When the Mets committed to being sellers at this year’s trade deadline, they committed, too, to a September of experimentation and evaluation.
They called up their kids and tried them at different positions, and they took the leashes off Tylor Megill and David Peterson — all but pleading with them to prove they have what it takes to be part of this rotation next year.
And in the five starts prior to his outing against the Reds Saturday, Megill has responded respectably. He appears to have mostly reclaimed the fastball that went on a little sabbatical this year, and pitched the best he has all season in a no-decision against the Twins last week. He had a 3.12 ERA over those last five starts before Saturday’s game, and a 5.03 ERA overall.
But while there’s certainly value to finishing up a season strong, it’s also important to not get enamored with September results. And the truth is, Megill hasn’t shown enough to pencil him into next year’s rotation, or influence the Mets’ free agency decisions this offseason.
“This time of year, or spring training, you’ve got to be careful,” Buck Showalter said. “These teams we’re playing, everything is on the line for them. Sometimes that works to our favor a little bit.
"Our guys are a little looser and a little more letting in fly and they’re kind of wound pretty tight. What you look for is, is it legit? Does it play any time of the year? Command plays, the shape and consistency of a breaking ball — the ability to land something soft and make people honor other pitches. That plays any time of the year regardless of the atmosphere.”
Megill, whose velocity and command suffered after changing his mechanics to prevent re-injuring his right shoulder, saw some improvement when he went back to his old delivery. He was able to touch 99-mph last month and was consistently throwing 97 in his clean first inning against the Reds Saturday - a game where he allowed three runs, two earned, on nine hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
“I feel like, every time I go out, it just seems to be get better, get better, get better,” Megill said earlier this month. “I’m definitely confident that my stuff is getting better every time I go out there.”
But the issue remains that Megill has lost a little of the vertical drop in his fastball, though Showalter said the pitch is much improved of late. He’s also not been able to take the one big step toward sustained results and, at 28, still has to prove that it’s in his wheelhouse: Entering Saturday, he had a 4.86 ERA through three seasons.
That’s not to say that he doesn’t have the stuff for it, and recent returns are encouraging. But while September is for evaluation, not all evaluations are created equal, especially when you’re basically just playing out the season and waiting for the calendar to turn to October.
“The mental and emotional side of it is such a big part of the sport you play every day,” Showalter said. “I want these guys to finish strong and feel good about themselves in the offseason, but when they come to camp next year — that’s why I’m so respectful of teams, coaches, players that do things year in and year out. It’s hard to be consistent.”
Megill, and the others like him, “they’ll seek their level,” Showalter said.
Most likely. But while it’s been a good month, there’s still a lot more to see if the Mets are going to find out exactly what that level is.