When the Mets in the offseason signed Max Scherzer and traded for Chris Bassitt to join Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker, it was a vision for a starting rotation to be reckoned with. Though it took more than half the season, it finally came together when deGrom returned from injury on the second day of August. And one week later the reality may actually be more impressive than the original idea.
With the rotation whole the Mets won six of their first seven games and it performed brilliantly.
In the eight games entering Tuesday, the group averaged an MLB-best 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and had an 0.96 WHIP, which was second-best in the NL. Opponents batted an anemic .214 against them.
“It’s only been a week so let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Bassitt said Tuesday before Carrasco and the Mets faced the Reds at Citi Field. “But it’s as good as you could probably make it.”
After Scherzer fired seven scoreless innings in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of Atlanta and deGrom took a perfect game into the sixth in the finale of that series, Bassitt pitched a season-high eight innings, allowing one unearned run in the series opener against Cincinnati.
With Carrasco up next, Bassitt explained that one should not think of the Mets’ starters as trying to better the previous game’s performance.
“I'm just trying to pass the baton on – it’s like a relay race that we’re running,” Bassitt said. “Max had a good start and deGrom had a good start, so I wanted to have a good start and then pass it to Cookie [Carrasco]. It’s less competition and more getting behind each other.”
Each pitching performance stands on its own, but to hear them explain it, the Mets starters see it as a combined effort for a crucial unit on the club.
“I look at it as kind of all of us together . . . feeding off each other, seeing what works with different guys and having the rotation be together,” Scherzer said. “That's what makes a team tick. I've always said the starting rotation is the backbone of the team – we aren’t the strength, but if you don't have a backbone, you don't have a team.”
To that end the members of the rotation scrutinize each other’s outings – even sometimes taking notes – and share the accumulated wisdom with a mind toward each of them becoming better. The discussions cover everything from mechanics to pitch sequencing.
“It’s some tough love with the six of us,” Bassitt said, including David Peterson in the group. “Just being brutally honest with each other is the way to go. And I think we have five guys or six guys that can really handle that.”
“I’ve not been around something to the level of this,” Bassitt continued. “Who has a Max Scherzer and a deGrom? Cookie has the experience from being around forever. [Walker] is an All-Star and been around. This level of experience and skill? There’s a lot to draw on.”
Scherzer said that he has been a part of several formidable rotations and this style of collective effort has brought him great results.
“When you get around the best arms in the game, you get to see what makes [them] tick, what makes them so effective, see how they use their pitches,” he said. “I'm definitely a product of that.”