Billy Eppler remains optimistic Max Scherzer, Mets rotation can overcome early-season struggles
As the Mets begin their three-game series against the Colorado Rockies they find themselves in a position they didn’t expect to be before the season began.
Not only do they sit at .500 (16-16) but they have lost nine of 11 games including being swept by the lowly Detroit Tigers. In addition, Max Scherzer has not performed as the ace the Mets were hoping for.
In five starts, Scherzer sports a 2-2 record with an abnormal 5.56 ERA. He was also on the bad end of a shellacking in the second game of a doubleheader on Wednesday where he gave up six runs in just 3.1 innings.
Is Scherzer’s age finally catching up to him? Is it something else? Well, Mets GM Billy Eppler believes he knows what’s going on with his ace.
“One of the things I’ve seen is really irregular work,” Eppler told the media prior to Friday’s game. “A 100-pitch outing at the end of spring, trickle in 90-95 in that first start in Miami, 95-98 in the next start and a lot of irregular days and pitch counts.
“When you do that, when a guy moves down to zero with lingering soreness and misses time, then pitches 50 and then gets ejected from a game and then has to endure a 13-day suspension, if you graph that out it looks turbulent. What you’re looking for is a smoother takeoff so he can get to 30,000 feet.”
A big sticking point after Scherzer’s last start was the decrease in velocity. Eppler is aware of the drop, but believes the lack of consistent outings has affected that as well.
“This year we’ve seen him average 93.8 [mph] going into the start in Detroit. He was over a mile per hour below that. We’ve seen his peak velocity this year at 97.1. It’s there, it’s just a matter of getting that consistency and getting that cadence of pitching every fifth, sixth day. So no, I’m not worried about Max.”
Aside from Scherzer, the Mets rotation has been decimated by injuries. Justin Verlander, their big free-agent signing, made his season debut Thursday while Carlos Carrasco went down early this season and Jose Quintana hasn't pitched in the regular season for the Mets yet.
And then fill-ins like Tylor Megill and David Peterson, who was recently demoted to Triple-A, have not given the Mets that lift they needed to weather this slow start.
But like with Scherzer, Eppler is optimistic the rotation will iron itself as the team's injured pitchers begin trickling back.
"That’s the part of our club that hasn’t put up the numbers that we expected," he said. "With this group, sitting here today, we weren’t expecting to use 22 pitchers in the first month of the season. I think it’s the second most in baseball. We prepare for that but you’re not foreseeing you’ll have to use it in the first 30 days of the season.
"There’s reason for optimism. We have Max back, we have Justin back. We’re looking at Carlos here pretty soon…There’s optimism that getting that group back, getting that health back that they’ll get to cruising altitude.”