The Mets’ hopes for 2017 rest in large part on their starting pitching staff. Is this quintet a major strength which can carry the team? Or do various health and effectiveness concerns place them somewhere short of that status? Let’s take a look at the fourth rotation through the Mets’ (hopefully) fab five and note what we’ve seen.
What I saw
Syndergaard used an extremely methodical delivery in a perfect first inning, but then began missing up with everything once men were on base in the middle innings. Noah also routinely got ahead in the count with fastballs and then threw more fastballs, making it easier for the Phils to stay in at bats. After a leadoff single in the 5th, Syndergaard went back to being more deliberate, and pitched more effectively. In the 6th and 7th, he was fortunate on a bunch of hard line outs.
I didn’t see this game. Leapfrogging deGrom in the rotation thanks to Jacob’s stiff neck, Harvey pitched on regular rest, posting a decent line against a good offensive team but striking out only two. If there’s anything to read into the postgame comments, it’s not good: Collins called him “not sharp”, and Harvey expressed relief that things didn’t spiral out of control like last year. I would have been much more heartened to hear him say, “I figured out how to work with what I had,” or something else more active and less lucky.
DeGrom showed no-hit stuff for the first time through the order, hitting the black on both sides
of the plate with tons of life at 96-98. But virtually all the pitches he threw were fastballs. He tried a few sliders and just missed. He bounced a change-up. The second time through the lineup,
that wasn’t enough. Every time his fastball was off the plate, the Nats took it. Every time it caught too much plate, they hit an opposite-field line drive. By the time Jacob committed to throwing some sliders, the Nats were rolling. By the time he threw his first curveball, he’d allowed 3 runs and was on his way out of the game. Strange to see with Rene Rivera behind the plate, whose pitch-calling I usually prefer to d’Arnaud’s.
DeGrom also wore down, throwing 93 without much precision by the end of a laborious 5th inning. Maybe he came out too fired up and wasted too many bullets early on? Or maybe the neck stiffness which pushed back his start came back after a few inning breaks?
This start was a testament to the effectiveness of mixing pitches, alternating between fastball, slider and curve without ever throwing the same one too many times in a row. Great sequences by Wheeler and Kevin Plawecki, and great objectivity by the umpire, who consistently called a strike a strike regardless of how far Wheeler was from the target. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen so many inside strikes on pitches where the catcher set up away, or high strikes on pitches where the catcher set up low. Wheeler was rarely within a foot of his target, but still wound up throwing a lot of strikes, leading to short at bats and the Nats never really getting a read on his stuff. Perhaps his slider was particularly deceptive, as the Nats were taking fastball hacks at it all night.
Zack kept the ball down a little better as the game went on, but still hit the inside corner by accident as often as he hit the outside corner on purpose. Apparently pitching inside works even if you don’t mean to! Wheeler’s line would have looked very good if not for one pitch in Murphy’s wheelhouse with the bases loaded. Still, this start has to be concerning for his complete inability to repeat his motion and locate his pitches.
Pitching on extra rest after an off day and a rainout, Gsellman had very little working for him. His fastball was running and sinking a bit, but it wasn’t sharp and late, and the Braves clearly saw it well. They sat on the fastball away and calmly lined it to the opposite field, past a Mets defense that was playing mostly to pull. That’s where those 10 hits in 4 innings came from. Shades of Mike Pelfrey, anyone?
As the game progressed, Gsellman stopped trying to force his slider (which was consistently up), mixed in some good change-ups, and got a little better movement on his fastball. As a team, though, the Mets never did adjust to the Braves’ approach, e.g. by pitching inside.
What did you see?
Please share your observations in the comments!