The Fifth Starter Decision
Experience or efficiency...
Image credit: Chris Simon
To be or not to be; that is the question…. or something like that.
The Mets bolstered their 2023 rotation with the signings of Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, and lefty Jose Quintana throughout this offseason. With these signings, the starting rotation is basically complete, minus one spot.
It is seemingly a two-man race for the final spot in Buck Showalter’s rotation. Either go with the savvy veteran Carlos Carrasco or left-handed pitcher David Peterson. Both had solid 2022 campaigns, providing big-time starts when both Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom were on the shelf with injuries during the summer months of the season.
Both have a solid case to be the fifth starter; so let’s dive deep, shall we?
Following an injury-shortened, mostly abysmal 2021, Cookie bounced back in a big way in 2022, sharing the top wins spot with now-Toronto Blue Jay Chris Bassitt (15). The right-hander made 29 starts in 2022, pitching to a 3.97 ERA (3.53 FIP) over 152.0 innings of work.
The simple benefit of having a full spring training gave the 35-year-old starter ample time to ramp up gearing toward the season. In turn, it appeared he was able to trust his stuff more, utilizing his changeup and sinker often in 2022 and not relying on his fastball as much the year prior.
We saw a ton of usage out of his change up in 2022, even integrating his rarely used curveball a bit more consistently, as his success continued to grow, so did his confidence.
Strikeouts for Carrasco were the highest they’ve been since the 2018 season, setting down 152 batters, which was exactly a strikeout per inning.
A lovable guy in the clubhouse, the veteran presence Carrasco brings is a bit more laid back than the tenacity that a Mad Max brings. He has been successful in the past and proved he can still compete at a high level heading into his age-36 season.
If Carrasco can stay healthy and perform, getting a Cookie day every fifth day would be a treat.
David Peterson’s last two seasons are very similar to Carrasco’s. A less-than-stellar 2021 followed up by an impressive 2022.
The 2017 first-round pick for the Mets, Peterson spent time both in the bullpen and in the rotation, appearing in 29 games last season and starting in 15 of them. The former Oregon Duck took a decision in 12 of his appearances, pitching to a 7-5 record and a 3.83 ERA (3.64 FIP).
For the first time since getting his first big league call-up, Peterson eclipsed the 100-inning mark in 2022, throwing a total of 105.2. The six-foot-six-inch lefty was able to keep walks down last year, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.63.
He was dominant against same-handed hitters, holding lefties to an abysmal .177 batting average. Employing an array of breaking pitches that generally run away from the left-handed hitters, Peterson made opponents look silly at times.
His biggest adjustment was working on the lower third of the zone. He got hurt in years prior when he’d try to work upstairs, usually leaving pitches in the middle of the plate for the opposition to feast on.
He proved to be versatile as well with 14.2 innings of his 2022 campaign coming out of the bullpen. Not necessarily pitching in the most high-leverage situations, besides the Subway Series game when Gleybar Torres took him deep to tie the game at two.
Either way, Peterson has the potential to break out, if given the opportunity. Entering his third full season in the big leagues, the lefty will look to earn the final rotation spot over the next few months.
Both pitchers have the opportunity to steal the fifth rotation spot once pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 15. But going by Buck Showalter’s track record, he might lean on one factor, track record.
Carlos Carrasco has proven to be a front-end starter throughout his career. Here in 2023, he is not being asked to be that. His role from last year won’t change if given the opportunity to be the fifth starter.
Peterson has the capability to become a solid piece in the Mets rotation. He must continue to build on his 2022 season, whether that be in the rotation, bullpen, or even Syracuse, only time will tell.
Both are solid arms. But once Opening Day rolls around, Cookie should be expected in the rotation.
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