It’s been said that pitching wins championships. For the New York Mets, pitching—their starting rotation, specifically—will dictate just how successful they are in 2018.
Entering the 2018 season, every team in baseball currently has optimism. For the New York Mets, that optimism is based on hopes that their “dream” starting rotation is finally healthy.
Ever since the arrivals of Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz in the 2015 season, the Mets faithful has been hoping to see a rotation of the aces they have imagined for such a long time. Along with Matz and Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler are also being depended on to provide the franchise with stability.
All of these starters, except for deGrom, has spent considerable time on the disabled list during their careers. However, they still all have the incredible optimism of words like “ability” and “talent” attached to them that makes this season so hopeful.
When Harvey has been healthy and throwing at his best, he can be dominant. From 2012-15, Harvey went 25-18 with a 2.65 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and posted a K/9 rate of 9.5 over 65 starts.
Despite his successful 2015 season coming off Tommy John surgery, injuries have limited him. Harvey, in 36 games (35 starts) since 2016, has gone 9-17 with a 5.78 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. Which Harvey will the Mets see this season?
Wheeler, like Harvey, was supposed to be a consistent frontline starter for the Mets when he was acquired for Carlos Beltran back in 2011. He missed all of 2015 and 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2015 and has yet to regain the form that saw him go 18-16 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 49 starts from 2013-14.
He struggled in his return last season, going 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 17 starts, and those struggles have continued this spring. While he’s healthy, Wheeler remains a big question mark heading into the season.
Syndergaard has always had the makings of an elite starter. After his call-up in 2015, Thor was dominant, going 24-18 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and a 10.3 K/9 rate in 62 appearances (61 starts) before tearing the latissimus dorsi behind his right arm in April last season.
He’s regained his dominance this spring and is scheduled to pitch Opening Day. Unlike Harvey and Wheeler, he’s expected to continue his pre-injury upward trajectory.
Matz is the lone left-hander on the Mets’ “dream” rotation. He’s also the most susceptible to injury. Since his arrival in 2015, Matz has been in-and-out of the rotation so many times most of us have lost count.
Despite his constant injuries, Matz was effective before suffering through a woeful 2017 season. In 28 starts across the 2015-16 seasons, Matz went 13-8 with a 3.16 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, showing the promise of a southpaw that could provide the Mets with a distinctive look to all the hard-throwing, right-handed studs.
But last season, he was once again limited by injuries, making just 13 starts, Matz went 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. Is this the season that Matz finally can stay healthy?
The mainstay of this group is deGrom. Over the last four seasons, deGrom has made 107 starts, going 45-32 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a 9.7 K/9 rate. In limited action so far this spring, deGrom has shown he is ready to lead the Mets again, striking out 12 in just five innings.
As the Mets head towards CitiField for their season-opener against the Cardinals on March 29, hope springs eternal for the “dream” starting five and the upcoming season. If they can stay healthy and effective, who knows how high the Amazin’s can soar in 2018.