PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 20: Rick Porcello #22 of the New York Mets poses for a photo during Photo Day at Clover Park on February 20, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

With Noah Syndergaard out for the year, the New York Mets will need one of their newest pitchers to step up in 2020. 

Heading into spring training, the New York Mets were expected to feature one of the best pitching rotations throughout Major League Baseball.

But with Noah Syndergaard now sidelined until 2021, it’s possible that the ballclub won’t be able to lean on their pitching staff as much. Until someone not named Jacob deGrom or Marcus Stroman steps up, New York will likely struggle to keep runs off the scoreboard this year.

Along with deGrom and Stroman, the 2020 Mets rotation will likely feature Rick Porcello, Steven Matz, and Michael Wacha. Originally, fans didn’t expect any of these three pitchers to have a crucial role with the team this season. But since the Mets are now without their second-best mound option, they’ll need at least one of these arms to emerge and outperform their 2019 results.

Once baseball returns, New York will likely be hoping for Porcello to fill the void left by Thor. Before Syndergaard tore his UCL this spring, Porcello was to reside in the latter part of the rotation. Now, they’ll need him to take on a much larger role once the season is back up and running.

For the 31-year-old to be successful, he’ll need to significantly improve off his troubling 2019 metrics.

In total, Porcello threw 174.1 innings and produced a 5.52 ERA (career-worst), 4.76 FIP, 5.14 xFIP, 1.39 WHIP, .276 OPP AVG, 18.6% strikeout rate, 5.9% walk rate, 13.1% HR/FB rate, 34.2% hard-hit rat,e and 1.8 fWAR rating last year — his lowest rating since 2015.

Along with his concerning 2019 performance, the 6-foot-5 hurler additionally struggled over the two seasons prior. Needless to say, he failed to replicate his Cy Young performance from the 2016 campaign.

Since 2017, Porcello has recorded a 4.79 ERA, 4.45 FIP, 4.46 xFIP, 1.32 WHIP, .269 OPP AVG, 20.9% strikeout rate, 5.7% walk rate, 13.9% HR/FB rate, 35.4% hard-hit rate along with a combined 6.2 fWAR rating over his 569 innings pitched.

In comparison, the right-hander finished with the 15th-best ERA (3.15), eighth-best FIP (3.40), fourth-best WHIP (1.01), tied for the 17th-best OPP AVG (.228), recorded the second-best walk rate (3.6%), third-best HR/FB rate (9.3%) and sixth-best fWAR rating (5.1) among all starters in the majors with at least 160 innings pitched throughout the 2016 campaign.

Based on these results, Porcello has allowed more home runs and walks in each of the last three seasons than he did in 2016. Furthermore, these woes have been caused by his inability to control the location of his fastball and slider.

Over the last three seasons, he’s utilized his low-90s four-seamer 28.3% of the time and has allowed a .249 AVG, .251 xAVG, .458 SLG, .501 xSLG, .321 wOBA, and .393 xwOBA against it. In addition, the veteran hurler surrendered a 90.9 MPH average exit velocity, 13.3% barrel rate, and 43.6% hard-hit rate against his fastball.

While it may be hard to believe after seeing these results, the righty’s heater was extremely effective in 2016. As a result, he allowed just two home runs off it during his Cy Young campaign.

During the 2016 season, the New Jersey native threw his fastball just 22.2% of the time. The pitch generated a .199 AVG, .196 xAVG, .301 SLG, .327 xSLG, .224 wOBA, .237 xwOBA, 87.2 MPH average exit velocity, 5.9% barrel rate along with a 33.6% hard-hit rate.

As for location, Porcello’s fastball has been thrown a lot lower in the strike zone over the past three seasons. In 2016, his heater averaged just 14.6 inches of drop in comparison to an average of 17.9 inches of drop last season. This ranked 18th-worst among all starters who threw at least 750 fastballs in 2019.

Since Porcello’s four-seamer sits in the low-90s and has seen a drop in its vertical movements over the past three seasons, hitters have been able to create serious damage off it since the 2017 campaign. He’ll thus need to be able to elevate his fastball more effectively this season.

Similar to Porcello’s fastball, a huge part of his recent woes should be credited towards his mid-80s slider. Although, there’s some hope that he’ll be able to correct these issues this season.

In 2016, the former first-round selection induced a measly 3.8% walk rate and 49.9% out zone rate with his slider. Nonetheless, he produced a 7% walk rate and 53.7% out zone rate against it from 2017-19.

Along with a rise in walks and being able to find locations outside of the strike zone, Porcello’s breaking ball has been surrendering a lot more hard contact since 2017. Overall, his slider’s hard-hit rate, barrel rate, and line-drive rate have respectively increased by 7.9%, 0.9%, and 3.5% over the last three seasons. As a result, his groundball rate against his slider has decreased by 5.5% since the 2017 campaign.

Unlike Porcello’s fastball, his slider hasn’t been catching enough of the strike zone over the last three seasons. It’s increased its average vertical movements by 2.6 inches since 2017. Simply speaking, his slider hasn’t been fooling anyone and has allowed those hitters to lay off breaking balls located below the strike zone.

In order to prevent these struggles from continuing into 2020, Porcello should attempt to lower the usage of his slider. In 2016, he utilized his breaking ball 12.8% of the time and has since increased that rate by 7.2% over the last three seasons.

At a rate of around 13%, he’d likely be able to create more soft contact with his slider in 2020. Reducing the usage of his breaking ball should also help him refine the command of it as well.

Whenever the MLB season resumes, the Mets will be counting on Porcello to fix his pitch arsenal. If successful, he could help New York surge back into the playoffs and possibly secure a second season in Queens.