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Pitching-needy Mets let plenty of quality arms walk away

Five thoughts at the conclusion of the regular season:

1. The Mets let pretty good pitchers walk out the door last season. This is not to criticize what they brought in. Kodai Senga pitched like an ace, getting better as he adjusted to a new league. Jose Quintana, once healthy, was the sturdy No. 3 starter the Mets envisioned when they signed him.

As for Justin Verlander, he retained enough value to help the Mets land two prospects who are getting good reviews even outside the organization in Ryan Clifford and Drew Gilbert — albeit with Steve Cohen assuming a big part of Verlander’s pact to move him to Houston.

The biggest pitcher who left the Mets, Jacob deGrom, lasted six starts in the first season of his five-year, $185 million pact before needing a second Tommy John surgery. He will not return before the second half next season.

But down-ballot:

Chris Bassitt, in the first season of a three-year, $63 million deal with the Blue Jays, was his familiar above-average workhorse self. He reached 200 innings for the first time in his age-34 season — the oldest for someone reaching it for the first time since R.A Dickey and Hiroki Kuroda did so in their age-36 season in 2011. He finished 2023 at his career average of a 117 ERA-plus. Just Logan Webb (12) and Framber Valdez (11) had more starts of at least seven innings and two or fewer earned runs than Bassitt’s 10. Only Gerrit Cole (23) had more starts of six innings and two or fewer earned runs than Bassitt’s 20.

Taijuan Walker, so bedeviled by injury early in his career, has made 88 starts from 2021-23 (20th in the majors), including 30 this season for the Phillies in the first season of a four-year, $72 million accord. He did appear to wear down with a 6.14 ERA in September, which gave him basically a durable league average season overall.

Seth Lugo was among the bright spots for the disappointing Padres, who gave the righty a chance to return to the rotation and were rewarded. In 26 starts, he pitched to a 114 ERA-plus. Lugo finished strong with a 2.50 ERA and .223 batting average against in his final nine starts. He had 16 starts in which he lasted at least six innings and permitted two or fewer runs, the same amount as (among others) Valdez, Corbin Burnes and Luis Castillo. He signed a $7.5 million one-year deal with a $7.5 million player option for 2024 that he almost certainly will now reject to sign for a lot more money moving forward.

Trevor Williams, after being a useful hybrid for the 2022 Mets, signed a two-year, $13 million pact with the Nationals. He had a 5.55 ERA. He allowed an NL-high 34 homers. But his job for a bad club was to fill innings and he made 29 starts and clearly wore down late, allowing 25 hits and 18 runs over 10 ¹/₃ innings in his last three starts. He is probably best cast as a swingman.

2. The retirement of Terry Francona might signal the end of a managerial era. The Cleveland skipper amassed 1,949 wins, the 13th-most wins in MLB history.

Annually now there are questions if 74-year-old Dusty Baker will retire or the Astros will move on from a guy who, in his first three years in Houston, went to the ALCS, then won the ALCS, then won the World Series. Baker is seventh all-time with 2,180 wins.

Will Buck Showalter (17th with 1,724 wins) and/or Bob Melvin (25th with 1,514) be given the ax as part of the cost for disappointing seasons by the Mets and Padres, respectively? Only Gene Mauch has managed more games in MLB history than Showalter and Melvin without ever winning a pennant.

Of course, Baker, Showalter and Melvin could be in play for another job. Another historic manager, Texas’ Bruce Bochy (10th, 2,092 wins), is in no danger of losing his spot.

3. The top 10 offenses in average runs per game going into the final weekend were the Braves, Dodgers, Rangers, Rays, Astros, Cubs, Orioles, Phillies, Red Sox and Reds.

Among pitchers who threw at least 20 innings against those clubs, the best two ERAs belong to 1. Tommy Kahnle at 0.45 (plus a .147 average and one homer allowed in 77 plate appearances), 2. Clay Holmes at 0.65 (plus a .194 average and zero homers allowed against 109 batters).

The three worst ERAs belonged to Shintaro Fujinami (10.57), Connor Seabold (9.69) and Bailey Falter (9.61). Fourth was Luis Severino at 9.32, plus he allowed a .363 average and 11 homers in 189 plate appearances.

4. The top 10 teams in batting average against were the Brewers, Rays, Yankees, Twins, Padres, Dodgers, Mariners, Blue Jays, Tigers and Phillies.

There were 278 players with at least 100 plate appearances against those clubs. The best batting average belonged to Corey Seager at .364. The best by a New York player was Gleyber Torres at 77th overall with a .263 average. The best by a Met is the 93rd place of Brandon Nimmo at .257 (Tommy Pham was at .286 in 97 plate appearances with the Mets before being traded to the Diamondbacks).

The third-worst average was Francisco Alvarez at .147. Fifth-worst was Brett Baty at .168. Ninth-worst was Giancarlo Stanton at .171.

5. When a pitcher reaches a win milestone as Adam Wainwright did in his final major league start before retirement, collecting his 200th career victory, there are questions about just when another pitcher might achieve these kinds of numbers.

Verlander is the active leader with 256 wins going into his Saturday start against Arizona. He is 40. And he will be the last pitcher for a long time — perhaps ever — to have a shot at becoming the 25th member of the 300-win club unless there is a drastic change in 1) a return to emphasis on the win as an integral stat, 2) a return to letting pitchers work deeper into games, 3) less of a reliance on bullpens. All of those tie together.

Zack Greinke (224), Max Scherzer (214), Clayton Kershaw (210) and Wainwright are the other members of the active 200-win club. With 145 wins, Cole seems the only pitcher with a chance to reach even 200 wins over the next decade — and probably longer than that.

But we also are looking at what could be a while until someone reaches the 500-homer club and that was thought a milestone not long ago that would come with some frequency. The last of 28 members to get to 500 was Miguel Cabrera on Aug. 22, 2021. Cabrera is retiring after the season.

Nelson Cruz, released by the Padres on July 10, looks as if his career will end with 464 homers. Stanton has 402. Will he stay healthy enough to get 98 more? Even at his career homer pace, he would need 1,569 more plate appearances.

Mike Trout is at 368 and has played fewer than half the games in the past three seasons. At his career pace, he would need 2,339 more plate appearances to reach 500. Joey Votto (356) and Evan Longoria (342) aren’t going to get to even 400 probably. Paul Goldschmidt (340), Nolan Arenado (325), Freddie Freeman (320), Manny Machado (313) and Bryce Harper (306) are the players at 300-plus homers who are on the radar, and no one can move onto that radar quicker with health than Aaron Judge, who had 257 homers.