AnalysisNL East

The Injury Bug Looms in Queens: Part I

The New York Mets opened 2021 with a 26-man roster consisting of familiar faces and new names. Team owner Steven A. Cohen was frequently interacting with elated fans on Twitter, the latter of who had an appetite for and yearning to see a regular-season of Major League Baseball occur once again. While approximately 8,400 fans were permitted at the home opener, there were millions more watching from afar, ready to follow America’s Pastime once again after a most difficult year. Nearly three months later, the Mets’ roster this season has been, in some ways unrecognizable, thanks to 20 of 26 players suffering injuries of some kind already, forcing the Mets to use 49 players in the first half of the season alone. Despite these injuries, along with consistent postponements due to COVID-19 and an assortment of weather-related hindrances, the Amazins’ have found a way to stay afloat, resiliently garnering sole possession of first place in the National League East for seven consecutive weeks (and counting), their division-leading margin the largest in baseball.

Let’s go through the pitchers on the Mets’ roster and see how they have performed through the season’s first half.


The Starting Pitching Staff

0 | Marcus Stroman

Year Age W L ERA G IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202130652.321585.1751671.055

Stroman has been one of the Mets’ most reliable starting pitchers through the season’s first half, one of seven players who made the Opening Day roster to avoid landing on the injured list. Introducing a new split-change and deceiving hitters more than ever before, Stroman deserves serious consideration as a National League All-Star selection. However, the right-handed pitcher, who is off to the best single-season start of his career, exited his start on June 23 against the Atlanta Braves early with left hip soreness. While the Mets and Stroman downplayed the severity of the injury, both entities will undoubtedly need to monitor it throughout the remainder of the season to avoid it being worsened. If he remains healthy throughout the rest of the season, the Mets should seriously consider extending Stroman early in the offseason, as he is an unrestricted free agent who will certainly garner considerable interest from the rest of the league.

23 | David Peterson

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202125265.541566.269691.395

Peterson has had an inconsistent first half after a breakout 2020 rookie season. The southpaw has dominated against top-tier lineups, including a scoreless six-inning start against the Chicago Cubs and a ten-strikeout effort against the Philadelphia Phillies. Against teams that are currently rebuilding, Peterson is unrecognizable, most notably on Jun. 2 against the Arizona Diamondbacks when he lasted just a third of an inning, ceding five earned runs. Finding some degree of homogeneity is imperative for Peterson as the season enters its latter months, along with recovering from a right oblique strain, likely keeping him out for at least eight weeks.

47 | Joey Lucchesi

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202128144.461138.141861.174

Akin to the aforementioned Peterson, Joey Lucchesi’s shortcoming in the 2021 season has been inconsistency, stitching together good and bad outings as if it were a flip of the coin each time he takes the mound. Following a stellar outing against the Washington Nationals where he gave up no earned runs in 5.1 innings pitched, Lucchesi was placed on the injured list with left elbow inflammation, an injury that would eventually be upgraded to a significant UCL tear in his left elbow. After receiving a second opinion from medical staff, Lucchesi underwent UCL reconstructive surgery (Tommy John surgery) at the end of June, effectively ending his 2021 campaign and presumably most of 2022.

48 | Jacob deGrom

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202133720.951485.01364020.541

The consensus “best pitcher in baseball” is off to a historic start to the 2021 season, posting ethereal statistics across the board thanks to his elite acumen on the mound and ability to make adjustments during the game as need be. DeGrom, while he does lead qualified starting pitchers in fastball and slider velocity, simply knows how to put hitters away, often overwhelming lineups with his three-pitch repertoire (and occasional fourth-pitch [curveball]) and receiving “MVP” chants from Mets fans, whether it be at home or on the road. Besides his pure “deGrominance” on the mound, the Mets’ ace has been crippled by injuries through the season’s first half, having to exit four starts early and landing on the injured list once. The concerning part for deGrom has been the variety of where the injuries have been, experiencing right side tightness, elbow pain, and shoulder tightness over the last two months. The Mets are assuredly monitoring the health of their ace each and every day, and deGrom undeniably recognizes how important it is for him to take the mound to give the Mets the best chance they can to win the game, hence why he has been communicative with the coaches and medical staff as to how his body feels. The ultimate team player, deGrom has opted not to participate in the M.L.B. All-Star Game to remain ready to pitch right out of the All-Star break as he looks to make history by completing the season with the lowest single-season E.R.A. in major league history.

