Mets rotation features rare trio of flame-throwers
Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey all ranked among game's best in perceived velocity last season
By Andrew Simon
The Mets' star-studded pitching staff is no secret, especially after it helped carry the club to a National League East title and a trip to the World Series in 2015. And in what will be music to the ears of Mets fans, the club is starting to think about locking up its young arms very soon.
Statcast™ helps show how the group stands out from the pack. In the big picture, no team brought the heat last year like the Mets, whose staff combined for a whopping 5,346 pitches clocked at 95 mph or more during the regular season. That's nearly 1,000 more pitches than the second-place Indians (4,455) and more than double the totals of 14 teams.
How did the Mets light up so many radar guns? It certainly helps to have a trio of starters with special flame-throwing ability, in Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey. Here is a look at what those three accomplished last season.
One thing Statcast™ is able to measure is perceived velocity (PV), which goes beyond traditional velocity by attempting to quantify how fast a pitch appears to a batter. It does this by factoring in the pitcher's release point. The more extension he is able to get, the closer to the plate he releases the ball, and the more his velocity "plays up."
Syndergaard, deGrom and Harvey all throw hard to begin with. Though Harvey's fastballs actually are perceived at a slightly slower speed, the 6-foot-6 "Thor" and 6-foot-4 deGrom both are able to achieve above-average extension, helping their pitches appear even faster. Among starters, Syndergaard ranked second only to Michael Wacha in average extension on his four-seamer (6.96 feet), while deGrom ranked seventh (6.80).
During the 2015 regular season, 561 pitches were thrown at least 400 times, more than 400 of them some variety of fastball (for example, Max Scherzer's four-seamer, Jake Arrieta's two-seamer or Kenley Jansen's cutter). Out of that group, a total of 11 pitchers had multiple offerings rank among the top 100 for average PV. And out of those 11, Syndergaard, deGrom and Harvey rose above the rest.
Only the four-seamers of relievers Aroldis Chapman, Jumbo Diaz and Arquimedes Caminero averaged a higher PV than Syndergaard's four-seamer (98.4 mph). Next on the list is Syndergaard again, as his two-seamer averaged a PV of 98.3 mph. The closest starter to Syndergaard was the Marlins' Jose Fernandez, whose four-seamer averaged a 96.7-mph PV, ranking 15th on the list.
As for deGrom, his four-seamer (96.0-mph PV) and two-seamer (95.6) ranked 26th and 35th, respectively. Harvey's two-seamer (95.4) and four-seamer (95.3) came in 44th and 49th. No other pitcher among that group of 11 had a single pitch in the top 30 or multiple offerings in the top 50, with the Angels' Garrett Richards, the Rays' Chris Archer and the D-backs' Shelby Miller (then with the Braves) the only others landing twice in the top 60 (Richards' four-seamer, cutter and two-seamer all made the list).
Of course, not all pitchers use multiple fastball types with great frequency. Clayton Kershaw, for example, employs only a four-seamer. Still, it's impressive to see three Mets hurlers at the top of the heap.
To look at their high-powered arsenals another way, among full-time starters with at least 400 four-seamers thrown, Syndergaard, deGrom and Harvey ranked first, sixth and 12th in average PV. Among those with at least that many two-seamers, they were first, second and third. For good measure, deGrom and Harvey were first and fourth for sliders.
As the Mets try to repeat as division champs this year, their starting rotation figures to play a significant role, with that celebrated trio joined by lefty Steven Matz and (they hope by July 1) Zack Wheeler, who underwent Tommy John surgery last March. That could add even more heat to a group that already brought a whole lot of it in 2015.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.