Mets need to include Steven Matz in their six-man rotation
On Wednesday, the Mets will officially go to a six-man starting rotation. That rotation will consist of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Dillon Gee, Matt Harvey, Jon Niese, and Bartolo Colon. The problem? Steven Matz isn’t in it.
The merits of going to a six-man rotation have already been argued here and elsewhere. Some (including the author) feel that going to a six-man rotation is a mistake since it takes starts away from your best pitchers while giving more to your less talented pitchers. Or because it will leave the Mets with a four-man bench. There’s also the fact that every one of the members of the six-man rotation isn’t a fan of it.
Those who are in favor of the six-man rotation say it’ll allow the Mets to squeeze extra weeks or months out of Harvey and Syndergaard, that the pitchers will adjust to the new schedule, and that the extra bench spot doesn’t matter.
But again, where is Steven Matz?
When a team has a six-man starting rotation that doesn’t include the pitcher who’s arguably their fourth-best option, there’s a problem.
After dominating High-A and Double-A last season, Matz has done the same to the PCL while pitching with Triple-A Las Vegas. In 68.1 ininngs (10 starts), Matz has a 1.98 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while striking out 9.22 per nine. Matz’ HR/9 rate is 0.40 — right in line with his career norm while pitching in arguably the most hitter-friendly environment in the minors.
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At the major league level, the Mets have four starting pitchers who are rightfully entrenched in the rotation: Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, and Colon. Beyond that, it gets murky.
Over his last four starts, Jon Niese — whose early season success was a mirage that was due to normalize — has allowed 20 earned runs in 20 innings pitched. Niese insists he’s healthy, but the fact that he’s dropped his arm angle to take pressure off his shoulder and shied away from using his cutter is alarming.
Dillon Gee, who is due to reenter the rotation on Wednesday after spending roughly a month on the disabled list, has been fine this season, posting a 3.86 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 30.1 innings (five starts). The issue with Gee isn’t that he’s ‘bad.’ Although Gee’s 5.93 K/9 is the lowest it’s ever been, he’s a perfectly serviceable back-end of the rotation starter.
The problem here is that neither Niese or Gee has close to the upside Matz has, and neither factors in the team’s plans beyond 2016.
This is not a call to jettison either Niese or Gee, though trading one of them wouldn’t be a bad idea. Rather, this is a call for the Mets to do what they need to do in order to get Matz in the major league starting rotation.
If the way to do that is to place Jon Niese on the disabled list, so be it. If the way to do that is to shift Dillon Gee to the bullpen, so be it. This is a time to win games, not worry about hurt feelings.
As was the case before Noah Syndergaard was called up to the majors, each additional pitch Steven Matz throws in Triple-A will be a wasted bullet.