99 | Taijuan Walker

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202128732.441585.0871571.012

After inking a three-year, $23 million contract with the Mets as spring training began this season, Walker is looking like the steal of the offseason. The 28-year-old has been crucial in the Mets’ league-leading starting pitching staff through the first half of the year, posting a top-10 E.R.A. in the National League and adding velocity on all of his pitches in his repertoire. His standout performances so far include a 12-strikeout performance in seven innings pitched against the Chicago Cubs on Jun. 15, and seven scoreless against the St. Louis Cardinals back on May 6. Walker did land on the injured list with back pain in mid-May, and returned immediately after the 10-day stint concluded without his having to make a rehab start; however, the Mets will certainly need to monitor his health and innings pitched as the season continues, as he is just four years removed from UCL reconstruction surgery (Tommy John surgery).

Everyone else:

34 | Noah Syndergaard

The man they call “Thor” was close to returning in early June; however, he was removed from his second rehab start with elbow tightness, shutting him down from throwing for six weeks. While Syndergaard is still doing rehab, it is unlikely that he will join the Mets’ rotation until September, if it all. The 28-year-old right-hander, known for his intimidating mound presence and high-velocity sinker, will be a free agent for the first time in his career after the season, and could potentially accept a qualifying offer from the Mets if it is extended to him.

59 | Carlos Carrasco

A significant piece in the blockbuster trade that sent Amed Rosario, Andrés Giménez, Josh Wolf, and Isaiah Greene to Cleveland in exchange for Francisco Lindor, Carrasco has yet to appear on the mound for the Mets this season. His injury, which has been largely concealed from the public eye throughout the season’s first half, is said to be some form of hamstring tightness and has sidelined him since the end of spring training. Carrasco hopes to return for the Mets early in the season’s second half, something that would immediately bolster an over-performing rotation (in terms of projected statistics) in desperate need of any help it can get.

38 | Tylor Megill

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202125003.77314.1191041.116

Megill has been impressive over his first two major league appearances, both against the Atlanta Braves. The 25-year-old right-hander quickly rose up the organizational ranks and has been calm, cool, and collected through his time in Queens thus far. Megill will try to solidify his place in the major leagues in the second half of the season and could prove to be a reliable fifth starter while the Mets remain without Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco.

43 | Jerad Eickhoff

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202130014.50210.06881.500

In two starts with the Mets, Eickhoff has been plagued by walks and long at-bats. Pitching 10 combined innings over his brief stint with the major-league club, Eickhoff walked four hitters and ceded five earned runs in games that both ended in losses. While Eickhoff did notably break up a no-hitter by the Braves’ Charlie Morton on Jun. 22 as a pinch hitter, he was recently designated for assignment by the Mets, and inked a new, minor-league deal to re-join the organization as pitching depth.


The Bullpen

39 | Edwin Díaz

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G SV IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202127223.03331832.2431271.071

Following the truncated 2020 season in which Díaz rebounded from a rough first year in Queens, the Mets’ closer is worthy of National League all-star consideration based on his performance, largely in save situations. Díaz is 17/18 in save situations and has eluded the dreaded home-run ball that factored into his 5.59 E.R.A. in 2019. His fastball velocity is in the top-3 among qualified major league relievers (99.1 M.P.H.), and his chase rate is in the 89th percentile. Utilizing his two-pitch repertoire (fastball and slider), Díaz is generating career highs in whiff rate, especially with the fastball, his put-away pitch in nearly 36% of strikeout situations. Anchoring the back-end of the bullpen, Mets fans should be able to breathe a sigh of relief in that the notorious trade that sent Díaz and second-baseman Robinson Canó to the Mets in the winter of 2019, is beginning to look a lot better than it had been, albeit the Mariners’ returns in the deal have not yet made significant major league impacts.

50 | Miguel Castro

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G SV IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202126223.5133033.1381101.350

Standing at 6’7”, the long and lean Castro has been exceeding expectations in the back-end of the Mets’ bullpen through the first half of the 2021 season. Relying on his high-velocity sinker, along with his slider and change-up, Castro is generating career highs in whiff percentage, and, as a result, E.R.A. The Mets acquired Castro in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles during the 2020 season, in which they sent back left-handed pitcher Kevin Smith. His versatility to enter the game in a variety of situations (even starting two games as an “opener” this season) has been crucial for a Mets team decimated by injuries and hampered by inconsistency, and the value he provides the team in that regard will be crucial as the season continues into its summer months.

