But as the Mets' starters demonstrated on their journey to the World Series last fall, their excellence is rooted not only in how hard they throw, but in the quality of their secondary stuff and their ability to command those pitches. DeGrom, Syndergaard and Harvey ranked ninth, 10th and 12th, respectively, in the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
They're all young, in the early years of their respective careers, might be together for at least three more seasons and seemingly have a chance to be remembered as one of the best rotations of this generation. The Mets have the best rotation in baseball now, and there really isn't a close second.
Let's take this one step further. In my chat last week, a reader asked whether the Mets had a chance to be one of the best rotations not just of this generation but of all time. Before we look at the best rotations of all time, it's important to note that we've had some pretty amazing rotations just in the past few years.
2015 St. Louis Cardinals
John Lackey: 13-10, 2.77 ERA, 218 IP, 33 GS
Michael Wacha: 17-7, 3.38 ERA, 181.1 IP, 30 GS
Carlos Martinez: 14-7, 3.01 ERA, 179.2 IP, 29 GS
Lance Lynn: 12-11, 3.03 ERA, 175.1 IP, 31 GS
Jaime Garcia: 10-6, 2.43 ERA, 129.2 IP, 20 GS
A few others filled in the remaining starts, including four from Adam Wainwright before he got injured. Collectively, the group compiled a 2.99 ERA. Only one rotation since 1992 has compiled a lower ERA.
2013 Detroit Tigers
Justin Verlander: 13-12, 3.46 ERA, 218.1 IP, 34 GS
Max Scherzer: 21-3, 2.90 ERA, 214.1 IP, 32 GS
Doug Fister: 14-9, 3.67 ERA, 208.2 IP, 32 GS
Anibal Sanchez: 14-8, 2.57 ERA, 182 IP, 29 GS
Rick Porcello: 13-8, 4.32 ERA, 177 IP, 29 GS
These five guys started 156 of the Tigers' 162 games, with Jose Alvarez starting the other six. Scherzer won the Cy Young Award, and Sanchez won the ERA title. Only two rotations have ever struck out more batters, and both of those were in the National League (the 2002 Diamondbacks and 2003 Cubs). The rotation finished 76-44 with a 3.44 ERA.
Roy Halladay: 19-6, 2.35 ERA, 233.2 IP, 32 GS
Cliff Lee: 17-8, 2.40 ERA, 232.2 IP, 32 GS
Cole Hamels, 14-9, 2.79 ERA, 216 IP, 31 GS
Roy Oswalt: 9-10, 3.69 ERA, 139 IP, 23 GS
Vance Worley: 11-3, 3.01 ERA, 131.2 IP, 21 GS
This group posted a 2.86 ERA, the lowest rotation ERA since the Dodgers (2.71) and Mets (2.84) in 1985. The top three starters finished second, third and sixth in the NL in ERA while easily topping 200 innings. The Phillies even got good work from the back of the rotation with Worley and Kyle Kendrick (3.14 ERA in 15 starts).
As you can see, the Mets have a lot of work to do just to compete with the best rotations of the past five years. That Phillies rotation, in fact, ranks tied for first on the all-time FanGraphs list for WAR (with the 1970 Chicago Cubs) at 26.0. Here's the breakdown for each pitcher:
Halladay, 8.3 WAR
Lee, 6.8 WAR
Hamels, 4.9 WAR
Oswalt, 2.7 WAR
Worley, 2.5 WAR
Joe Blanton, 0.6 WAR
Kendrick, 0.2 WAR
The Baseball-Reference version of WAR, which focuses more on actual run prevention and less on peripheral statistics, likes this group even more, with Halladay and Lee worth 8.9 and 8.6 WAR and Hamels 6.6. Add in Oswalt and Worley and the total is 29.7.
B-R values four starters on the 2013 Tigers above 4 WAR: Scherzer at 6.7, Sanchez 6.3, Verlander 4.6 and Fister 4.1. Since 1969, the only other rotations with four 4-WAR starters have been the 1997 Atlanta Braves (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Denny Neagle and John Smoltz), the 1991 Braves (Glavine, Smoltz, Steve Avery and Charlie Leibrandt) and those 1970 Cubs (Bill Hands, Ken Holtzman, Fergie Jenkins and Milt Pappas).
So to become an all-time great rotation, the Mets need two or three of the starters to have Cy Young-caliber seasons or to have incredible depth, with all five slots posting excellent results. They certainly have potential Cy Young candidates (at least in a normal season, when Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw don't go nuts). Last year, Jacob deGrom went 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA, and Matt Harvey went 13-8 with a 2.71. Noah Syndergaard, who posted a 3.24 ERA in 24 starts as a rookie, has the stuff to match or surpass those two.
Even then, however, their WAR totals weren't quite in the elite of the elite. DeGrom ranked 11th in the majors on FanGraphs at 5.2, and Harvey ranked 17th at 4.4. On Baseball-Reference they ranked 10th and 15th. The main issue: Neither pitched 200 innings. The Cardinals managed to have a great rotation with only Lackey pitching 200 innings, but for the Mets to be considered among the all-time great rotations, I think they'll need at least two of the starters to top 200 innings. That's possible: Harvey should be completely unleashed this season, and deGrom made just 30 starts. Give him two or three more starts and he'll top 200 as well.
Of course, everyone needs to stay healthy. In an optimistic view, you might get something like this:
Harvey, 6.5 WAR
DeGrom, 6.0 WAR
Syndergaard, 5.5 WAR (they'll probably limits his innings)
Stephen Matz, 4.5 WAR
That would be 26.0 WAR ... and give the Mets one of the best single-season rotations we've ever seen.