Mets: Increased slider usage is fueling David Peterson’s breakout

New York Mets, David Peterson

The New York Mets‘ rotation depth has been tested all year: Jacob deGrom has been out to this point with a stress reaction on his right scapula, and they have also been without fellow ace Max Scherzer, nursing an oblique strain since May 18. Taijuan Walker missed some time, too, and Chris Bassitt recently endured a rough patch performance-wise.

One of the reasons the Mets’ rotation has been able to stay afloat has been, without a doubt, David Peterson. The left-hander has been absolutely brilliant, with a 3.10 ERA in 52.1 innings that comes with a rock-solid 22.7% strikeout rate and a 53.8% groundball percentage. Whiffs and grounders have allowed him to succeed.

Even though he already had a 3.44 ERA in his debut year, 2020, this could qualify as a breakout season because Peterson is sporting a career-low 3.76 FIP and is allowing 0.69 homers per nine innings, also a career-best. He is striking out more hitters (8.60 per nine frames) and walking fewer (3.78 BB/9) than last season.

“He’s been huge for us, stepping up — he stepped up for us last year before breaking his foot,” fellow Mets’ starter Taijuan Walker said to “I think all of us, we just kind of just learn from each other and we kind of just kind of piggyback off each other. One guy has a good start, we just kind of keep the train rolling.”

The Mets’ lefty is relying heavily on his slider

Peterson was masterful on Sunday against the Miami Marlins, hurling seven innings while allowing just two earned runs. The Mets couldn’t win, but the southpaw kept them in the game, and the best part is that he didn’t walk anyone and struck out a season-high eight foes.

Paige Leckie of detailed the key to Peterson’s excellent performance in 2022: the slider. 36 of his 50 strikeouts have come on the pitch. “I felt like I had a good feel of [my slider],” he said. “I could throw it where I wanted to put it, in spots I could get them to just swing over it. … I was able to keep them off-balance for the most part to be able to get those strikeouts.”

That has been the story the whole season: per FanGraphs, Peterson is using fewer fastballs (50.1 percent) and is going slider a career-high 27 percent of the time. If you have a good pitch, you should throw it often, and that’s what Peterson is doing.

As long as the Mets have Peterson healthy and in a groove, they will have an amazing wild card in the rotation, able to fill in for injured starters and, if everybody is healthy, pitch multiple innings from the bullpen.