Spring training is in full swing, with exhibition games being played daily. Players are in the best shapes of their lives, optimism is flowing through the facility, now the debates on roster construction ensue.
The most pressing for the Mets is, with 6 starting pitchers for five spots, who will be the fifth starter?
With the assumption that 1-4 will be filled by deGrom, Syndergaard, Stroman, and Porcello, that leaves Steven Matz and Michael Wacha as the remaining candidates.
Let’s look into the 4 options the Mets can explore.
Matz Gets the Spot, Wacha to the Bullpen
Matz getting the spot would award his prior two seasons. The often injured lefty has put together consecutive 30 + start seasons, amassing over 150 innings in each. Garnering a 2.2 WAR last season, Matz showed real strides in the second half where from July 6th to September 11th, Matz put up a 2.49 ERA in 11 starts.
Matz is looking to continue that consistency and limiting the blow-up games. Matz had 7 starts last season where he gave up 5 earned runs or more, often early in games as the first inning is his toughest to get through. Matz so far this spring Matz has pitched 3.0 innings allowing two hits, no walks and one run with two strikeouts. If his spring continues well, with no setbacks, Matz will most likely get the nod as the 4th or the 5th starting spot.
Wacha Gets the Spot, Matz to the Bullpen
Michael Wacha came up in 2013 and found immediate success with the St. Louis Cardinals. In the three years from 2013-2015, Wacha started 58 games to a 25-14 W-L record with a 3.21 ERA. Since 2015, Wacha has regressed going 33-25 to a 4.39 ERA.
Wacha has battled injuries since 2018, but scouts say his stuff still plays in the majors, most notably his change-up. Also seen in spring so far is an uptick in the velocity of a 95+ fastball. Wacha so far this spring has pitched five scoreless innings with three strikeouts and three walks. Wacha will most likely be the long man in the bullpen and will act as insurance if there are any injuries to the starting rotation.
Play the Matchup
Recent reports suggest that the Mets are floating the idea of using Wacha and Matz interchangeably based on the matchup of the opposing team. This idea is interesting since the Mets could employ either a lefty or righty starter based on how they would match up with a certain team.
This would be an analytical approach and makes sense to use your roster construction to the best of their ability, but the question is how well would these pitchers perform, not being in a set routine and knowing their role in the long term.
Another question it raises is how many innings would these starters be able to give the team when they aren’t continuously expected to go out and give the team 6 plus innings.
Another option the Mets could implement is using a 6-man rotation, which they have used in the past. This rotation construction made sense in the past when the Mets were limiting innings from some starters coming back from injuries, but now that the staff is fully healthy, there isn’t a need to place limitations on inning accumulation.
This is a good problem to have, it creates a higher level of competition, and in contract years, Porcello, Stroman, and Wacha will be looking to impress, as well as Matz, who believes he can be one of the better lefty-starters in the league.
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