Everything was going perfect for the New York Mets. After a big four run fifth inning, Max Scherzer was at 72 pitches. That meant he had at least a few more innings before passing it off to the bullpen to close out the win. That moment came far sooner than any of us realized.
After a 1-1 pitch to Dylan Carlson, Scherzer motioned to the dugout. He was hurt, and he knew he was done for the evening. Perhaps longer.
Max Scherzer has removed himself from his start due to apparent injury. Could be an absolutely brutal loss for the Mets.
— Stadium (@Stadium) May 19, 2022
During the game, Gary Cohen announced Scherzer was going to have an MRI. After the game, Scherzer answered reporters questions. While he seemed alright, he told them he was in considerable pain, and he was experiencing spasms in his left side. It would seem reasonable to assume he’s going to be on the IL for an indeterminate amount of time.
You could really argue this was the arm the Mets could ill afford to lose. He was the Jacob deGrom insurance. While true to an extent, the Mets really can’t afford to lose anyone from their rotation from the moment. In addition to deGrom still recovering, Tylor Megill is dealing with biceps tendonitis. That means any pitcher injury was one too many.
Jose Butto and Thomas Szapucki are the only remaining starters on the 40 man roster. Butto has pitched fairly well in Double-A, but he hasn’t surpassed 64 pitches in an outing, and he is averaging four innings per start. All told, Butto is a non-starter (pun intended) for the Mets.
Szapucki has been impressing lately posting big strikeout numbers. However, Szapucki is returning from surgery, and he has also not gone above 64 pitches in a start, and he has reached five full innings in a start once. Szapucki is working his way back to being in consideration, but he’s still building strength, and in reality, it’s best for him and the Mets that he remain in Triple-A
That leaves the Mets in a bad spot. Looking at the Syracuse roster, Mike Montgomery is probably the best non-40 option, but he has a 5.52 ERA on the season including a 9.00 ERA over his last three starts. There also aren’t any surprise options down in Double-A. Really, the Mets answer isn’t in their minor league system.
The answer is Trevor Williams.
With respect to Williams, he was a Major League starter in his five plus seasons before coming to the New York Mets in the Javier Baez trade. The best way to put Williams career as a starting pitcher was he was a borderline fifth starter. That is a large reason why the Mets wanted him at the trade deadline as part of that trade. Williams was depth who could be moved to the bullpen.
In reality, Williams has pitched his best with the Mets with a 118 ERA+. Part of that was moving to the bullpen and not having to go through a lineup the second time. Going over his career, batters are hitting .283/.351/.468 when facing him a second time in a game. Again, he’s a borderline fifth starter.
Trevor Williams in his last five appearances (1 with CHC, 4 with #Mets): 2 earned runs in just 19.1 IP while allowing 13 hits and 4 walks with 15 strikeouts. That'll do. #LGM (via @SNYtv) pic.twitter.com/IzXjod8uEI
— Matt Musico (@mmusico8) September 1, 2021
The other benefit is working with Jeremy Hefner. He’s helped Williams get more movement on the sinker. Mostly, it’s just better location. Before joining the Mets, Williams had a 3.0 BB/9 and a 7.8 BB%. Since joining the Mets, he’s now at a 2.1 BB/9 and a 5.3 BB%. He’s also striking out more batters.
It’s more than that. Hefner was Williams working more down in the zone while using his four seamer up in the zone. The result has been a 45.2 GB%. Before joining the Mets, Williams had a 42.7 GB%. This has allowed Williams to take advantage of the Mets superior up the middle defense.
If these seem like incremental gains, well, they are. However, that’s still improvement which could help Williams become a more solid fifth starter. Honestly, that’s all the Mets need him to be right now.
Fortunately, he’s been at his best with the Mets, and due to a blowout loss and now a spot start, Williams has been stretched out a bit. In fact, he’s throwing as many pitches per outing as Butto and Szapucki. However, Williams has Major League success and has proven he can start at this level.
Overall, the Mets are a the end of their starting pitching depth. Williams is the next and last guy up. Fortunately, Williams is in a position where he can step up, and he’s been the best he’s ever been with the Mets. Hopefully, he can be that stopgap until somebody, anybody is able to return to the rotation.
The New York Mets bullpen has been through for a loop with the injury to Seth Lugo to start the season. Things have grown increasingly complicated by diminished velocity of Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances. With all that said, the bullpen has talent, and there are many spots accounted for already.
