Obviously, Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey have been otherworldly so far. But I thought it would be interesting to compare them to other top-two rotation stars so far in 2012.
As per Wins Above Replacement, Dickey checks in at 2.3, good for sixth in baseball. Santana, at 1.9, is ninth. Only one other team has a pair of pitchers in the top 10- the White Sox, whose Jake Peavy is second, Chris Sale is third. The White Sox, not surprisingly, are first in the American League Central.
Among National League teams, the closest any team comes to matching the Mets duo in WAR is Washington. So far, Gio Gonzalez is fifth, Stephen Strasburg is 12th. It is worth remembering that while Dickey is pitching at a new level, and Santana is an injury risk coming off of shoulder surgery, that Gonzalez has never pitched this well, either, and Strasburg is an injury risk coming off of elbow surgery. So neither team’s aces are sure things, even by the extremely volatile nature of pitchers generally.
If we evaluate the Met starting pitching by xFIP, the fielding-independent ERA, the Mets do even better. They actually have four of the top 29 starters in baseball per xFIP, with Dickey fifth, Dillon Gee 11th, Niese 27th and Santana 29th. Only the Phillies have four starters in the top 30 as well, and one of those four, Roy Halladay, is injured.
That should reinforce a couple of points: the Mets’ starting pitching has been extremely good. And the fact that they are eighth in MLB in team ERA is attributable to a chasm at fifth starter, but really, to how absolutely godawful this team is defensively.
The optimist would suggest they’ll get better in the field, which could happen as soon as Lucas Duda moves to first base and the team deploys three real outfielders, though they’ll take a hit at first base. The pessimist would suggest that if the starting pitchers regress, or anyone is injured, it will have an outsized effect on the Mets, because lesser pitchers put more balls in play, and balls in play are not the Mets’ friend.
Either way, what the Met starters have done so far is remarkable. And at the risk of getting months ahead of ourselves: you don’t exactly need a fifth starter in a playoff series, do you?