Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Man the Lifeboats

Things aren't going well for the 2023 New York Mets one-quarter of the way through the season. Today we'll look at the starting pitching as we try to determine what hope there is for turning things around.

Along with being a Mets fan, I've been a New York Knicks fan almost my entire life. I'm not sure whether that's due to an affinity for the blue and orange color scheme or some inner urge to punish myself. After all, James Dolan and the Wilpons were neck and neck for the worst owner in New York until the Wilpons sold out. Anyway, during Monday afternoon's debacle in the nation's capital, I flashed back on the famous Michael Ray Richardson quote, "The ship be sinking" — something I did quite frequently with the Wilpon Mets.

For those of you who don't know, Richardson was drafted by the Knicks fourth overall in the 1978 draft. He was billed as the "next Walt Frazier" and was supposed to be the savior of the team. Those Knicks teams were only a few years removed from the high point of the franchise, which included NBA titles in 1970 and 1973. Richardson uttered those words about halfway through the 1981-82 season, with the Knicks heading into a last-place finish that would get legendary coach Red Holtzman canned after the season. Little did Knick fans like myself understand how badly most of the next 4 decades would go for that once-great franchise. Thanks, James Dolan.

Fortunately, these Mets are owned by a man who, in my opinion, has proven himself to be a much better owner than Jimmy, Fred, and Jeff. After sinking a ton of money into trying to keep the Mets competitive for a title this season, Steve Cohen is keeping a cool head and not freaking out over how badly things have been going with that investment. Many of the most vocal Mets fans are not taking things quite so well. With the Mets sitting at a disappointing 20-22 just past a quarter of the way into the season, it's hard to blame them.

Criticism is flying around about manager Buck Showalter, GM Billy Eppler, and even Cohen himself. While there is plenty of season left for the Mets to turn things around, the dreary similarity of losses during their recent freefall is pretty discouraging. If the ship isn't sinking right now, it's certainly taking on quite a bit of water and in danger of going down. So let's take a look at the components of this team and try to decipher if there is any hope of the ship staying on top of all that water:

Starting Pitching

The Mets seem intent on running out a 6-man rotation unless there are off days that accomplish the purpose. The club is clearly trying to keep Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer strong while allowing Kodai Senga something closer to the once-a-week schedule he pitched in Japan. With Carlos Carrasco and José Quintana both on the shelf, that's forcing the club to go at least 8 pitchers down in depth. That depth isn't coming through for the team currently.

Tylor Megill is actually doing okay, but he looks like he's doing it with mirrors. Megill is allowing 8.7 H/9 and 4.9 BB/9. Baserunners are on constantly. His WHIP is over 1.5. Tylor hasn't allowed as many runs as those numbers would suggest, but they also contribute to short outings. Megill is averaging 5 innings a start, and has only gotten outs in the sixth inning twice in 8 starts.

David Peterson is the other main fill-in, and he's been really awful. He's had 2 decent starts out of 8, and has been shelled in most of the rest. David's season is going downhill fast: over his last 5 starts, he's pitching to a 9.99 ERA with opponents batting an astonishing .330/.365/.585 against him.

Joey Lucchesi has also started 5 games for the Mets. After pitching 7 shutout innings in his debut against the Giants, Joey has pitched to a 6.46 ERA over the next 4 starts. Opponents have slashed .290/.353/.548 against Lucchesi in those games.

Carrasco is returning to the Mets fairly soon. That should help, unless he continues to pitch as badly as he did before going on the IL. But the Mets' biggest hope for turning things around is to keep Verlander and Scherzer healthy. It would be wonderful if they both pitched like aces. But even if they were both just good starting pitchers it would still help, given all of the terrible starts the Mets have received that put them into an immediate hole.

The biggest worry for the Mets would be to have one or both of their twin aces to see his career go the way of Roy Halladay with the Phillies. After winning the NL Cy Young in his first season in Philadelphia and being the runner-up in his second, Halladay was bad in his third season and done in the fourth. That's how it goes with older pitchers at times. Verlander and Scherzer are already older than Halladay when he fell off the cliff.

Meanwhile, Senga is going through fairly predictable growing pains in his first year in the States. If I'm looking for something to wish on with Kodai for the rest of the year, it's just that he can get better as he acclimates more and become a very good pitcher.

Looking ahead to July, Quintana will (hopefully) return. While that certainly gives some hope, it's hard to know what to expect when an older guy returns from a long absence. You hope he comes back rested and ready to go, but you worry about a situation like what happened in Carrasco's first season with the Mets in 2021. Counted on heading into the season to stabilize the rotation, when Carlos finally pitched for the Mets later in the season he looked rusty out of the gate and then never really put it together. Hopefully, things go better with Quintana upon his return.

With such an old starting rotation there was always a worry about things going bad. At the quarter pole of the season, it's played out mostly that way. But there still is a track record of good pitching for these guys. The Mets have experienced really bad luck in April and May with their starters. If it continues this way all season, I see no hope of them contending for a playoff spot. The Mets lack the sort of offense that can bash their way into winning games despite lackluster (or worse) efforts from their starters.

We badly need Scherzer and Verlander to stabilize things at the top. We need Senga to be better. All of that is reasonable to hope for, while nothing is certain. But we also need a pitcher or two to step up at the bottom of the rotation and give the Mets something more than they've received up to now. But it all starts with the top 3. If we could see positive signs from them over the next 20 games or so, I'd have a lot more confidence that this season could still feature a playoff appearance by the Mets.

I'm going to end this here for now. I've already written a lot of words, and we still have the bullpen, position players, and front office to look at. I'll be back soon with Part 2 of this post soon. In the meantime, please be well, take care, and don't let the struggles of this team ruin your day. Life is too short for that.

Follow Mike's Mets on social media:

 Follow us on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.
 Follow Mike's Mets on Facebook.
         Follow me on Instagram.
         Follow Mike's Mets on Spoutible @MikeSteffanos.
         Follow us on Mastodon @MikesMets@mstdn.social.
         Follow us on Post News @MikesMets.
         Follow us on Tribel @mikes_mets.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Defense Doesn't Rest

A renewed emphasis on defense would be a good thing for the New York Mets. Mike Vaccaro had an interesting column in the New York Post  abou...