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Mets: Expect Marcus Stroman to make you forget about a lost 2020

JUPITER, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 22: Marcus Stroman #0 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch in the second inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium on February 22, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 22: Marcus Stroman #0 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch in the second inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium on February 22, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Marcus Stroman is poised to have a bounce-back year for the New York Mets in 2021 after not taking the mound for the organization in 2020.

The New York Mets were one of the biggest winners at the dawn of free agency with starting pitcher Marcus Stroman accepting the Mets one year $18.9 million qualifying offer, which took one of the biggest names available off of the free-agent market. With Stroman’s return to the organization, the front office has one less hole in the rotation to fill this winter.

Stroman did not take the mound for the Mets during the 2020 abbreviated season after suffering a torn muscle in his left calf during Spring Training and then proceeded to opt-out of the season due to Covid-19 concerns. Stroman did make eleven starts after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays via trade in 2019 and pitched to a 3.77 ERA with a below-average 1.475 WHIP.

While Stroman’s ERA did hover around his career 3.76 ERA which was great, his WHIP was a far cry from his career 1.292 due to him uncharacteristically walking 23 batters in 59.2 inning’s pitched. Looking ahead to 2021, I would fully expect a big year out of the former Gold Glove Award winner. Stroman will be playing for a long-term deal after next season, and there are not many players who embrace pressure and the spotlight of New York City more than Stroman.

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Both the organization as well as the fanbase are also hoping that a quality year out of Stroman can help redeem the trade that sent pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson to the Blue Jays two summers ago.

Stroman is not going to overpower hitters with his four-seam fastball and it’s a pitch he has relied on less the longer he has been in the league. But his ability to keep hitters off-balance with a combination of his cutter, curveball, changeup, and an occasional slider is the former All-Star’s bread and butter.

If Stroman can cut down on his walks, which many attributed to nerves in his first season in Queens, he will have the potential to have the breakout season fans were expecting to see in 2020.

Fangraphs predicts Stroman making 31 starts in 2021 while pitching around 183 innings resulting in a 4.13 ERA. They also predict his home run per nine innings rate to be a career-high at 1.01 but also predict him significantly cutting down on his walks at a rate of 2.83 walks per nine innings. While I do agree on his walk rate regressing to the mean, I don’t see his home run rate increasing as his hard-hit rate and exit velocity seemed to remain steady in 2019 which doesn’t raise red flags for me.

It’s also important to remember that Stroman seemed to become more comfortable as the season wore on in 2019 as in his final six starts he only allowed more than two earned runs once, with 35 strikeouts to 11 walks in 34 innings pitched. However with Stroman missing the entire 2020 season and with the Mets struggles in the rotation, many fans tend to forget how well Stroman pitched down the stretch.

It’s a more than fair expecation that Stroman does not have to win a Cy Young on the mound to have a successful season in 2021. He will be counted on as a possible third starter in the rotation and to give the Mets quality innings every fifth day. We all know the Mets have to be better defensively in the infield for ground ball pitchers such as Stroman and David Peterson, and I believe that is an area the front office will be evaluating this offseason in order to get the best out of both of those pitchers.

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I fully expect the 29-year old Stroman to bring his fiery spirit back to the mound and pitch closer to his career averages in 2021, which will be a huge boost to a rotation that largely struggled last season. There is a reason many teams were disappointed Stroman didn’t make it to the open market this offseason, and Stroman should be considered a significant piece in the Mets pennant chances next season.

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