Zack Wheeler underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015. Wheeler did not return to the mound for the Mets until 2017, and has been on the disabled list twice this summer for arm injuries despite attempts to manage his workload. He was just quietly shut down for the rest of the season by the Mets for a stress fracture suffered over a month ago.
Wheeler is third on the Mets in innings pitched in 2017.
That right there is enough to tell you that his case is far from the only tale of injury woe for the Mets in 2017, but it really needs to be all in one place just to hammer home how absurd New York’s luck has been in this regard this summer. Jacob deGrom leads the team with 25 starts and 165 innings. There isn’t another starter who has even cracked 90 innings — Robert Gsellman is second with 87-2/3. Wheeler’s 17 starts, despite the multiple DL stints and not having pitched since July 22, have him second on the team.
Just for comparison: There are 123 pitchers with more innings than Gsellman, and there are 109 with more starts than Wheeler. Only one of them is on the Mets.
Four of the top seven pitchers on the Mets’ innings leaderboard are on the disabled list: Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Seth Lugo, and Steven Matz. deGrom is healthy, as is Robert Gsellman, who is second on the team in innings despite being a depth option heading into the year. Rafael Montero, another depth arm, is fourth.
Wheeler isn’t the only one who was recently shut down. In the same press release where the Mets announced his season was over, they also stated that Matz’s elbow surgery was a success. Tyler Pill, who made three starts this year, had his own elbow surgery that ends his season.
Noah Syndergaard’s 2017 isn’t officially over yet, but he had a setback recently and is still in the throwing program stage despite it being late August. Syndergaard has made all of five starts in 2017. Harvey is working his way back through rehab starts in the minors, but his stuff hasn’t looked much different than it did before his DL stint and throwing program. It’s entirely possible neither starter throws another pitch for the Mets in 2017, which wouldn’t be the worst idea.
It wasn’t that many months ago that it seemed as if the Mets had more pitchers than they would ever need: After all, Lugo and Gsellman could be starters for a number of teams, and those guys were just going to be depth for the normal injuries that occur in a season. Then Lugo himself was hurt in early April. Matz wasn’t on the Opening Day roster due to his elbow. Thor had a blister early. And the injuries just never stopped, which, being baseball, we warned could happen, because Mets:
The concern is that New York's strength for 2017 was a deep rotation, and now that is compromised. Things can go back to normal for them before too much of the season goes by, but this is baseball, and this is the Mets. Both tend to be unnecessarily cruel when it comes to injuries.
The Mets rotation is a reminder that baseball is cruel. They built their staff in a way that recognized that pitcher injuries happen — having Montero as your eighth starter isn’t a bad place to be. It’s when he becomes one of your more regular rotation members that you have an issue, and that’s just what ended up happening.
How New York handles this torrent of injuries this offseason could say a lot about their chances in 2018. Will they go out and find better starters and more depth in case the likes of Wheeler, Harvey, and Syndergaard still aren’t right? Or will they hope that a winter (and most of a summer for many) not pitching for this group will be enough rest to get them to where they were supposed to be for 2017?
With all the money coming off the books, maybe doing more for the lineup should be the priority, because pitcher injuries can devastate even the deepest of rotations. It’s more a question of when than if for every team.