Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

2 days until Spring Training: Could the Mets' rotation be even better this year?

Spring Training is less than a week away! Let us keep you company until the first pitcher-and-catcher workouts on Thursday with a team-by-team countdown of reasons to get excited for the 2016 MLB season. Today: The New York Mets
Previously: PHI | OAK | ATL | DET | CIN | SEA | COL | CWS | MIL | BOS | 
TB | ARI | MIA | BAL | SD | MIN | SF | CLE | PIT  |
We know all about the 2015 Mets starting rotation. The starters were good -- really good. Their 17.3 WAR ranked fourth in the National League and they were tops in innings pitched, third in ERA, fifth in FIP, fifth in wins and third in total strikeouts. It was one of the major reasons the team won the NL East and went to the World Series.
All that 2015 success came with Noah Syndergaard not being called up until May, Matt Harvey missing starts due to innings limits, Steven Matz only starting six games and Zack Wheeler missing the entire season. So there's reason to believe that the Mets, with five young starters and a certain wily veteran, could roll out an even more dominant rotation this year. Let's take a look: 

Unfortunately, Zack Morris is not on the Mets. Fortunately, Zack Wheeler is. After a year off recovering from Tommy John surgery, the right-hander is set to return to the team on July 1. The former No. 1 prospect, who was ranked ahead of Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard in the Minors, last pitched a full season in 2014 -- when he compiled 11 wins, a 3.54 ERA, a 3.55 FIP and 187 K's (10th in the league). He'll likely replace Bartolo Colon in the rotation (BUT NEVER IN OUR HEARTS). Here's a little reminder of what that might look like:

The 24-year-old only pitched in 35.2 regular-season innings last year, but was very impressive, tallying a 2.27 ERA, three wins and an 8.6 K/9 ratio. He proved once and for all that he was more than just some guy who could spin random things on his finger.

And do you know what, besides superb pitching and hitting skills, comes along with a full season of Matz? A full season of Grandpa Matz.

deGrom. Harvey. Syndergaard. All one year older, yet still young (27, 26 and 23, respectively) -- the three finished in the top 20 in ERA, K/9 and WAR down the stretch in the second half of the season. 
deGrom may have fallen off a smidge from his impressive first half of 2015, but his postseason, besides Game 2 of the World Series, was excellent. He tallied a 2.88 ERA in four starts with a 10.4 K/9 rate. Mets fans are hoping it carries over to this year -- particularly that performance in Game 1 against the Dodgers.

Harvey drastically improved during the second half of the season in nearly every statisical category (3.07 to 2.19 in ERA and 3.59 to 2.28 in FIP). Next season will also be two years since his Tommy John procedure, which seems to be the time when many pitchers (Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmermann) seem to get their pre-surgery feel back.
Syndergaard's strikeout rate, fastball velocity and tweet game all improved down the stretch and during the postseason. With a year under his belt, an extra month in 2016 and the perfection of the new slider he developed last season (part of a rare 5-pitch arsenal) -- there's hope he can put together an even more impressive campaign. He also has a really nice head of hair.

The starting staff had 891 K's last season and a K/9 ratio of 8.0. deGrom led the team with 205 total and Syndergaard tallied a team-high 10 K/9. Harvey also put together a not too shabby 188 K's and 8.9 K/9 rate. Those games looked a lot like this:

With an extra month of Thor, a full season of Matz and a healthy Wheeler, there should be many, many more whiffs at Citi Field in 2016.
With great speed sometimes comes great, um, wildness. Although Mets' starters led the league in amount of pitches thrown 95-plus mph in 2015, they also, surprisingly, issued the least amount of walks per game (1.9 BB/9). That number should remain pretty low even with half a season of a moderately-wild Wheeler. Especially if the ageless wizard that is Colon bests his league-leading 1.1 BB/9 mark from last year. 

Judging by his strenous offseason workout regimen, it's looking quite plausible.