pitch no more. His results were blamed on poor mechanics.
The truth was the muscles in Harvey’s pitching shoulder had atrophied, and he was suffering a stress reaction. Fact is, he wasn’t ready to go. Harvey may very well have pushed to pitch, but the Mets never did stand in the way to protect Matt from himself. Moreover, they never did fix the mechanical issues all parties purported him to have.
With Eiland, the Mets have a pitching coach whose bread and butter is mechanics. Both Callaway and Eiland pushed the Mets to keep Harvey rather than trade him because they believed in him. They believed in him because they see something in him that perhaps no one else sees anymore. With them in place, there are coaches who believe in his talent and know how to get the most out of it. Whether that happens remains to be seen.