If you had read any preseason analysis on the National League, you heard ad nauseum how the Mets starting pitching were not playoff-calibre. Whether you heard that they were too old (Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez) or too young (John Maine and Mike Pelfrey) or simply too awful (ahem, Oliver Perez), they were deemed pretty vulnerable as they set out to defend their NL East title against the likes of the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.
Yet, through the first twelve games, the Mets as a team are 8-4, while their starters are 6-3 with a 3.03 ERA. Pretty impressive, no? Well… no, it’s not THAT impressive if you dig a little deeper.
That 3.03 ERA does not tell enough of the story. The Mets starting rotation has thus far posted a WHIP of 1.36. While certainly not bad, it’s unlikely that the balance between those two numbers can continue because they are not equal. To help illustrate the point, I looked at statistics from the past three seasons (2004-2006), primarily at the starting pitchers who logged at least 150IP and for the sake of sample size, had a WHIP between 1.35 and 1.37 (0.01 points higher or lower than the Mets’ 1.36). Under this criteria, 19 pitchers qualified, and sure enough, their ERA as a group came out to a more realistic 4.43.
So what, you say? Well, a very good point and well argued. As a counter to your claim, allow me to use some logic. The more runners you allow on base, the higher the probability that you concede runs. Channeling Rick Peterson’s love of metaphors, the Mets are currently driving straight and narrow despite the fact that their rotation is a bit intoxicated. There is certainly a chance that they get home safely, but there is also a good chance that they run into a guardrail. Simply looking at this year’s statistics around MLB, the Mets starters have posted sub-average numbers in nearly every major category:
Mets Rotation 2007
All MLB Starters 2007
As you can see, the Mets’ five have the same WHIP as the rest of the league. However, they also have fewer strikeouts, have allowed far more walks (5.27? Yikes), and despite the lack of homeruns around the league, have allowed 1.32 per 9 innings. But there’s that ERA again – over a full run lower than the league average.
Unless you have convinced yourself that pitchers have the ability to control where batted balls end up (they don’t), there is no other explanation for this aside from luck, with good defense sprinkled in for good measure. It sure does look like the other shoe is going to drop, Mets fans. With the way the lineup and bullpen have been performing, a sub-average rotation may very well be good enough to win them another division title. If Pedro Martinez upon his return is anywhere close to where he was two years ago, it certainly would not hurt. But questions regarding this rotation are not going away just yet.