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New York Mets’ 2022 pennant hopes hinge on starting rotation’s reliability

Robbie Stratakos

The New York Mets are off to a thundering start in the young 2022 MLB season. Currently 14-5, they own the best record in the league and are firing on all cylinders under new manager Buck Showalter.

Francisco Lindor is hitting like the player the Mets thought they were getting a year ago while free-agent signees Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and Eduardo Escobar have had their moments. Furthermore, the featured part of their operation, their starting rotation, has been spectacular even with Jacob deGrom recovering from a shoulder injury.

deGrom’s absence and the makeup of the Mets’ rotation, however, is the ominous element as it pertains to them contending for the National League pennant. Here’s why New York’s success comes down to the durability of its starting rotation.

New York Mets’ starting rotation has a deep injury history

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Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When healthy, the New York Mets have arguably the best starting rotation in the sport from both a performance and talent point of view. The name recognition of deGrom, Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker alone speaks for itself. On the other hand, every one of these pitchers has a lengthy injury history.

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As previously alluded to, deGrom is nursing a shoulder injury. This comes after deGrom’s 2021 campaign — where he was on pace to have a legendary season — was cut short in July due to a forearm injury. He has experienced other elbow issues in the past.

Scherzer has built a tendency for a late-season scare. In 2017, he suffered a hamstring injury on the last week of the regular season and was subsequently only able to make one start in a five-game, first-round series matchup. Two years later, he had a start pushed back in the World Series due to a neck flare and was scratched from his final start with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2021 MLB Playoffs.

Carrasco has missed time over the last four seasons for varying reasons. His most recent issue was a hamstring injury that kept him off the hill for the first four months of the 2021 season.

At his best, Walker is an electric right-hander. The problem? He has been held back by elbow injuries for the better part of his MLB career and significantly tapered off in 2021 after a stout first half. Meanwhile, Bassitt only has one full season as a starting pitcher under his belt.

Now, the New York Mets do have some viable backups if and when more injuries pop up. Tylor Megill and David Peterson are off to superb starts and have made a considerable amount of outings since 2020.

Can Megill and Peterson be effective in flex roles, where they come out of the bullpen and then enter the rotation when one of the lead hurlers goes down? The Mets previously bounced Seth Lugo, their best reliever at one point in time, between the bullpen and rotation. Now, he’s less effective in the late innings.

Mets need a healthy rotation to complement volatility elsewhere

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Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, it goes without saying that a team needs to stay healthy to win. They also have to score more runs than their opponent. On a more serious note, the Mets’ success hinges on their rotation.

It’s a stellar unit but also relatively old with some in the back half of their 30s. deGrom is 33. Scherzer is 37. Bassitt is 33. Carrasco is 35, and Walker turns 30 in August. If this unit craters in performance or health, the Mets become an overall volatile club.

Showalter has a positional depth chart of proven players, some multi-time All-Stars and many at least proven players in their own right. They’re also unpredictable — and not in a good way. There are times when Pete Alonso looks like the most intimidating right-handed hitter in the league and other times when he strikes out too much.

Lindor has been hit-or-miss in his year-plus with the team. Marte and Canha are quality, all-around players but inconsistent at the plate. Jeff McNeil and Dominic Smith have been enigmas of late. All the while, New York’s bullpen is a continual guessing game.

There are plenty of World Series winners in recent memory that masked and/or overcame a shaky/middle-of-the-pack bullpen (e.g. the 2019 Washington Nationals, 2018 Boston Red Sox, and 2016 Chicago Cubs). Those teams got around the weakness with sturdy starting pitching and clutch hitting.

The Mets have the talent to win the NL, but they’re not alone. In their own division, the Atlanta Braves have been a force to be reckoned with for the last four years and there is a trio of high-octane teams in the NL West (Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and San Diego Padres). The point is the New York Mets need their organizational bedrock to hold up to keep pace with the other elites of the league.

No contender is perfect, but the Mets’ kryptonite is one that can have a domino effect. It’s a matter of enough arms staying healthy and performing up to their billing.