65 | Trevor May

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G SV IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202131223.1334131.2421231.200

The Mets signed Trevor May to a two-year deal worth approximately $15.5 million this past offseason, and on a team where injuries have forced the Mets to use nearly 50 players through the first half of the season, May’s ability to stay healthy and pitch effectively on the mound has been a vital part as to why the Mets’ bullpen is one of the best in the game. Relying on a three-pitch repertoire (fastball; slider; changeup), the right-handed reliever has been as advertised to Mets fans thus far; however, the one uncharacteristic aspect of his season has been his susceptibility to give up home runs, already allowing five of them in just 29.2 innings pitched. To put this into context, May allowed 8 home runs in 64.1 innings pitched during the 162-game 2019 season, and an additional 5 in 23.1 innings pitched during last year’s shortened campaign. As long as May continues to strike hitters out and keep the ball in the ballpark, his presence should be of great reverence to a Mets team that has struggled in the back-end of the bullpen over the last several years.

32 | Aaron Loup

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G SV IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202133201.8029025.0312151.000

Warming up to a hard-hitting country soundtrack each time he takes the mound at Citi Field, Aaron Loup has been an overlooked, yet extremely vital piece to the Mets’ bullpen. The southpaw, originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, is on track to have the best season of his career at 33 years old, utilizing his three-quarter delivery to deceive hitters at the plate. Loup is among the game’s best when it comes to changing the location and spin of his pitches, giving the Mets an equanimity each time he pitches. Additionally, Loup has yet to cede a home run during the 2021 season, a testament to his propensity to keep the ball on the ground, as hitters average a launch angle of just 8.4 degrees over Loup’s 24 innings pitched this season.

27 | Jeurys Familia

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G SV IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202131313.2826124.2291181.622

The final piece to the back-end of the Mets’ bullpen, the one-time closer and current mid-reliever has successfully rebounded after a strenuous last few seasons in Queens. Familia’s high-velocity sinker and slider, along with his fastball and split-finger, are generating more ground balls than ever before, rendering an average launch angle of -1.9 degrees. Another metric that demonstrates an improvement in Familia’s game is hard-hit percentage, and at just 31.6%, Familia places in the 67th percentile, numbers that the Mets organization and its fans are euphoric to see once again. Walks have been a regular hindrance for Familia throughout his time with the Mets, and while his 6.0 BB/9 is still one of the highest marks of his career, Familia has been able to get key outs when he is called upon to pitch, and as long as this trend continues, the 31-year-old right-hander’s resurgence should continue through the season’s second half.

Everyone else:

67 | Seth Lugo

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G SV IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202131212.4015115.0211631.133

Normally a staple in the Mets’ bullpen, Lugo missed the first two and a half months of the 2021 season due to a loose body in his right elbow, an injury he suffered early in spring training that required surgery to repair. Since returning, Lugo and his curveball, spinning at a whopping 3271 R.P.M. (revolutions per minute), has allowed him to quickly regain his form on the mound. The Mets seemingly would prefer to keep Lugo in the bullpen to help bolster a group that has significantly outperformed league expectations through the first three months of the season, but he can be stretched out as a starting pitcher if need be. For the Mets though, having Lugo on the mound in any capacity is a welcome sight to an organization that has metaphorically been treading water all season.

44 | Robert Gsellman

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G SV IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202127013.7115026.2151041.200

Another staple of the Mets’ bullpen over the past five seasons, Gsellman has recently dealt with a slew of injuries, severely diminishing his durability. After fracturing his rib late in the 2020 season, Gsellman came back strong in 2021, pitching to a 3.71 E.R.A. over 26.2 innings, and providing the Mets a proven arm at the front-end of the bullpen, one that could be stretched out to start as well. However, Gsellman recently suffered a torn lat muscle, and will not throw for 6-8 weeks, delaying his return until late August at the earliest.

68 | Dellin Betances

A dominant reliever with the New York Yankees, Betances has thrown just 12.2 innings with the Mets since he was signed by the Mets in the winter of 2020. The 6’8” right-handed reliever dealt with right lat tightness late in the 2020 season, causing a staggering dip in velocity by nearly five miles per hour. Unfortunately, Betances’ attempt to return from a right shoulder injury in 2021 has been stymied as the impediment has worsened. According to manager Luis Rojas, Betances is set to undergo surgery on his right shoulder, ending his 2021 season. Although he has a player option that he will undoubtedly accept for the 2022 season, the Mets will likely buy out the remainder of his contract, instead opting to give younger relievers a chance to establish themselves at the major league level.

