The Mets have a solid starting rotation. But to take the next step, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz need to be better than the .500 pitchers they’ve been…
The Mets are not the Astros, Dodgers, and Yankees – for whom the regular season is a romp in the park and more of a nuisance than anything else.
No, for the Mets, the regular season is everything. In a division that expects to be as competitive as ever, and the Braves already outreaching everyone in the free-agent market, the Mets need every man in their clubhouse at their very best.
The top of the Mets rotation will continue to be manned by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard (no, he will not be traded). Zack Wheeler is expected to be gone, and Broadie Van Wagenen will need to find a fifth starter as a replacement.
But it’s the third and fourth spots of the rotation where the Mets need the most help and improvement to come if the team is going to take the next step from last season’s second half.
Mets need their cogs in the wheel
Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz are the cogs in the wheel to make the Mets go. And by “go,” I mean the pitchers who can extend, instead of stopping the stellar performances turned in by deGrom and Syndergaard.
The 2019 record shows that Matz and Stroman went a combined 15-12 with fourteen no-decisions between them. A repeat of that performance in 2020 does the Mets no good.
Matz, in particular, showed signs of maturing and developing into a better than average major league pitcher. His body language on the mound was considerably better, and those temper tantrums all but disappeared.
Stroman came to the Mets via a trade executed in a manner of stealth by Brodie Van Wagenen. No one saw it coming.
Much-ballyhooed as “The” starting pitcher on the block at the July trade deadline, Stroman consumed a forest of trees in newsprint.
The hype continued when he arrived in the Mets clubhouse. Two Long Island boys, teen rivals, Matz and Stroman, were portrayed as having this special bond between them, so each would propel the other to greatness.
Potential is a four-letter word
There’s still a chance that could happen, but it certainly wasn’t the case last year. What we witnessed, especially with Stroman, was nothing more than a pedestrian everyday major league pitcher.
Both Matz and Stroman are capable of more. Fourteen no-decisions are unacceptable, and they need to pitch further into their starts regularly.
Matz was fourth on the Mets last year in quality starts (six innings or more allowing three or fewer runs) with 15. Stroman, in his eleven starts with the Mets, only reached that plateau four times.
Neither pitcher is deGrom, who finished with 23 quality starts in his second Cy Young season, but need to elevate those numbers in a critical bullpen-saving area.
Stroman, Matz, and Seth Lugo?
Van Wagenen could surprise everyone by landing a legitimate number three starter, effectively pushing Matz and Stroman into the four and five slots in the rotation.
But considering the holes needing to be plugged in the Mets bullpen, resources are more likely to be devoted there before a concentrated effort is made to find that fifth starter.
Another possibility and one that is gaining traction in the Mets front office is to move Seth Lugo into the rotation.
As far back as 2018, Lugo has not been bashful in stating his preference to be a starting pitcher.
After watching Lugo dominate as he did last year, the Mets appear to be coming around to his way of thinking as well – especially since the move saves the Mets money, always a motivating force with the Wilpons still owning the team.
In any event, Stroman and Matz need to step it up big time if the Mets are going to seriously challenge in the NL East this season.