The Mets should move to a 6-man rotation in 2022

Jacob deGrom and Tylor Megill
Jacob deGrom and Tylor Megill / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

In 2021, Jacob deGrom had one of the most spectacular starts to a season in baseball history. The future New York Mets Hall-of-Famer threw 92 innings with a 1.08 ERA and 0.554 WHIP — both just absolutely ridiculous marks.

Of players with at least 90 innings pitched, deGrom had the lowest single-season ERA since 1916, and his ERA+ of 373 is the best in MLB history. Under the same criteria, but limited to just starting pitchers in the Integration Era, Pedro Martinez’s ERA+ of 291 in 2000 is second to deGrom’s 373. The gap of 82 points of ERA+ between No. 1 deGrom and No. 2 Martinez is the same as the gap between No. 2 Martinez and No. 25 Chris Sale in 2018.

deGrom was on a historic pace, and no one in MLB history was really even close. But that’s the issue — it’s only a historic pace. He fell victim to the injury bug, and pitched his final game of the season on July 7, before the All-Star break.

In 2022, deGrom will be looking to come back from an elbow injury at age-34. It’s not an easy thing to do at any age, even more so in your mid-30s. The absolute top priority has to be keeping him, and the rest of the pitching staff, healthy.

After all the injuries in 2021, the Mets should consider switching to a 6-man rotation for the 2022 season.

The downside of making this switch is fairly obvious — fewer starts and innings from deGrom than he would normally pitch. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, but over a 162 game season that adds up. If he stays healthy, he would normally make about 32 starts. Now, he’d only be making about 27.

But that’s the thing — if he stays healthy. deGrom made just 15 starts last season. Sure, 27 is fewer than 32. But it’s also a whole lot more than 15. If there’s even a chance building in an extra day of rest will give deGrom a better chance of staying healthy, the Mets have to do it.

This doesn’t just apply to deGrom, the entire pitching staff could potentially benefit from this. 

Just two pitchers threw over 150 innings for the Mets in 2021, Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker. Stroman is now a Cub, and Walker only cleared that checkpoint by nine innings. There’s also Max Scherzer, who threw 179.1 innings last season.

No one else currently on the Mets roster threw over 100 innings last season.

Then there’s the age concern. As mentioned, deGrom is heading into his age-34 season. Scherzer is heading into his age-37 season. Carlos Carrasco, who only pitched 53.2 (very ineffective) innings last season due to injury, is heading into his age-35 season. The youngest player who has a rotation spot locked up is Walker, who is going into his age-29 season. Even then, he has his own durability concerns.

Before signing with the Mets last season, Walker threw just 67.1 innings in the three-year stretch from 2018-20. His 159 inning mark in 2021 was the second-highest total of his career, only behind a 169.2 inning season in 2015 with the Mariners. He also noticeably wore down as the season went on, putting up an ERA over seven in the second half after a legitimately All-Star caliber first half.

It’s not unreasonable to think that all four of the players locked into the starting rotation for the Mets could benefit from a 6-man rotation.

This also opens the door to some other really interesting roster-building possibilities. Yes, the Mets already have the most expensive payroll in baseball, but indications are the Mets are not done adding players.

When the lockout ends, the Mets could make a splash on another big-name starting pitcher. Two names that immediately come to mind are Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Rodon.

Kershaw’s career speaks for itself — he’s a no-doubt, first ballot, inner-circle Hall of Famer. He’s also heading into his age-34 season and has more miles on his arm than most at his age. Thanks to an elbow injury, he only made 22 starts and pitched 121.2 innings last season, so signing him comes with a notable risk.

Rodon also carries injury risk, as he just made 24 starts and pitched 132.2 innings in 2021. Like Walker, he’s heading into his age-29 season and has dealt with health issues for virtually his entire career. However, he also put up a 2.37 ERA last season when he was healthy, so he has a ton of upside.

Yes, both Kershaw and Rodon would be risky signings, but the Mets have the money to afford to take a chance on one of them.

If the Mets sign one of them, both could benefit from being in a 6-man rotation. The rotation would then look like this: deGrom, Scherzer, Kershaw/Rodon, Carrasco, Walker and Tylor Megill or David Peterson.

If someone gets hurt, then the Mets can either go back down to a five-man rotation or just use both Megill and Peterson as starters instead of one or the other. Then there are also names like Trevor Williams, Jordan Yamamoto and Joey Lucchesi (who has a chance to be back from Tommy John for the second half of the season) who could all start.

It doesn’t even have to be Kershaw or Rodon, the Mets could look to the trade market to add another starting pitcher. Luis Castillo has been a popular name, but other possibilities include fellow Reds Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle. Tyler Glasnow, Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas and John Means are others who could possibly be on the table.

Picking up another starter would give the Mets five legitimate, established pitchers in their rotation. Moving to a six-man rotation would give those five starters a little extra rest while also giving an opportunity to one of the younger arms on the team. While neither Megill nor Peterson had great numbers last season, both have had stints of success in the big leagues.

Peterson had a 3.44 ERA over 10 games in 2020, and Megill had a 2.04 ERA over his first 7 starts and 3.21 over his first 11 starts in 2021 before struggling down the stretch. Neither one should just be cast aside, both deserve a chance.

If the Mets don’t want to do a strict six-man rotation, Megill or Peterson could even be skipped in situations where the schedule already has a couple of off days built-in. However, that happens far fewer times than you might think. The Mets have just four off days in April and two off days in May, so there wouldn’t really be many opportunities to skip the sixth starter.

Throw in double headers and all of a sudden pitchers are throwing on five days rest anyway instead of six. The difference here is instead of calling up a minor leaguer to make a spot-start, it's just one of the regular six starters.

Baseball is famously a marathon, not a sprint. If you try to go full speed the entire way, you’ll fizzle out way before the finish line.

To use another famous sport saying, the best ability is availability. Yes, ideally, Jacob deGrom would pitch every single game of the season if that was possible. But the fact is he’s in his mid-30s and coming off of an elbow injury. If moving to a six-man rotation helps him stay on the mound, it’s worth it.

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