Mets’ Big Three Starters Are Bouncing Back in May – metsmerizedonline.com

The last two victories against the Miami Marlins notwithstanding, May hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts for the New York Mets. Prior to those wins, manager Mickey Callaway‘s club limped to a 2-6 record to start the month, which prompted a sit-down meeting with general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and COO Jeff Wilpon regarding the team’s lackluster performance.
Based on some of the numbers I shared here about a week ago, a lot of these struggles could be pinned on an offense went cold. The pitching staff has done an about-face when looking at their collective performance in April, and from the looks of it, the team’s top three starters — Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler — are starting pitch like themselves again.
What a Difference a Month Makes
The sample sizes are uneven since  we haven’t gotten to the middle of May yet, but the rotation’s performance has been completely different than the disappointing first month they just experienced. Here’s a look at how some major statistics improved from April to May.
Month
IP
K%
BB%
BABIP
LOB%
ERA
fWAR
March/April
148.2
24.9%
9.4%
.318
67.3%
5.09
2.1
May
63.2
25.9%
3.5%
.279
81.5%
2.69
1.9
To put it plainly, the Mets’ rotation has thrown about 43.0% of the innings this month as they did in March/April, yet they’ve nearly equaled their total fWAR output. The homers allowed have gone down (1.33 per nine innings in March/April, 0.99 so far in May), but the obvious improvements thus far have come in walk rate and strand rate.
Allowing fewer free passes while getting more stingy when it comes to letting baserunners score is always a good recipe for pitchers. Both of those stats also stand out because they’re among baseball’s top five so far this month. Their 69.4% first-pitch strike rate in May is also among the league’s best, and that 1.9 fWAR was tied with the Minnesota Twins heading into Sunday for baseball’s highest mark this month.
Carrying the Freight
Upon looking back at last year’s production, it’s not hard to see where the majority of the rotation fWAR came from: deGrom, Syndergaard, and Wheeler. When anyone talks about the overall success or failure of the rotation in 2019, it basically starts and ends with them. Steven Matz was experiencing an encouraging start prior to hitting the Injured List, but he’s not exactly a sure thing. And then there’s Jason Vargas, who has mostly performed to (the low) expectations thus far.
When taking a peek at each starter’s May fWAR, the trend of being a top-heavy rotation is alive and well — Wheeler (0.9), deGrom (0.7), and Syndergaard (0.3) actually combine for 1.9. The only other hurler with a positive fWAR so far in May is Vargas at 0.1, while Wilmer Font (0.0) and Matz (-0.1) round out this current group.
Compared to what they did in March/April, the Mets’ big three have turned things around considerably. Here’s what they did last last month:
March/April ’19
IP
K%
BB%
BABIP
LOB%
ERA
fWAR
Zack Wheeler
35.2
24.0%
11.0%
.309
65.5%
5.05
0.7
Jacob deGrom
26.0
37.7%
8.8%
.389
77.4%
4.85
0.7
Noah Syndergaard
34.0
26.4%
6.8%
.376
56.8%
6.35
0.5
And here’s how they’ve stacked up against those numbers so far in May:
May ’19
IP
K%
BB%
BABIP
LOB%
ERA
fWAR
Zack Wheeler
14.0
35.0%
3.3%
.405
76.5%
2.57
0.9
Jacob deGrom
21.0
26.3%
5.0%
.208
89.7%
1.29
0.7
Noah Syndergaard
15.0
25.9%
3.5%
.282
82.0%
2.40
0.3
That’s quite the difference.
Another noticeable change is the consistency in their respective batted-ball profiles. The quality-of-contact numbers vary a bit, but each of them have produced a ground-ball rate higher than 50.0% while not allowing fly balls are more than a 31.7% clip.
Nobody solely looks at fWAR to make decisions on players, but even with his early-season struggles, Wheeler’s 1.6 season-long mark is head-and-shoulders above the rest of Mets starters (deGrom is second at 1.2). It’s also among the league leaders.
Looking Ahead
Not too long ago when the rotation was in the midst of those first-month struggles, I mentioned that it was troubling to see New York’s greatest perceived strength quickly become an area of concern. While the uptick in production has been more than welcomed, that feeling hasn’t necessarily changed.
After all, the old adage is that a team can never have too much pitching. We just saw how delicate of a balance it can be with deGrom, Wheeler, and Syndergaard, and it’s not as if the back end of the rotation is super solid to begin with.
Even with all that considered, we knew those three wouldn’t struggle for very long. Nevertheless, it’s good to see them turn things around so quickly and pretty much in unison. As we’ve seen last year and already at times this year, though, great performances from pitchers don’t mean much to a team’s bottom line when the offense doesn’t do its job.
Let’s hope what they started against the Marlins is the start of a hot streak so New York can truly reap the benefits of its top starters getting back on track.

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