Mets pitching trio having historic season
Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard putting up numbers that put trio in rare company
With a recent winning streak vaulting the Mets to the top of the National League East, the Flushing Faithful have been reinvigorated. But while a previously absent offense may be what has rocketed the Mets up the standings, it's their extremely talented and inexperienced starting rotation that has kept them in the race.
Just look at this trio of aces:
Matt Harvey (age 26): 2.76 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9
Jacob deGrom (age 27): 2.13 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 1.5 BB/9
Noah Syndergaard (age 22): 3.01 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9
While Harvey and deGrom's ages are closer to those of veterans, Harvey has the most experience of the bunch, with just 57 games started despite being in his third season of big league work. (Though he did miss all of 2014 following Tommy John surgery, so you could say it's his fourth, if you wanted.)
Before Syndergaard's most recent start on Saturday night, when he gave up five earned runs in four innings against the Rays, all three of the starters' ERA+ were 135 or higher. To put that in perspective, only two other teams in Major League history have had three starters in their first three Major League seasons put up those numbers: The 1914 Red Sox with Rube Foster, Dutch Leonard and Erie Shore; and the 1906 NL champion Cubs, who were led by Orval Overall, Jack Pfeister and Ed Reulbach.
Change the number to a minimum ERA+ of 120 following Syndergaard's last start, and it's still a rare occurrence. The last team with three starters to post an ERA+ of 120 with three or fewer years of experience was the 2010 Athletics, which featured Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez.
This Mets triumvirate of cost-controlled hurlers is also one of only four clubs to have three pitchers in their first four seasons post a walks-per-nine ratio under 2.0 -- the 1901 Pirates, '04 White Sox and '07 Senators being the others. Some of that credit must belong to catcher Kevin Plawecki, who ranks ninth in extra strikes, just behind the Blue Jays' Russell Martin, while filling in for Travis d'Arnaud.
Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard's combination of control with the penchant for striking batters out is also exceedingly rare. According to Baseball Reference, just 13 other times in Major League history has a starter walked fewer than two batters per nine while striking out more than eight a game in their first four seasons. Though the high prevalence of strikeouts in the modern game has a bit to do with that -- 10 of the 16 total seasons have come since 2013, including another Harvey campaign -- that list is filled with names like Chris Sale, Corey Kluber and Masahiro Tanaka. It's not a list of fluky hurlers.
As good as these guys have been, they are in uncharted territory when it comes to workload, and maintaining this high level of performance will be a challenge. While the expected return of Steven Matz in September and expanded rosters may help alleviate some of those concerns, if the Mets are fighting for their postseason lives, it's going to be difficult to ask these three pitchers to stand down because of an eye on the future.
Speaking of the future, we could be talking about this next year, too. While Harvey will soon graduate from the first-three-seasons club, deGrom and Syndergaard should be joined by Matz in his first full season, with Zach Wheeler's return expected in mid-2016. It may not just The Year of the Pitcher for the Mets, but something closer to baseball's version of the Ottoman Empire.