The Mets end the 2017 season with one of the worst records in major league baseball. Their current, and likely future General Manager, Sandy Alderson says that the team only hit the pause button this year. The numerous injuries and poor performances do not warrant a dramatic shift into rebuilding mode. Next year, fans are assured, the foundation that the team is built around – starting pitching – will return the Mets back to being contenders.
Mets Rebound Years
There are three successful seasons in the Mets past when they rebounded back from an awful year. As you can see in the table below, the first time was the best.
|Bad Year||Record||Rebound Year||Record|
The 1984 team was the beginning of the great run of 80’s Mets teams. Young pitching of Gooden and Darling combined with a potent offense of Wilson, Backman, Hernandez, Strawberry, Brooks and even George Foster. Does a line up of Rosario, Smith, Conforto (if he’s recovered from shoulder surgery) and Cespedes match that 84 team in punch? Not likely.
Finally, the 1997 Mets team might be the closest model of what Alderson is targeting for this off season. They had good, not great, offensive production from Olerud, Alfonzo and Gilkey along with Todd Hundley. The pitching was nothing exceptional – Reed, Mlicki, Jones and Mark Clark. In the bullpen, John Franco had a good year as closer. But what that ’97 starting staff did have is durablility and health. Those four pitchers started 115 games that year. Sandy Alderson would be thrilled if the 2018 Mets get 115 starts from their top 4 starters.
Pitching Strategy Change
As early as June, Alderson began to give hints of a changing strategy with regards to building the pitching staff. During a panel at Citi Field for the 2017 SABR Analytics Conference, Alderson said:
I think what you’ll find over the next several years is clubs will be more interested in ‘pack horses’ instead of ‘thoroughbreds’ because it’s about being able to go out . . . and get 30 starts. I do think at some point you’ll see a trend back to ‘pitchability’ versus velocity. Why? Because velocity often leads to injury. The things that might be the difference between good pitching and great pitching may also be the difference between health and an injury.
At the same conference, Alderson also said that today only 1 in 5 starters last through the 7th inning. So the bullpen is going to need to have ‘pack horses’ too:
It means there is a greater emphasis on the bullpen and it’s not just about the quality. It’s also about the quantity of innings they have to pitch.
He recently admitted to the Daily News that the club would be looking to add to the starting rotation:
I think if we were able to find a (Bartolo) Colon type, who fits in the three-four spot and semi-guarantees 180-200 innings, that would probably be something that would stabilize our rotation. So I think it’s something we’d look at, yes.
So look for the Mets to attempt to acquire inning-eaters. Both as starters and in the bullpen. Names they might be considering would be dependable middle-tier starters such as Tampa’s Alex Cobb, St. Louis’ Lance Lynn or Kansas City’s Jason Vargas. They may not be the big flashy names or hard-throwing studs, but they have a record of staying healthy and reliably racking up innings. Also keep in mind that although they reached the World Series as recently as 2015, the Mets have not won more than 90 games since 2006.
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