Mets Pitching Staff Rises to 6th in N.L. in Pitching
Added by Guy Kipp on August 23, 2013.
Left-Handed reliever Scott Rice has held left-handed batters to a .170 average this season. (USATSI)
Three months ago, the Mets’ pitching staff was basically a wasteland highlighted by one diamond in the rough in the starting rotation—Matt Harvey—and one in the bullpen—Bobby Parnell.
Now, remarkably, the Mets rank sixth in the National League in earned-run average with a 3.72 mark.
How have they done it? While Harvey (2.25 ERA) has generally sustained his brilliance all season, despite looking a bit more mortal in August, the starting rotation has become a strength. When Jeremy Hefner, who gave the Mets two excellent months before his elbow troubles began to overtake him after the All-Star Break, left the rotation to go on the disabled list (where, it appears, he may reside for another year if he has Tommy John surgery), Jonathan Niese stepped right in after a bout with shoulder trouble and has pitched like his 2012 self since returning.
The departure of Shaun Marcum (1-10, 5.29 ERA) after he pitched with a bad shoulder for two months paved the way for Zack Wheeler (6-2, 3.49 ERA) to finally come up from Triple-A Las Vegas and replace Marcum in the rotation. Definite upgrade there. Wheeler seems to be improving with each start, and has been particularly effective on the road.
Jenrry Mejia also gave the rotation a big boost with five very good starts (1-2, 2.30 ERA) before hitting the DL for elbow-chip surgery.
Dillon Gee (9-8, 3.60) has pitched like a top-of-the-rotation ace since beating the Yankees to finish off the Mets’ four-game sweep of them on May 30. Prior to that 12-strikeout gem in the Bronx, Gee was 2-6 with a 6.34 ERA, raising serious questions about whether he was fully recovered from the circulation problems that sidelined him the second half of last season.
Since then, Gee has allowed two runs or less in 12 out of 15 starts, going 7-2 with a 2.27 ERA in 103 innings—a stunning stretch of sustained brilliance for a pitcher who has never had a bad season in the big league but, because of his pedestrian velocity, one who will never receive proper credit or appreciation for just how reliable he is.
Two other factors merit mention in the Mets’ marked overall improvement on the mound. First, they are fourth in the National League in allowing the fewest walks. Pitching coach Dan Warthen has been given his share of criticism in this space on DoubleGSports.com, but since 2010, the Mets have risen from 10th to eighth to sixth to fourth in the league in walks allowed.
And, the bullpen, even with Bobby Parnell missing for all of August (and likely the rest of the regular season now) with a herniated disc in his back, has stabilized after a rough start. Ageless veteran LaTroy Hawkins—a perfect example of the staff’s commitment to throwing strikes—has issued seven unintentional walks in 56 1/3 innings and has been sound whether pitching in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning. The 40-year-old Hawkins is 3-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 57 appearances.
Left-handed specialist Scott Rice, given his chance after 14 years in the minor leagues, has limited left-handed hitters to a .170 batting average and has allowed just one home run in his league-leading 66 appearances this season.
Pitchers who haven’t performed haven’t been kept around. That wasn’t always the case, but there seems to be more accountability across the board this season.