On July 1st 2016, a new era was previewed for the New York Mets. With Jacob deGrom going 5 innings and a 10-2 lead, Seth Lugo, a starting pitcher for the Las Vegas 51’s was called upon for his first Major League outing. He threw 2 scoreless innings allowing 2 hits. But with Juan Lagares coming back from the DL, Lugo was optioned back to AAA the next day, only to be recalled again on July 6th after Matt Harvey went on the DL. He made a few appearances out of the bullpen, giving up 5 runs over 8 appearances (15 innings) earning himself the right to get his first Major League start against the San Francisco Giants. Lugo pitched 6 2/3 innings allowing 3 runs. 3 runs may sound like a lot, but for his first start, it was impressive. Not only that, but he only threw 69 pitches (47 strikes). After this performance, I proclaimed Seth Lugo a future star for the Mets.
On August 25th, Lugo made his second start and once again looked phenomenal. Going 5 innings, he allowed 2 hits, no runs AND he got his first Major League hit as well. And after THIS performance, the new era was upon us…Lugomania was running wild on everyone. His next start was just as impressive, going 6 innings, and allowing 2 runs, still recording a win. He didn’t lose a game for the rest of the season. He won his next 2 starts not allowing more than 2 runs per game. He finished his season strong with a win in his last game against Miami. For a guy who was called up to fill the spots in a broken, injured, pitching rotation, Lugo made the most of his opportunities and finished the season with a 5-2 record and a 2.67 ERA. Lugo was a prominent piece in the Mets rotation for the second half of the season and his domination on the mound (along with Syndergaard, Colon and Gsellman) helped the Mets get to the Wildcard game. Lugo also set the record for the highest spin-curve ever tracked by Statcast…at 3,498 rpm. The curveball really helped put Lugo on the map for all of MLB, not just the New York audience.
When 2017 rolled around, I was very excited to see what Lugo was ready to do. Spring training came around and Lugo took the mound on February 24th, going 2 innings, giving no hits and 3 strikeouts…all while only throwing 19 pitches. Seth Lugo was ready to bring his curveball to the World Baseball Classic, representing team Puerto Rico. He took the mound against Venezuela in the first round and threw 65 pitches over 5 1/3 innings, allowing no runs. In the second round he took the mound against Team USA and held the stacked line up to 3 Earned Runs over 5 2/3 innings. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the same results in the rematch against Team USA in the tournament finale. Entering the game with a 2.45 ERA over 11 innings pitched, he got lit up by team USA and finished his WBC stint with a 4.20 Era over 15 innings pitched. Despite the unfortunate ending to his WBC debut, Lugo showed the Mets he could handle himself when not only a team is riding on his shoulders, but all the Puerto Rican fans as well. Even when things went south for him in the finale, he still struck out seven over 4+ innings.
Lugo gave the Mets a lot to think about when he returned from the WBC and if he hadn’t suffered an injury during the WBC he would’ve likely taken the final spot in the rotation. But, sadly he did suffer an injury, a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm. After the WBC he didn’t pitch well in his spring training start. Lugo was activated from the DL on June 11th where he made his first start of the 2017 season against the Atlanta Braves. Throwing 90 pitches over 7 innings, Lugo allowed 1 run and 6 hits while striking out 6. He recorded his first win of the season. His next start wasn’t as pretty, as Washington got him for 3 Earned runs over 6 and 2/3 innings. He got wins his next two starts though despite allowing a higher number of runs than usual. On August 15th Lugo was once again put on the DL with pain in his pitching shoulder. He would spend a little over 2 weeks on the DL before being activated on August 28th. He threw 3 and 2/3 innings allowing 2 runs and throwing 70 pitches. I for one was worried that just like Hulk Hogan joining the nWo and killing Hulkamania, Seth Lugo’s Lugomania might be dead as well. But, LuGOAT bounced back on his last few starts of the season. He finished the season with a 7-5 record and a 4.71 ERA. It wasn’t a great season for the young upstart, but Lugo has a lot to offer the Mets if he’s healthy.
Baseball-reference.com projects Lugo will have a similar season (7-5 record and a 4.21 ERA) but I think differently. I think if Lugo can have a season void of injuries, he could be a dominant force for the Mets. The problem right now is that no one knows what the Met’s starting rotation is going to look like when opening day comes around. Mickey Callaway has a lot of decisions to make regarding the rotation. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom are clear locks but there’s guys like Harvey, Wheeler, Matz and Gsellman that need somewhere to go. In my opinion, Wheeler might be a lost cause. The Mets have invested a lot of time with Wheeler and it’d be a shame to just cut him off, but I honestly don’t see what role he can play for the team. If I had to choose the rotation, I’d have it be; Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz, Lugo and Harvey/Gsellman (depending on the health and ability of Harvey). If Gsellman has an impressive showing during Spring Training, I’d say let him get a few starts and see how he does and put Harvey in a relief position. But, if Harvey looks to bounce back under the tutelage of Callaway, he could take that spot starting.
But really the point is, Lugo should be a starter for the Mets (unless things go incredibly south during Spring Training, but I’m betting they won’t.) Lugomania is a real thing and it’s going to run WILD on everyone who gets in its path. Get on the hype train now, because I’m predicting Lugo is going to have a breakout season and it won’t be long until Mean Gene Okerlund is interviewing Seth post-game. During which Lugo would sport a “Lugomania” tank top and rip it off in classic Hulk Hogan fashion. Because whatcha gonna do dude when the 3,498 rpm Curveball runs wild on you!?