When Max Scherzer went on the Injured List with a high-grade oblique strain, the New York Mets sat atop the NL East with a 25-14 record. With Jacob deGrom and Tylor Megill already on the IL, the Mets were suddenly down to Chris Bassitt as their ace as their rotation depth was set to be tested.
Fast-forward nearly seven weeks later and Scherzer is set to make his return to the Mets against the Cincinnati Reds later tonight. In his absence, the Mets went 25-16 across 41 games played, just two games worse in the loss column than they were with Scherzer.
Between great offensive contributions across the board and standout performances from starters who were supposed to be back-end of the rotation arms in Taijuan Walker and David Peterson, the Mets did a remarkable job staying afloat without their horse.
At 50-30, the Mets remain 3.5 games ahead of the surging Atlanta Braves in the NL East and trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by just half a game for the best record in the National League. With the return of Scherzer and the impending return of deGrom, the Mets have a chance to be even better in the second half.
Getting Mad Max Back
Max Scherzer made eight starts for the Mets at the beginning of the season and was dominant to get the team off to an early divisional lead. Scherzer was 5-1 and pitched to a tidy 2.54 ERA across 49 2/3 innings pitched. At the time of the injury, the 37-year-old found himself in the top-10 of most statistical categories for NL pitchers.
Now the Mets get to insert the three-time Cy Young winner back into their rotation, just in time to make three starts before the All-Star break. Scherzer joins a rotation that has primarily gotten by with Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker and David Peterson carrying the load.
While Trevor Williams is set to make another spot start on Thursday (in place of Bassitt on the COVID_-IL), he will soon return to where he has been far more successful, pitching out of the pen. Williams has a 2.00 ERA across eight games and 18 innings pitched out of the bullpen, but a 5.86 ERA across seven starts. The Mets are 3-4 in games started by Williams.
Once New York can get Williams back in the pen, their rotation will no longer have any real weak links. Bassitt’s 4.01 ERA is a bit deceiving, as nine of his 15 starts have been quality starts and he has allowed three earned runs or less in all but four of his starts. The same could be said for Carlos Carrasco, who has pitched to a 4.64 ERA, but leads the team with nine wins.
Just last week, I wrote a deep dive on Taijuan Walker’s season thus far and how his splitter has transformed him into the most consistent pitcher in the Mets rotation. Last night, Walker earned his seventh win after holding the Reds to three runs on four hits, with nine strikeouts to just one walk.
Walker has pitched to a 2.86 ERA across 14 starts and 78 2/3 innings pitched. His 1.9 fWAR leads all Mets pitchers and puts him in a four-way tie with Tyler Anderson, Yu Darvish and Spencer Strider for the 11th-best mark in the NL.
The final piece to the Mets rotation right now is David Peterson, who is pitching to a 3.24 ERA across 58 1/3 innings pitched this year. The 26-year-old has a renewed slider this year, which is generating whiffs nearly half of the time (48.1% Whiff%), finally giving the groundball pitcher a legit out-pitch.
By inserting Scherzer back into the rotation, everyone else drops down a peg into their proper place, making this one of the strongest rotation in the game. The crazy thing is, it will only get better in a few weeks. When a certain once a generation talent is expected to return.
Jacob deGrom Makes the Mets Lethal
On Sunday night, Jacob deGrom took the mound in a professional game for the first time in nearly a calendar year. Pitching against Low-A competition in Port St. Lucie, deGrom might as well have been throwing a bullpen session, because those young prospects had no chance to even make contact.
DeGrom threw 24 pitches, touched 101 MPH on his fastball and struck out every batter he faced that he did not hit with a pitch. Six batters faced, five strikeouts and one hit by a pitch, deGrom looked like himself and most importantly, felt great doing it.
He will now make his next rehab start on Friday, once again pitching for the Low-A St. Lucie Mets. DeGrom is expected to make at least four rehab starts, which would put his earliest return right on the other side of the All-Star break on July 23rd against the San Diego Padres.
While it is hard to count on deGrom considering the injuries he has sustained over the last year, the thought of his return is absolutely tantalizing. The Mets could soon have six quality starters available in their rotation, and that is not even counting Tylor Megill and Joey Lucchesi who could return in August.
Scherzer’s return is the first step, but as the Mets continue to get more complete, look out for them to hit another gear in the second half, which could have them looking like the favorites to make it out of the National League altogether.