Mets' pitchers dominating with elite heat
Staff leads baseball in percent of pitches topping 95 mph
Of the 885 1/3 innings the Mets have thrown this year, 30.7 percent have been thrown by the soft-tossing trio of Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee. Those three pitchers have combined to throw 4,034 pitches, and only 4,027 of them -- which is to say, all but seven -- have failed to reach even a modest 93 mph.
The Mets have given nearly one-third of their pitching innings to three players who don't throw all that hard, which is notable because it makes what the rest of the staff has done even more impressive. Despite Niese, Colon and Gee, the Mets are still baseball's leaders in percent of pitches thrown at 95 mph -- and it's by a landslide:
Put another way, the difference of 7.7 percentage points between the Mets and the Indians at No. 2 is roughly the same as the difference between Cleveland and No. 24 Colorado. The Mets aren't just topping the game in heat, they're lapping the field, and it's important to remember that they're doing this with exactly zero contribution from two of their three hardest throwers from 2014: Vic Black (95.7 mph over 34.2 innings) and Zack Wheeler (94.7 mph over 185 1/3 innings).
Of course, last year they didn't have Matt Harvey, who has pumped in 873 pitches at 95 or above -- the second most in baseball behind Gerrit Cole. Last year, they also didn't have Noah Syndergaard, who has had 61.15 percent of his pitches hit at 95 or higher -- the best rate of any starting pitcher in baseball. Last year, they didn't quite have this, either: Jacob deGrom, who had increased his 95-plus rate from just 7.16 percent to 26.78 percent, prior to outdueling Zack Greinke by tossing 7 2/3 scoreless innings in a 3-2 win over the Dodgers.
Given deGrom's partial season in 2014, the only true full-time carryover has been flamethrowing reliever Jeurys Familia. But the turnover hasn't mattered, with the younger members of the rotation being impressive enough that Harvey's minor struggles in recovering from Tommy John surgery have been more of a speedbump than a catastrophe.
Take Syndergaard, for example, who has been as effective on a rate basis this year as David Price. It's time to pump out an update of the Statcast™ exit velocity pitching leaderboards, and realize that as we learn more and more about how these numbers correlate to success, the sheer value of the names alone on this board make it clear that limiting exit velocity really, really matters.
Lowest exit velocity, pitchers (minimum 120 batters faced)
1. Clayton Kershaw, 83.64 mph
2. Chris Sale, 84.84 mph
3. Jake Arrieta, 85.18 mph
4. Dallas Keuchel , 85.49 mph
5. Syndergaard, 85.51 mph
That's pretty impressive company to be in, but it points to something interesting. The outstanding velocity coming toward the plate from Syndergaard hasn't led to solid velocity going back out. The pitcher allowing the hardest exit velocity (more than 91 mph) is Kansas City's Yordano Ventura, who averages nearly 95 mph on every pitch. The top starting pitcher in terms of velocity, Nathan Eovaldi, allows hitters to top 90 mph off the bat. Syndergaard has managed to do what his fellow velocity kings haven't, which is to keep hitters from pounding his fastball (exit velocity of only 87.80 mph), while mixing in a curveball at 82 mph with a 17.4 percent swinging strike rate.
Syndergaard, who faces James Shields and the Padres on Tuesday, has recently begun adding a wicked slider to his repertoire. If he continues throwing it as hard as he has been to qualify for the leaderboards, he'd have five pitches living in the top 15 velocity charts. Only one other National Leaguer can say the same. Guess who: Harvey. You're probably not surprised it's another Met.
After all that, and we never got around to discussing Steven Matz, who added another 50 pitches of 95 or above in his short stint earlier this summer. The Mets just can't seem to stop finding talented strong-armed pitchers, and it's easily the biggest reason why they're just two games behind Washington in the NL East.