The Mets recently made a major trade with the Oakland Athletics, acquiring right-handed starter Chris Bassitt in exchange for minor league pitchers J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller. Bassitt was an unknown quantity to many fans, spending the vast majority of his career in the distant American League West. Despite his low profile, Bassitt is set to play a major role on the 2022 team, turning the 1-2 punch of Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer into more of a three-headed monster.
Consistency Is King
With injury concerns encircling just about every other member of the Mets starting staff in some way, the Mets exited the lockout in real need of stability. Bassitt is a great bet to provide that. He has pitched just about a full season each of the last three years, not to mention posting earned run averages of 3.81, 2.29, and 3.15 along the way. Among starters with as many innings pitched as Bassitt in 2021, his ERA of 3.15 ranked second only to Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray. Despite many fans’ limited exposure to Bassitt, he has quietly developed into one of the most reliably productive arms in the league.
A Different Look
Prior to the Bassitt trade, another obvious missing piece was a prominent lefty in the rotation. Many rotations look to include at least one lefty to keep opposing batters off balance and make it more difficult to prepare to face them. While Bassitt is right-handed, he can still play provide a different look for opposing hitters. deGrom and Scherzer, and to a lesser extent Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco, utilize a four-seam fastball in tandem with a powerful slider to fool batters. Bassitt, in contrast, works with a mix of four-seamers, sinkers, and cutters, with off-speed changeups, sliders, and curveballs. On top of this, the former Athletic uses his full pitch mix effectively. In 2021, all six pitches had a negative run value according to BaseballSavant.
Further, while his spin rates and velocities do not light up leaderboards, he is able to combine them effectively to post above-average strikeout and walk rates, as well as a hard-hit rate that ranked Bassitt in the 88th percentile league-wide last year.
When facing lefties, Bassitt was actually better than usual. In 2021, righties hit for a .639 OPS against him, compared to a .612 for lefties. This is a skill sorely needed, as the NL East is stacked with some of the game’s best lefties, including Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Matt Olson, and Kyle Schwarber. Bassitt’s alternative approach can provide a contrast to Scherzer and deGrom, making him one of the better candidates Eppler and co. could have chosen to fill the third rotation slot.
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