ST. LOUIS — When news arrived Monday that Jacob deGrom still hasn’t been cleared to begin a throwing program, it was not met with the typical doom-and-gloom that such a story tends to prompt. To be certain, the Mets want deGrom back. Badly. So do their fans. But for now, the team has been doing just fine — more than fine, actually — without him.
That trend continued in a 3-0 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, when Chris Bassitt tacked six scoreless innings onto his already stellar ledger. The effort reduced the Mets’ rotation ERA to 2.16 in 19 games, which leads the Majors. And it hasn’t been just Bassitt. So consistent have the Mets been that Tylor Megill — the breakout star of 2022 — actually ranks last among his club’s regular starters in ERA (2.35).
“We have a lot of talent in that rotation,” said catcher James McCann, who contributed a three-hit effort to the win, “and they’ve really stepped up in a big way here in the early part of the season.”
Here’s a look at how the Mets are doing it, beginning with Bassitt’s latest effort:
Key stat: 24.0 IP
When the Mets acquired Bassitt from the A’s at the start of Spring Training, they knew they were receiving an All-Star caliber pitcher. What they couldn’t have foreseen was how prolific Bassitt would immediately be for them.
Two of Bassitt’s four outings have been scoreless. He’s gone exactly six innings in all of them, which puts him in the Top 10 in the Majors in overall workload. He has also struck out at least a half-dozen batters on each occasion, placing him alongside the likes of Shohei Ohtani. Tuesday, Bassitt enjoyed just one clean inning among his six, but he didn’t allow a runner to reach third base.
“He was outstanding,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Chris is very convicted in what he does and how he goes about it, and nothing’s going to change it.”
Key stat: Mets are 4-0 in his starts
Admittedly, win-loss records mean next to nothing in the modern game. But the Mets made Scherzer the most expensive per-annum player in baseball history because of his history of winning. And he has done nothing but win so far as a Met, going 3-0 in four outings to extend his career-best streak to 23 consecutive starts without a defeat.
Beyond those numbers, Mets pitchers have credited Scherzer more than anyone with leading this unit, both in terms of offering pitching advice and serving as a clubhouse influence.
“I think the impact that a lot of our players have had on each other is showing,” Showalter said.
Key stat: 99.1 mph max fastball velocity
deGrom’s direct rotation replacement, Megill has given the Mets far more than they could have envisioned. Thanks to a fastball that’s firmer than ever and a slider that features significantly improved depth, Megill owns a 2.35 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 23 innings. The Mets are going to look for ways to limit Megill’s innings over the course of the summer, but for now, with deGrom sidelined, they intend to continue leaning on their budding star.
Key stat: 58.3 percent off-speed pitches
Finally healthy following offseason elbow surgery, Carrasco has looked a lot more like the pitcher he was over 11 years in Cleveland than the one he turned into last year in Flushing, amidst hamstring and arm woes. But for this renaissance, Carrasco isn’t relying on health alone; he’s also changed up his pitch mix and is close to bottoming out his fastball usage. That’s allowed him to rely more regularly on what’s working on a given day, whether it’s his changeup, slider or curveball.
The fifth spot in this rotation belongs to Taijuan Walker, who has only thrown two innings so far due to a bout of right shoulder bursitis. Walker will return from the injured list on Saturday, and once he does, he will bring this group a step closer to whole. But even in Walker’s absence, the Mets found a way to thrive, thanks to a pair of David Peterson starts that included one combined run.
So it has gone for Mets starters in 2022. Take out Trevor Williams, who struggled in a spot start earlier this month, and Mets starters would own a 1.85 ERA on the season. Most MLB clubs own a rotation ERA more than double that figure. (And most MLB clubs aren’t missing their best pitcher.)
deGrom, for his part, just began a regimen of loading and strengthening exercises — a category of activities that includes manual therapy, resistance band work, and light weights. Once he passes the requisite strength tests, he can begin throwing, but the Mets aren’t putting a timeline on that. It could be a couple of weeks, a month or more.
“We have the guys to do it,” Bassitt said. “Led by Max, we have the guys to do it. And then obviously we have the ace in the hole whenever Jake can come back.”