The way pitchers approach things on the mound across Major League Baseball will be much different in 2023 than ever before. Some Mets hurlers, like Max Scherzer, have adjusted well and are excited about it. Others, like Jose Quintana and Carlos Carrasco, probably need more time to adjust.
Either way, it looks like New York has compiled enviable depth within its starting rotation. And while some on the Twitter machine may think those on the outside looking in deserve a chance to start regularly, manager Buck Showalter will need every single one of them.
What the Mets’ projected Opening Day rotation looks like
When this past offseason got underway, the only veteran starter guaranteed to be back in 2023 was Scherzer. Everyone else (Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker, and Chris Bassitt) hit free agency, except for Carrasco. New York had to decide whether to exercise his option or not (spoiler alert: they did).
Instead of giving David Peterson and/or Tylor Megill a legitimate shot at winning a spot, Billy Eppler and Co. filled the rotation with Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, and Quintana.
While we’re unsure of exactly who will be taking the bump on Opening Night in Miami, the following five pitchers are expected to make up the rotation:
- Justin Verlander
- Kodai Senga
- Max Scherzer
- Jose Quintana
- Carlos Carrasco
Peterson and Megill are the sixth and seventh starters. Jose Butto has also looked impressive in two Grapefruit League appearances. The soon-to-be 25-year-old struggled in his only MLB start last season. However, his fastball has been up to 97 mph this spring while also adding a cutter to his arsenal.
And then there’s Joey Lucchesi, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery after missing all of 2022.
That’s a lot of capable arms for the starting rotation.
New York will periodically use a 6-man rotation
The Athletic‘s Tim Britton shared an article on Thursday about the Mets planning to employ a six-man rotation at certain points throughout the year. Here’s part of the explanation:
While the Mets won’t run a six-man rotation for the entirety of the season, they’ve dissected their schedule already to figure out the best places to insert Peterson, Megill or a different depth starter to give their regular quintet an extra breather. Basically any point in the schedule where New York plays on more than 10 consecutive days, you can expect a sixth starter to be considered and probably deployed.
“You’ve got to understand your personnel,” pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said. “You’ve got to really understand what the guys need. That’s what makes Buck (Showalter) so good, is he’ll know when we need to do that, if we need to do that at some point.”
The Mets’ personnel is, ahem, on the wrong side of 30 — and in one case, beyond his 30s. New York’s slated Opening Day rotation has an average age that rounds to 36. Its youngest starter, 30-year-old Kodai Senga, is accustomed to pitching once a week in Japan. Everyone else is 34 or older.
Strategically using a six-man rotation will theoretically keep New York’s veteran starters — namely Verlander and Scherzer — fresher for the stretch run. It’ll also help continue to ease Senga into life in the big leagues (remember, pitchers only start once a week in the NPB). Last, but most certainly not least, it’ll keep the Mets’ depth starters engaged and stretched out.
How many starters have the Mets used in recent years?
A lot is made of what a team’s starting staff looks like on Opening Day and throughout the first few turns within the rotation. But in reality, it’s very, very rare for a club to only use five or six starters throughout the course of a regular season. In most cases, it’s just about impossible.
Between injuries, doubleheaders, and many other variables, MLB teams — especially those with postseason aspirations — need to be seven, eight, or nine guys deep. That’s why people always say you can never have enough pitching.
In 2022, the Mets used 11 different pitchers to start a game. If we take out Mychal Givens, who acted as an Opener, it’d be 10. If we look at 2021, New York sent 19 (!) different pitchers to the hill to start a game. Five of them were primarily relievers, but you get the point.
Even if the rotation stays mostly healthy in 2023, Showalter and his coaching staff will have to dip into their depth more often than many might realize right now. While it would’ve been fun to see Peterson and Megill duke it out for the final spot during spring training, they’ll still be important pieces to the puzzle in their projected roles throughout the regular season.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.