The Fifth Starter
Some people wonder why I’m so panicked regarding the Mets’ fifth starter. After all, how many teams have a solid fifth starter? All we need is a guy to go out there and give us 5 decent innings, keep the team in the game, and then hand it over to the bullpen.
Well, take a look at the following table and draw your own conclusions regarding my concern.[table “” not found /]
The above pitchers were the collective “spot starters” who filled in the fifth slot in the rotation at different periods during the 2007 season. I chose not to include Jorge Sosa because when he made his 14 starts, he was more of a regular in the rotation rather than a fill-in — and I wanted to focus on the fill-ins to see just how much of an impact they had on the team’s final record. Mike Pelfrey was included because his starts were sporadic; there was no point in the season where he took the ball every fifth day for more than five consecutive starts.
All in all, there were a total of 24 games started by a pitcher not part of the regular rotation. Perhaps this is a helpful comparison: El Duque also started 24 games in 2007. So, in a way, these six men are comparable — in volume — to a regular starter who spent time on the DL.
In those 24 games, the spot starters pitched a grand total of 100 innings, and gave up 99 earned runs. That’s an average of 4.1 innings per start, and an ERA a shade under 9. They added four wins (how did they even win 4?) and 13 losses to the final standings, with 7 no-decisions left to the overtaxed bullpen.
Since the Mets lost the division by one game, you can immediately see the magnitude of these statistics.
Right now, the Mets are TWO starters short — unless we really believe Mike Pelfrey is ready to make 25-30 MLB starts, and/or Nelson Figueroa is the next Aaron Small (circa 2005). So, in essence, there are two spot starters holding up the back end of the rotation, with the likes of Brian Stokes and Tony Armas, Jr. next in line.
Maybe Big Pelf and Figgy can outperform last year’s spot starters. Let’s hope so, because if last year is any indication, those spot starts can mean the difference between winning and losing the division.