The core of the Mets success – their starting pitching – has slipped lately
The core of the Mets success has and always will be their starting pitching.
Having said that, the starting pitching has begun to slip over the last month or so.
Overall, the starters posted a very good 3.29 ERA in the month of August, allowing only 65 earned runs, 157 hits and 40 walks in 178 innings over 28 games, lasting just under 6 1/3 innings per start.
But in September, things haven’t been quite as rosy, as they’ve already allowed 45 earned runs and 101 hits with 19 walks in only 87 2/3 innings in 15 games, good for a 4.62 collective ERA and lasting under six innings per start.
Their September slump actually extends into mid-August. In 28 games since August 18, the starters have posted a 4.54 ERA while allowing 176 hits and 44 walks in 164 2/3 innings, averaging under six innings per start although they’ve accrued an 11-4 record in that span.
First off, the opposition is making more contact against the starters than they were earlier in the season. For instance, in July they were making contact 77.3 percent of the time. That number ticked up to 79.2 percent in August and is up to 81.8 percent in August.
As such, their strikeouts are down – they’re only averaging 6.57 strikeouts-per-nine-innings in September, compared to 8.44 strikeouts-per-nine-innings in August, a significant difference.
And the more contact the opposition makes, the more likely it is for them to reach base, and that’s precisely what’s taking place. They’re averaging about 1.4 base runners per inning in September, compared to 1.1 in August.
Of course, a lot of this can be attributed to Jon Niese’s struggles, as he has not been able to get out of his own way for the better part of a month. But in fairness, all three of Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard have struggled in that time as well.
They’ve combined for a 4.88 ERA since August 18, which is a far cry from where the Mets need all three down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs.
Their struggles coincide with the Mets bullpen getting overworked exposed in the sixth and seventh innings, particularly in late August when the Mets were struggling to get outs from their relievers in that part of the game.
Last month, as it became increasingly more likely the Mets were going to be in a playoff run in September, one concern which was stated on this site was whether or not stamina and fatigue would begin to play a role for their young starting pitchers, all of which (with the exception of Steven Matz) have or will enter unchartered territory in their innings count. It’s partially why the Mets have been skipping starts for both Harvey and Syndergaard (although Harvey’s case is a little different), and potentially a reason they hope to be able to skip a start for deGrom down the stretch of the season.
It’s a challenge all teams with young pitchers encounter and have to deal with down the stretch of their first few seasons. Sometimes they are successful, others they are not.
Fortunately, outside of the last couple of games, the Mets offense has picked up their starters over this rough patch. Since August 18, the Mets are 20-8 and they’re averaging 6.53 runs scored per game.
But when the competition inevitably gets stiffer next month, the Mets will have to once again depend on their young core of starters.
And their performances will have to turnaround as a result.