The New York Mets are off to an 8-1 start, the best beginning to a season in franchise history. The team has received solid contributions throughout the roster, but the biggest heroes thus far have come out of the bullpen. Mets’ relievers have been outstanding this season, pitching to a 1.21 ERA over the first nine games and recording 45 strikeouts in 37.1 innings pitched. While this is a very encouraging sign for a unit that some considered to be questionable at the beginning of the season, it does point to an underlying issue: the Mets simply haven’t gotten a ton from their starting pitchers yet.
To this point, the Mets have only used four starters in their first nine games: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Matt Harvey. None of them has tossed a pitch in the seventh inning yet, meaning Mickey Callaway has needed at least three innings out of his bullpen every night. Callaway has a better idea of how to manage a bullpen than Terry Collins did, particularly when it comes to getting guys enough rest and warming up pitchers only for them to not get into the game. The schedule has helped as well, since the Mets have an unusually high amount of off days early due to early start to the year and a snow out last week.
That will change starting Friday, when the Mets play 16 games in 17 days, including 10 in a row through April 22nd. The Mets will need their starters, particularly Syndergaard and deGrom, to go deeper into games to take some pressure off of the bullpen. Syndergaard has been a bit disappointing in this regard, tossing 92 pitches in four innings against the Phillies last Wednesday before getting bogged down in the fifth and sixth innings against a relatively weak Marlins’ lineup last night. The cold weather in New York hasn’t helped, but asking the relievers to pick up that much of the workload isn’t sustainable over of the course of the season.
As the temperature rises, the Mets can reasonably expect Syndergaard and deGrom to get deeper into games. The Mets also need more efficiency from Harvey and Matz, along with whoever fills the fifth starter’s spot to try and get through six innings at a minimum. Callaway also has been a bit unusual with some of his decisions, particularly the heavy emphasis on Hansel Robles since his recall while Paul Sewald has been used once all season (granted it was a 55 pitch outing on April 1st). The bullpen’s strong showing is exciting, and it should get even better once Anthony Swarzak comes back from his oblique injury, but if the starters are only going five or six innings every day it will come back to bite the Mets in the long term.