Last season, the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets were two teams with some of the most feared pitching in baseball. Both teams made the playoffs and ended up facing each other in the NLDS, the Mets eventually winning the deciding fifth game en route to losing the World Series.
This season the teams start in two very different positions. Unlike in 2015, the Mets are the favorites to win their division and have a better grasp of just how special its rotation can be this season. Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey are already under contract and will make up the rotation come Opening Day. For the Mets, its rotation alone is capable of bringing the team back to the World Series, mainly trying to hold off the Washington Nationals and defeat potentially the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals or Pirates to try to do exactly what the Royals did last season.
Lose the World Series and then win it the following season.
The X-Factor could be Zack Wheeler. In the event any of the prized starters go down with injury, ala Matt Harvey‘s Tommy John surgery or Colon feeling his age, Wheeler could be another front-end arm making an impact for New York. He’s the elephant in the room for other teams to have to face down the stretch in whatever capacity the team finds for him. The 25-year-old is expected back sometime after Opening Day and before the All-Star Break and could perhaps add depth to a suspect Mets’ bullpen if Colon is booted into it or Wheeler needs it to continue building stamina this season. Wheeler had a 3.54 ERA in 185.1 innings in 2014.
For the Dodgers, things have changed dramatically. The Giants, winners of every other World Series since 2010, have retooled, adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and will likely propose a tougher threat this season. In addition, what was once inarguably the best 1-2 punch in major league baseball with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, has turned into Kershaw and everyone else while Greinke leads a retooled Diamondbacks team in the same division.
But consider this; Greinke is gone but Kenta Maeda, a 27-year-old Japanese import, has arrived. The 1-2 punch may be gone, but Scott Kazmir adds a third arm Los Angeles did not have down the stretch last season. While it may be a little touch and go early on, including prized prospect, Zach Lee, vying for a rotation spot, the Dodgers stand to gain the most from pitchers returning from injuries.
Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu are all expected to miss Opening Day but to return sometime in 2016 and all of them would likely have a shot at a rotation spot depending on the situation when they do return.
Ryu is 28-years-old and coming off of a 3.38 ERA in 152 innings over 26 starts in 2014. He is hoping to return sometime in May from shoulder surgery.
McCarthy, now 32-years-old, struggled through just 23 innings with his (then) new team in 2015, pitching to a 5.87 ERA. Recovering from Tommy John Surgery, the right-handed pitcher is unlikely to start facing hitters until May and may not be ready to go until around the All-Star Break. While he is the least likely to return to a Dodgers’ rotation in 2016, he still presents options and is under contract for 2017 as well.
Finally, Anderson was the most recent pitcher to go down in Dodger’s camp. Still just 28-years-old, Anderson had his first healthy season last year since his rookie season in 2009. Clearly struggling with durability throughout his career, Anderson is most recently recovering from a bulging disk and, like McCarthy and unlike Ryu, is probably going to miss at least the entire first half of the season.
Anderson has a nice bounceback year last year, throwing 180.1 innings and pitching to a 3.69 ERA despite a 1.33 WHIP and just 116 strikeouts. For Los Angeles, Anderson represents a veteran lefty who could help give LA much needed depth as it tries to compete in a much more difficult division and league during the 2016 season.