61 | Sean Reid-Foley

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G SV IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202125215.2312020.226741.500

Acquired as a part of the trade that sent starting pitcher Steven Matz to the Toronto Blue Jays, Reid-Foley has been inconsistent throughout the 2021 season. While he has certainly provided the Mets with much-needed length and versatility in the bullpen, his performance throughout the month of June was unordinary, posting an 11.57 E.R.A. Often on the bus from Triple-A Syracuse to the major leagues, the Mets desperately need Reid-Foley to return to form to further augment the bullpen’s expertise in 2021.

29 | Tommy Hunter

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G SV IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202134000.00408.060.875

When he has been able to pitch, the veteran right-handed reliever has been lights out for the Mets, appearing in four games without giving up a run, and even notoriously collecting his first big-league hit against the Atlanta Braves in mid-May. Hunter has been out since about a week after he achieved his lifelong goal at the plate with back tightness, and was transferred to the 60-day injured list three weeks ago. While he is said to be improving, he will not return for the Mets until after the all-star break at the earliest.

45 | Jordan Yamamoto

Appearing in just one game for the Mets this season, the right-hander, who has historically appeared as a starting pitcher and long-reliever through his two years with the Miami Marlins, was removed with right shoulder soreness. The 25-year-old was transferred to the 60-day injured list to clear a 40-man roster spot, and will not return until the second half of the season, whether that be at the minor- or major-league level.

40 | Jacob Barnes

Now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, Barnes struggled in his 19 games with the Mets, posting an ERA+ of 62 and a F.I.P. of 6.21. His statistics have improved following the Mets’ designating him for assignment in mid-June, as he looks to be a veteran presence for a Blue Jays team vying to make a deep postseason run.

62 | Drew Smith

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G SV IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202127312.5316021.1201531.078

A young, hard-throwing right-handed reliever from Fort Worth, TX, Smith made a compelling case to be a regular part of the Mets’ bullpen in 2018, in which he posted a 3.54 E.R.A. over 27 appearances. In what was supposed to be the start of his big-league career, Smith ultimately hit the shelf during spring training in 2019 with a torn UCL, requiring Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2020, not nearly as effective as he was in the past, but reported to spring training this year looking like his dominant self again. However, another injury forced a delay to Smith’s season debut, this time right shoulder soreness, certainly something of concern for the Mets. While Smith has appeared in 15 games this season and been among the Mets’ most adequate arms, his injury history is certainly something that the club will need to continue to monitor.

63 | Thomas Szapucki

A left-handed pitcher, Szapucki is one of the Mets’ top-10 prospects in the organization. The fifth-round draft pick in 2015 has been in the minor leagues over parts of five seasons and had to undergo UCL reconstruction (Tommy John Surgery) in the process, which significantly diminished his fastball velocity. While he struggled in his major-league debut, which came out of the bullpen in a blowout loss to the Atlanta Braves, Szapucki figures to be a piece of the Mets’ pitching staff in the long run; however, the Mets are not yet sure if that will be in the starting rotation or out of the bullpen.

64 | Yennsy Díaz

Standard Pitching
Year Age W L ERA G SV IP SO ERA+ WHIP
202124014.26406.18951.421

Not related to the Mets’ closer Edwin Díaz, Yennsy, the 24-year-old reliever, has not made many appearances with the major-league club this year. Acquired as a piece in the trade that sent Steven Matz to the Toronto Blue Jays, Díaz is an important piece of depth for the bullpen to utilize, especially when it is collectively fatigued. The Mets need to continue to monitor his health after suffering a lat strain that kept him out for the 2020 season and could be the source of his 1.5 M.P.H. dip in fastball velocity.

55 | Corey Oswalt

Oswalt has been with the Mets since the 2018 season, and in 14 career starts with the club, has been largely effective. His versatility to pitch in the rotation or out of the bullpen as a long-man, along with his ability to consistently throw strikes, gives the Mets another arm to employ in spot starts or during injury-laden times. Unless the Mets acquire a starting pitcher at the trading deadline, Oswalt could be a temporary fifth starter while the Amazins’ wait for Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard to make their returns to the starting rotation.

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