Through the first two months of the 2021 MLB season, one thing has been clear for the New York Mets – pitching is their strength.
Now nobody is arguing against Jacob deGrom being the team’s best player. But he has also been backed by Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker, who are having great starts to the season. Plus, once Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco return, their rotation simply becomes too good for even David Peterson to be in it.
However, until those two flamethrowers take the mound, the Mets bullpen has been holding down the fort. Players such as Miguel Castro, Tommy Hunter, and Drew Smith have all stepped up to be openers for games this season. Luckily, all three have done their job.
Except, there is one player who has been a liability in the opener role, and virtually every role this season. And that player is Joey Lucchesi.
The intention of the Lucchesi experiment
It was not long ago that Lucchesi was a top 10 prospect in the San Diego Padres organization. His upside was never capitalized in three years with the Padres, as the Mets took a swing on the southpaw with a 4.21 career earned run average.
A large part of Lucchesi’s issues stemmed from his issues once he hit his third time in the batting order. In his career, opponent’s batting average rises from below .250 to over .300 when facing him for the third time. Similarly, players ’ on-base percentage would rise around 100 points in their third appearance.
That being said, it seemed as if having Lucchesi in an opener role would allow the Mets to capitalize on his best innings before things went south.
The experiment has failed
Then again, what happens if things go south from the start? Well, that has been the case for Lucchesi in 2021.
In his six appearances, Lucchesi has allowed at least three runs in four of them. Over his 15.2 innings, he has 16 earned runs on 19 total hits. Ultimately, Lucchesi has a 1-3 record on the year.
Manager Luis Rojas may have finally given up hope on Lucchesi’s ability as an opener too. After three straight starts, where he gave up 12 earned runs in just 8.2 innings, he has since made two appearances out of the bullpen. Even then, Lucchesi still has struggled to limit the damage.
What to do with Lucchesi
As things stand, the Mets cannot afford to get rid of Lucchesi. deGrom and Walker are hurt, leaving only Stroman and Peterson as New York’s starters.
The Mets are also not very deep when it comes to left-handed pitchers either. Peterson and Aaron Loup are the only lefties on the active roster, with Stephen Tarpley and Daniel Zamora in the minors. History also shows that neither would be major upgrades.
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At the end of the day, the Joey Lucchesi opener experiment failed. Now, it simply becomes a matter of whether or not he can pull it together before the team’s top pitchers return from injury. Otherwise, the writing may already be on the wall for the 27-year old.