There is a long list of uncertainties for the New York Mets heading into the 2018 season, but one thing is for certain, a healthy Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are going to be part of the young rotation. There’s no doubt that the pitching staff is in very good hands this season with former Indians’ pitching coach Mickey Callaway managing the team. In the past 2 seasons, the pitching rotation have become injury prone and because of that, the team has been unable to live up to their expectations. But, with Syndergaard and deGrom BOTH healthy, there’s no telling what this rotation can do. The questions are; who exactly is the team’s ace, and who gets the ball on opening day? We’re going to look at both Noah and Jake’s case and try to figure out who should get the honor.
Let’s start off with the guy who got the opening day privilege last season. Noah Syndergaard stepped into the spot of being the team’s Ace in 2016 when his fellow starters: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz all went down with injuries. Noah became the guy Terry Collins could rely on in big game situations and his performance (with the help of guys like Bartolo Colon, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo) helped get the team to the National League Wild Card game. In the Wild Card game, Syndergaard pitched an absolutely brilliant game, going toe to toe with one of the game’s best pitchers, Madison Bumgarner. Syndergaard showed everyone watching that night that his name NEEDS to be mentioned in the same list as Kershaw and Bumgarner. Fast forward to 2017, Syndergaard would be the starter for the Mets’ Opening Day game against the Atlanta Braves. Syndergaard got a no-decision, giving up 5 hits, 0 runs, and striking out 7 over 6 innings. The team would end up getting the win, but Syndergaard was showing everyone once again, he would be the team’s ace.
In an eerily similar situation, the Mets’ rotation was once again the victim of injuries during the 2017 season. This time though, Jacob deGrom would be Terry’s go-to guy. When Noah Syndergaard went down with a torn lat muscle on April 30th, I think Mets’ fans everywhere were worried. But, deGrom would take the opportunity to show the world that there was another ace lying dormant in the rotation. deGrom has shown in the past that he’s no one to be messed with. He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2014 and an All-Star in 2015. But in my opinion, 2017 was his coming out party. After Syndergaard went down with the injury, deGrom started to shine. deGrom started a personal best 8 game winning-streak on June 12th when he threw a complete game against the defending World Series Champions, The Chicago Cubs. Over the course of the next 7 games, he’d pitch no less than 6 innings. Even when the streak eventually ended, he struck out 10 over 6 innings and only allowed 2 Earned Runs. He’d continue to shine through the rest of the season, even when more of his pitching mates like Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler would go down with injuries. He once again broke a personal-best record when he recorded his 15th win of the season over the Atlanta Braves on September 16th. His last game of the season would result in a loss from the Washington Nationals. But, despite a few blemishes on the record (a 3.2 IP game against the Phillies where he allowed 6 ER, or a 4.0 IP game where he allowed 8 ER against the Rangers, etc..) deGrom was a bright spot on the disappointing season for the rest of the team.
Alright, so with all this being said, let’s take a look at the aforementioned questions. We’ll start with the first, and possibly the hardest question…who exactly is the team’s ace? Well let’s take a look at what exactly an “ace” is. An ace is defined as “The best starting pitcher on a team and nearly always the first pitcher in the team’s starting rotation. Barring injury or exceptional circumstances, an ace typically starts on Opening Day.” I’m going to take a look at comparisons of both guy’s seasons and go from there. Alright, let’s start with 2015 (the year Noah would make his Major League debut.) In 2015, Noah finished the regular season with 24 games started, 150.0 IP, and a 9 and 7 W/L record. deGrom finished the regular season with 30 games started, 191.0 IP, a 2.54 ERA, a 14 and 8 W/L record and an All Star Game appearance.
In the postseason, Noah appeared in 2 Games against the Dodgers (1 of which was a relief appearance for Jacob deGrom). He lost his start, but was able to bail deGrom out of trouble in a must win Game 5. deGrom handed the ball to Syndergaard in the 7th after allowing 2 runs trimming the Mets’ lead to 1 run. Syndergaard would come in and pitch a scoreless inning before handing the ball off to Familia. Syndergaard would get a win in the NLCS against the Cubs, striking out 9 and allowing 1 run off 3 hits. Syndergaard also had one of the most memorable moments for the Mets in the 2015 World Series. Not only did Syndergaard get the only win for the Mets in the Series, but he showed that he feared no man, or no team. When the game got under way at Citi Field, Syndergaard took exception to the fact that the Royals had been hogging the inside plate in previous games. He called for a ball high and launched the ball right over Alcides Escobar’s head. Escobar (who wasn’t even close to being hit by the ball) ducked out of the way before eventually landing on his rear-end. The Royals were not amused and there were a lot of words being shouted from their dugout. When Syndergaard was asked about the pitch after he eventually picked up the win, he simply said that if they had a problem with the pitch, they could meet him 60 feet 6 inches away. Now, I can only speak for myself but that was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.
deGrom’s 2015 postseason stats are nothing to be overlooked though. Getting the ball for Game 1 against the Dodgers in the NLDS, he went head-to-head against Clayton Kershaw and notched his first win in the postseason throwing 7 shutout innings and striking out 13. Although I mentioned it before while discussing Syndergaard’s outing in Game 5 of the NLDS, deGrom’s only real blemish on the night was in the 1st inning when he gave up 2 runs. After that, he got himself into some trouble, but was able to get himself out of it and finished the night going 6 innings, striking out 7 and allowing 2 runs. He notched his 2nd win of the series with some help from Syndergaard and Familia who kept the Dodgers from scoring any further. In a clean sweep of the Cubs in the NLCS, deGrom would start Game 3, going 7 innings, striking out 7 and allowing 2 runs on 4 hits. In doing so, he notched his 3rd win of the Postseason. Unfortunately, deGrom would get lit up by the Kansas City Royals in Game 2 of the World Series. Going 5 innings, deGrom gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and only struck out 2.
In the 2016 regular season, Noah Syndergaard went 14 and 9 over 30, with a 2.60 ERA and had 183.2 Innings Pitched. deGrom went 7 for 8 over 24 starts, with a 2.54 ERA and had 148.0 Innings Pitched. Unfortunately, deGrom’s season was cut short when he underwent season-ending surgery on his ulnar nerve in late September (an injury that had plagued him during the 2016 season.)
Since I covered most of their performances in the 2016 and 2017 season in the introduction, I think all there’s left to do is decide WHO IS THE ACE? Well, statistics show us that deGrom has more Postseason wins, but Syndergaard has a lower career ERA. Although, that’s more than likely because deGrom was pitching in the Major Leagues longer than Noah. It’s really a hard decision to choose which one of them is the Ace. Both guys are phenomenal at their jobs and can almost always be relied on to get the job done. But, if I had to pick, I’d say Noah Syndergaard is the Ace. BUT, I think Jacob deGrom should get the ball for Opening Day. Sort of a contradiction I suppose. But much like how Syndergaard earned the privilege to pitch on Opening Day in 2017, I think deGrom earned the privilege to do the same for 2018. Regardless of who Mickey Callaway calls upon to throw the first pitch of the season, we’re in good hands (as long as it’s not some crazy decision like Harvey or Wheeler…sorry guys.)
I’d love to hear who you think the Ace is, and who should get the ball for opening day. As always, feel free to send me your tweets @Keiths_Mustache or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org ! Thank’s guys!