So it’s official—Steven Matz was placed on the disabled list Monday, making him the latest casualty in the Mets’ “dropping like flies” worst-case-scenario played out before our eyes. The good news is that Matz’s official diagnosis was “shoulder tightness” with no structural damage to the shoulder or arm, and with the DL-listing retroactive to August 15, there is hope he could be back before the month is over.
It should be noted, though, that Matz is not just the latest Mets pitcher to succumb to an injury—he’s one of several pitchers from last year’s playoff teams to be taken out of action; the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw has spent the entire season out of play with a herniated disc, and his scheduled return for the season’s final games is still in question, while the Cubs’ John Lackey (of the Cardinals in 2015) and Héctor Rondon were both deactivated Friday for shoulder and triceps soreness, respectively. The Nationals, near contenders in 2015, also lost Stephen Strasburg to the DL Monday with a sore elbow. (RIP my fantasy baseball team.)
Like my colleague Andrew Mearns, I’m not one to argue that the occasional high pitch count is career-destroying. But a look at this list of pitchers, all of whom who played hard, high-pressure seasons and all but Strasburg who pitched into the postseason, does smack of fatigue. The subject has been hot on the BP Mets site of late, with writers calling for Matz’s shutdown, weighing the same question with respect to Syndergaard, and making the broader argument against ruining the Mets’ 2017 for the sake of the fiery remains of this season.
For the Mets, losing Matz from the starting rotation—one already weakened by a broken, then really broken Harvey—might just be the death rattle of the team’s playoff bid. The only hope now is (1.) Céspedes hits a home run in every at bat and/or (2.) the bullpen X-Men morphs into an amazing starting rotation. Of course the bullpen is also tired, with a collective 8.02 ERA for the past 10 games. Still, if a come-from-behind Mets miracle is going to clinch the wild card race, it’s going to have to come from these guys, who, increasingly as they approach the plate, I don’t recognize at all. So, for my own education’s sake, here’s a look at the few of the Mets’ less-than-star pitchers, who are—no pressure—responsible for carrying our 2016 hopes and dreams. To start:
How has this happened!? you despair. We all know Niese, much as many of us may wish to un-know him. Seeing his name kind of makes me want to cry. Seeing his face under a Mets hat again kind of makes me want to punch it. But as of this writing (Tuesday afternoon) he is tonight’s starting pitcher, so it’s worth taking a look at his work in 2016. Niese, who spent most of the season in Pittsburg after being traded for Neil Walker, has pitched 28 games with 19 starts for a total of 120.7 innings. He’s 8-7 with zero saves and an ERA of 5.30. Sigh.
(Editor’s Note: Welp. That didn’t last long.)
The 23-year-old righty was called up from Triple-A after Matz was sent to the DL. This year, Gsellman was 3-4 in 11 starts at Binghamton with 66.3 innings pitched and an ERA of 2.71; in Las Vegas he struggled, going 1-5 in 9 starts and 48.7 innings pitched with an ERA of 5.73. On the bright side, he’s used to those starting nerves, and his combined 2016 ERA of 4.22 is better than Niese’s.
Hey, so this isn’t so bad! Lugo pitched a solid six innings on August 19 in San Francisco, his first start in the majors. Sure, the rest of the team flushed that good start down the toilet, but it was still a pleasant surprise to see Lugo outkick his statistical coverage. In Triple-A Vegas this year, Lugo went 3-4 in 14 starts with an ERA of 6.50. But, that combined with last week’s start and his 9 other major league outings put him at a 2016 ERA of 4.77, which is still better than Niese’s.
Speaking of guys who messed up Lugo’s good start—Josh Smoker made his major league debut in the third of an inning in which he gave up two runs to San Francisco that night. The 27-year-old lefty, the Nationals’ first-round draft pick in 2007, fared better in Vegas, where he was 3-2 with three saves over 52 games and 57 innings pitched. Given his rocky foray into the majors last week, his ERA is not better than Niese’s, but the Mets are expected to give Smoker another shot tonight, so redemption is near.
This 23-year-old righty is another pitcher to make his debut in the majors this August. Ynoa pitched three innings in three games and struggled, giving up four runs, but his overall performance for the year has been much stronger; In Vegas he started 24 games and went 11-5. Because he’s so young and has been such a promising starter in the minors, I’d be keen to see Collins take another chance with Ynoa on the mound.
I must have blinked and missed this guy (a few times), because the Mets have been calling Goeddel up since 2014. This year he pitched 28 games for the Mets and 21 for Triple-A Vegas, actually faring slightly better in the majors than he did out west (4.18 vs 4.94 ERA). He pitched well for the Mets in 2015, going 1-1 in 35 games with a 2.43 ERA. Also, talk about sibling rivalry—Erik is the brother of Tyler Goeddel, the 23-year-old left fielder who debuted with the Phillies this year.
Gilmartin pitched well as a Met last year—he went 3-2 and posted a 2.67 ERA over 50 games. In 2016, he struggled, giving up 11 hits over nine innings in the five games he played in the majors. He fared better later in the season in Triple-A, going 9-7 in 18 starts. Fingers crossed he’s ready to come back and crush it?
After a stint in the minors in 2015, Henderson joined the Mets to go 1-2 across 31 games (25.3 innings) this year. Every time I turn around Henderson is either being called up or sent down to Vegas, but I for one am happy to see him on the 25-man roster. The 33-year-old was originally drafted by the Expos, traditionally a team from which many great Mets have come, so I’ll take it as a good omen. Plus, his ERA for 2016—4.50 in the minors and 4.26 in the majors—is better than Niese’s.
Here’s hoping to a speedy recovery for Matz, and that the young talent can pick up at least some of the slack in the final games of the season. Meanwhile, I’ll be watching with one eye shut as #49 takes the mound tonight.
Photo Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports