By: Robbie Stratakos
One could argue that the two best pitchers in Major League Baseball play in New York City (Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole). At the same time, the starting rotations that these two aces reside in have legitimate question marks attached to them. Can they be stabilized units from top to bottom, rather than severely reliant on one arm? That’s the question that will make or break both the New York Yankees and Mets this season.
Superficially speaking, the Yankees have a compelling rotation behind Cole. Corey Kluber is a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and a healthy version of Jameson Taillon is a reliable starter. Domingo German flashed some promise in 2019, getting considerable movement on his curveball and pitching deep into games. Maybe Luis Severino returns from his elbow injury midseason and returns to form?
“If healthy” and “when healthy” are two recurring phrases associated with this rotation. Kluber and Taillon made just 15 combined starts from 2019-2020 due to injuries. Furthermore, Taillon and Severino didn’t pitch last season while German served a Domestic Violence suspension. Meanwhile, left-hander Jordan Montgomery posted a 5.11 ERA across 10 regular season starts in 2020. Will Kluber stay healthy? Can Taillon remake himself in New York? What’s Severino’s status? Can Montgomery get back on track?
One month ago the Mets looked poised to have a well-rounded and potentially elite rotation. Then offseason acquisition Carlos Carrasco suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him off the mound for at least the first month of the regular season. Combine Carrasco’s injury woes with Marcus Stroman not pitching since 2019, David Peterson yet to start every fifth day across a 162-game season, Taijuan Walker’s injured past and Noah Syndergaard still recovering from Tommy John surgery: the pendulum can swing either way for the Mets rotation.
Stroman has been hit-and-miss across his career. Can the Mets get the version of him that induces weak contact on a frequent basis and keeps his pitch count down? Will Peterson build on his encouraging 2020 campaign (he posted a 3.44 ERA across 10 appearances, nine of which were starts). What does a 34-year-old Carrasco look like after a considerable hamstring injury?
These two ballclubs have formidable offenses that should be in the top-third of the sport in runs and power production. Their playoff and/or pennant hopes ride on their rotation being a sturdy force. In the Yankees’ case, they’re trying to evade the rival Tampa Bay Rays and emerging Toronto Blue Jays to host a home playoff series. On the other hand, the Mets play in arguably the best division in MLB, as the NL East has five teams making an internal case to win the division; it’s that loaded.
If issues continue to linger on the pitching front, the Yankees will come up short in winning the AL. As for the Mets, they’ll fall victim to the depth in their division and therefore miss the playoffs. There’s no margin for error.