Guaranteed – Miguel Castro, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Aaron Loup, Trevor May
Obviously, Diaz is going to be the closer coming off of a strong 2020 season. May is going to figure into the equation as a late inning reliever, and Loup was brought on to be the LOOGY. That’s the easy part.
Castro is out of options, and it is very likely he would be picked up off waivers if the Mets tried to send him down. Fortunately, that does not seem to be an issue with Castro having a great Spring striking out four in 4.0 scoreless and hitless innings.
After him, with Familia seemingly getting his elite level stuff back, he is a lock to make the bullpen. If nothing else, he can pitch the middle innings while the Mets hope Jeremy Hefner gets him back to his dominant form.
Bubble – Dellin Betances, Robert Gsellman, Drew Smith, Daniel Zamora
The 13 pitcher roster rule has been suspended for the 2021 season, but that may be a good general construct. Considering a five man rotation with the aforementioned five guaranteed spots, that leaves three remaining spots.
Given his salary and history of building up his velocity in-season, it is likely Betances makes the Opening Day roster. That leaves two spots available in the bullpen. Given the performances this Spring, that is going to be a difficult decision.
Gsellman has been a mainstay in the bullpen over the last few seasons and based on seniority he gets the call. Notably with him, the Mets did have the option to stretch him out as a starter, but they opted not to do that this spring with Gsellman only throwing 4.0 innings over three appearances.
Smith was the one reliever from the 2017 trade deadline debacle who has proven he could pitch in the majors. So far, he looks good, and the Mets are going to have to go out of their way to try to keep a pitcher with three scoreless appearances with no walks and three strikeouts off of the roster.
Finally, there is Zamora who probably presents the Mets best option to carry two left-handed pitchers in the bullpen. He has been a little wild with two walks over 3.2 innings, but he has also struck out three batters. That is typical for Zamora over the last few years.
Fifth Starter Competition – Joey Lucchesi, David Peterson, Jordan Yamamoto
The injury to Carlos Carrasco certainly changed the complexity of the fifth starter battle. With his injury, that opened up two spots instead of one. Given the nature of the injury, the Mets could feel more comfortable putting Peterson in the Opening Day rotation as the fear of having to send him down at one point isn’t as strong.
If Peterson were to make the rotation, the Mets could put one or both of Lucchesi or Yamamoto in the bullpen. Both pitchers have been great this Spring, and they have both more than made the case they deserve to be on the Opening Day roster in some way, shape, or form.
Outside Looking In – Jerry Blevins, Tommy Hunter, Arodys Vizcaino
Blevins probably has a much better chance than this given his curveball looking great. However, he has only appeared in two games walking two and striking out three. While this arguably puts him ahead of Zamora, especially with his track record, adding Blevins would require the Mets to make a roster move.
With respect to Hunter and Vizcaino, they may well both prove to have an impact on the Mets in 2021. That said, neither quite seem ready to pitch Opening Day at the moment. That goes double for Vizcaino who has only made one apperance so far.
Wild Card – Mike Montgomery, Corey Oswalt
With Carrasco suffering an injury, the Mets are said to begin stretching out Montgomery. That would seemingly be an indication they are looking for him to begin the season in Syracuse instead of Flushing. Still, it is hard to overlook his ability to be another lefty in the bullpen and a pitcher who can give you multiple innings. That said, Lucceshi could offer that himself.
Oswalt has had a very good Spring Training with Luis Rojas being very impressed. His velocity is way up, and he has looked quite strong. In fact, we probably shouldn’t completely rule him out in the fifth stater competition. If it is about competition, Oswalt has a strong case to make the Opening Day roster. That said, the fact it’ll require a 40 man move serves as a significant impediment.
Opening Day Bullpen
Joining the aforementioned group of Castro, Diaz, Familia, Loup, and May will very likely include Betances giving the Mets two more spots to figure out. With Lucchesi and Yamamoto now poised to start the season in the rotation, it would seem the final two spots can go to pitchers who are strictly relievers and not converted starters.
At the moment, it looks like one of those two spots should go to Smith. It’s possible the last spot goes to Gsellman due to his ability to give the Mets an extra inning here or there, but it would seem his spot is about as tenuous as Betances’ is right now. Overall, there are two weeks to go and a lot can happen. It will be very interesting to see where things go from here.