First Rotation

The Mets’ hopes for 2017 rest in large part on their starting pitching staff. On paper, the Nationals and Marlins have better hitting and defense, but the Mets’ rotation has the potential to blow the competition away… if they stay healthy.

A team’s group of starting pitchers is often referred to in baseball as “the rotation” for how it cycles from #1 through #5 (usually) then back to #1 again. Let’s take a look at the first rotation through the Mets’ pitching staff and note what we’ve seen. Is everyone looking healthy and effective?


What I saw

Noah Syndergaard

Not his best location, but not bad either. Better downward movement on his change-up than I’ve ever seen. Usual great velocity, but that waned in the later innings along with slider command. Removed because of a blood blister on his middle finger, which probably accounts for some issues. I’ve always thought Noah was more effective when he pitched up and/or inside more than occasionally, and used his curve regularly as a change of speed. He did neither, which was fine against the Braves, but we’ll see against better opponents.

Jacob deGrom

Great fastball through three innings – not up to Jacob’s peak, but better than early 2016. After emphasizing his change-up during spring training, he didn’t throw it in this game; perhaps the cold was to blame. He showed great command of his slider, painting backdoor to lefties, something I’ve never seen from deGrom. This was the first time I’ve seen him throw the Warthen slider, with higher velocity and shorter break than in the past.

Jacob took a mighty swing at a high fastball in the 3rd inning and grimaced, and after that his velocity dropped from 94-96 to 92. Hopefully these two things are not related, and the reduced speed can be attributed to “first start, cold night”.

Matt Harvey

I saw the same Matt Harvey I saw early in games in 2016. Lots of strikes with different pitches, keeping hitters slightly off balance, but rarely hitting the glove or fully commanding anything. His fastball was mostly 94-95 with a little movement, and his secondary stuff was often elevated. The real test would have come with baserunners on, but the Braves never managed that – all of their batted balls went right to the defense, or over the wall.

I didn’t notice any signs of anything amiss, physically, but I also didn’t see the delivery I saw in 2013 and parts of 2015, when his arm seemed to come through more freely to get the ball down and to his glove side.

Zack Wheeler

Wheeler looked as good as I’ve ever seen him in the first inning, dotting the knees with a running fastball at 96. For the rest of the game, his fastball was all over the place, and his breaking balls were mostly hangers. His command of his secondary stuff was so poor that I’m wondering how much he’s actually pitched in the last two years and whether he ought to be progressing through the minors as he rediscovers his stuff. At least he didn’t fall back into the nibbling pattern that was his undoing in many starts in 2014.

His motion might be slightly improved, but is more or less as scary as ever. I am reminded a bit of Rich Harden.

Robert Gsellman

Gsellman’s best weapon wasn’t there – his two-seam fastball was running flat instead of sinking, and the Marlins destroyed the pitch. Fortunately, Gsellman kept the Mets in the game with some well-timed change-ups and well-placed curveballs. He also did an admirable job of keeping his composure through adversity, a great sign in his 8th big league start.

What did you see?

Please share your observations in the comments!

David Berg has been following the Mets since 1990, and counts himself as a "die hard fan" -- the agonies have been numerous and arduous, but he's still watching every game he can, determined to "earn" the satisfaction when the Mets eventually win it all. In his non-spare time, David is a designer of graphics, web sites, and games. See his work at Shrike Design