During his six years in the majors, Marcus Stroman has made opposing hitters repeatedly put the ball on the ground. This has led to countless, obvious articles being written about how the Mets' poor infield defense will hurt his effectiveness.
This is not untrue, but it's also not as extreme as people think.
For instance, as Eno Sarris of FanGraphs recently pointed out, while the Mets do have weak infielders, the Blue Jays have been nearly as bad -- giving up a .256 average on ground balls compared to New York's .264 average. In total, Sarris explains, this amounts to roughly the handling of 50 more ground balls, of which 40 or so were rated routine.
It's also worth noting that Toronto's infield is artificial turf, where the ball rips toward fielders faster and harder than it does on grass. At Citi Field, Stroman will be pitching on grass when playing home games for the first time in his career. This is encouraging because the OPS he has held hitters too has been 105 points lower on the road than when pitching on Toronto's turf, suggesting the infield's surface has been a major negative factor during his career at home.
This matters because Stroman pitches more like it's 1999 -- not 2019.
He does have a fastball that averages 92.7 mph. However, unlike the majority of today's flame throwers, Stroman doesn't rely on striking people out. Instead, he leans on a heavy sinker, which he buries in to righties and keeps away from lefties. The sink moves down in the zone more than any other right-handed pitcher in baseball ,with 70 percent being hit on the ground. When throwing his cutter, 60 percent of balls in play also end up on the ground.
Stroman's rarely used slider gets him the most strikeouts, especially when thrown to people who haven't seen him very much. Today's launch-angle heavy batters see less sliders overall than at any point in the game's history. And by pitching regularly in the National League for the first time in his career, the pitch should get more swings and misses than he's used to, though he should eventually want to return to his typical mix.
Roughly 75 percent of all ground balls hit against Stroman have either been pulled or hit up the middle.
In other words, the key to Stroman's success with the Mets will likely come down to whomever is standing behind him at shortstop and second base.
In terms of the Mets, second basemen Robinson Cano has been up and down during his career. However, he joined the Mets having played mostly above average in the field during the past few years.
This season, though, according to two scouts familiar with his work, Cano is said to be struggling more than usual, especially on balls considered more difficult than a routine play.
"Jeff McNeil was better last season at that position than Cano has been this season, not just on balls out of reach, but also on balls hit right at him," one of the two scouts added. "They're a more sound, better functioning group with McNeil there, in my opinion."
In other words, if McNeil is at second, Stroman is likely to see better results than if Cano is standing behind his left shoulder.
However, a larger spotlight will be on Amed Rosario, because -- based on career totals from Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom -- Stroman can expect to face 10-to-20 percent more right-handed hitters in the National League than he did when playing in the American League.
As anyone with a calculator and eyeballs can tell you, Rosario has been one of the worst defensive shortstops in baseball since he entered the league. That wasn't the case, though, when rising through the minor leagues, at which time his fielding was praised by experts.
The good news for the Mets and Stroman is that, while Rosario entered the All-Star break with an atrocious -16 DRS, he has since been much better (1 DRS) with the glove. And that included three sparkling plays on Thursday afternoon against the White Sox.
The point is, if Rosario continues to perform as he has since the All-Star break, and if McNeil can eventually get more time at second than Cano, Stroman may be better than he was in Toronto, where he was considered their team's ace.
On the other hand, if Rosario returns to fielding as he did prior to this year's All Star break, and if Cano continues to get the bulk of time at second, Stroman will suffer a bit and so will the Mets.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!