As the season winds down, I want to take this opportunity to write about, arguably, the best young rotation we have seen. We can all spout off some of the most formidable rotations that we can remember. Hudson, Mulder, Zito. Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz. Koufax, Drysdale, Sutton. Gooden, Darling, Fernandez. There are many more that can be rattled off, but I want to talk about one that could eclipse them all when it is all said and done.
These guys have a long way to go, obviously, but if Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, Wheeler does not excite you, you either hate the Mets or have no baseball pulse. The energy, excitement, and electricity these guys bring to the mound with filthy-dominant stuff each time out can be felt in stadiums home or away, in addition to announcers voices.
Let’s take a look at each ascending ace’s talent individually, before looking at them as a group.
Matt Harvey aka The Dark Knight
Let me take you back to 2013…
The best pitcher in all of baseball that season was Harvey. He posted a 2.27 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, and 191 K in 178 IP. In addition, he led the league in HR/9 with .40 and FIP at 2.01 (Feilding Independent Pitching; measures a pitchers effectiveness in limiting HR, BB, HBP, and causing SO).
Harvey was a rock star of Bono proportions every 5th day, on his way to becoming one of the games greats before Tommy John came knocking on his door in late august. The Mets did the wise thing, and sat him out all of 2014.
In 2015, Harvey has had the most successful 1st season post Tommy John, ever. He has a 2.61 ERA (15th in MLB), 0.99 WHIP (7th in MLB), and a .214 BAA (13th in MLB).
In 2013, he led MLB in average fastball velocity at 95.8 MPH. Fresh off TJ, he is only second in MLB in 2015, AT AN EVEN 96 MPH. Still not sharp or fully back, this is scary for NL East foes over the next several years. His late breaking fastball is already unhittable up in the zone. He has touched 98 on the gun this season, usually late in games, showing he saves gas in his tank.
Harvey likes to add his nasty 90 MPH slider with his 96 MPH cheese. Occasionally, just for fun I think, he likes to make a hitter look totally overmatched by dropping an 80 MPH hook for a called 3rd strike.
Harvey has given up one earned run or less (aka zero runs) in 29-0f-58 career games started. That is incredible! Barring bullpen blowups, he is basically guaranteeing a win in 50% of his starts. Taking it a step further, he has given up two earned runs or less in 41-of- 58 career starts.
The career 2.1 BB/9, 9.3 K/9, 0.7 HR/9, 4.45 K/BB, and .211 BAA all tell the story of a nearly unhittable pitcher with command of all his pitches. The command is what puts Harvey on that next level.
Harvey has been overshadowed by teammate Jacob deGrom (more on him next) this season, but make no mistake, Harvey is the ace. Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez have called him the best pitcher in baseball, and would take him over Kershaw to start a team because of his bulldog-like demeanor, and consistant, repeatable, easy delivery. Those two know a little something about pitching.
Jacob deGrom aka The deGrominator
deGrom is the “old man” in the group of youngsters. Even at 27, he is younger in pitching years because he was drafted as a SS from Stetson University (down the street from my house).
deGrom started to gain some attention as a Mets prospect in 2012. He was never talked about like Harvey, Wheeler, or Syndergaard, mainly because he was late in the pitching game and still very much developing.
When deGrom finally got the call, he promptly went out and posted a 2.69 ERA with 144 K in 140 IP. The most impressive state was the 7 HR he gave up as a rookie. These numbers were good enough to net him Rookie of the Year honors.
deGrom has followed up his ROY with an even more impressive 2nd season, posting a 2.13 ERA (4th in MLB), 0.89 WHIP (3rd in MLB), and a .202 BAA (5th in MLB). The penultimate moment of his season, and one of the marquee moments of the 2015 MLB season, was his 10 pitch, 3K inning in the All-Star Game.
He is firmly in the NL Cy Young Award race.
deGrom is 8th in MLB in average fastball velocity at 94.9 MPH. He tops out at 98 MPH with a fastball that seems to rise in the zone. He also throws a 90 MPH slider and a filthy curve at 83 MPH. His go to pitch is the 85 MPH changeup that is nearly impossible to decipher from the fastball, until you are way out in front lunging over the plate for it.
deGrom also has command of his pitches, walking 2.2 per nine on his career. He is down to 1.5 this season. His career 0.70 HR/9 are equal to Harvey and his .215 career BAA are just shade higher than harvey.
Noah Syndergaard aka Thor
Thor has been dropping the hammer on NL lineups since his mid May call-up.
As a 22-year-old, he is striking out 9.7 batters per nine and walking just 2. Yet another high strikeout pitcher, with great command of the zone.
Syndergaard does not have the accolades yet, but probably has the best arm of the bunch. His average fastball is 96.9 MPH, which would lead MLB if he qualified. He touches 99 MPH on the gun, then drops his out pitch; an 80 MPH “Hook from Hell”, as Terry Collins called it.
Syndergaard still has a way to go, but has demonstrated the demeanor to make it in the bigs under the bright NY spotlight. The pure talent is not in doubt.
Steven Matz (no super hero nickname…yet)
Once healthy in 2012, Matz quickly ascended through the Mets’ minor league ranks and debuted in 2015. He impressed with 14 K in 13 IP, allowing just 2 ER. Five walks in 13 IP in concerning, and only a little bit worse than his minor league 3.0 BB/9.
Featuring a 95 MPH fastball, the arm is there. There is no doubt about that after watching his first two MLB games. There is not much to go on with Matz, but what we do know is he strikes out a lot of guys with a pinpoint fastball. Once he learns how to command all of his pitches, he will be a tough out every time he toes the rubber.
Zack Wheeler (no super hero nickname, I suggest Speed Racer)
The 4th of the five to undergo Tommy John (didn’t mention deGrom in 2011), Wheeler is sitting out the 2015 season. The Mets can only hope he comes back as well as Harvey has.
In my opinion, there is a huge gap between the first three and Wheeler. He is young and has the stuff to get in with the top three, but his wildness and inconstancy lead to too many base runners and not going nearly deep enough into games. Wheeler only reached the 7th inning two times in 32 GS in 2014. As a 24-year-old, he can have a pass, but needs to show improvement.
The potential is there for Wheeler, but the jury is definitely still out. Worst case scenario, Wheeler is the Mets 5th starter, with no-hit stuff. Thats not too bad.
The total picture here is scary. The accomplishments of Harvey and deGrom already speak for themselves. Syndergaard is not far behind. Matz and Wheeler need some polishing, but have the stuff.
This is five pitchers who all throw 95 MPH+ (would all rank in MLB top 10 average fastball velocity, if eligible), with killer curves. Four of these guys throw a 90 MPH slider and they all mix in a changeup, with deGrom’s being the best.
Over a 27 game stretch (9 each), until Syndergaard got “rocked” by Tampa for four runs Saturday, the trio of Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard all had an ERA under 1.90. To think these guys have not yet reached there peak……
To Be The Best…..
They will never have a chance to beat the best. What this staff does need to do, and it’s a big if, is stay healthy. That is the first step in staying together as a group and achieving great things. Assuming health, we have all seen what these guys can throw at MLB lineups on a daily basis. The biggest thing this group has going for them that can help them achieve greatness as a group is that they are going to be together for a few years. Matt Harvey is the first one eligible for free agency, and that is not until after the 2018 season.
Sit back and enjoy the show, folks!
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@brandonziman You are more than welcome Brandon. You were a fantastic writer and a joy to work with. As we move through a very big transition for us hopefully we can continue to work with one anither.