After the All-Star break, the Mets have 73 games remaining in the regular season in 2015. One of the challenges this year was how to compete for a playoff spot while also managing the innings totals of their young pitchers. Here at the break, we can see a playoff spot is within reach. Unfortunately, we can also see the self-imposed limits for their starters rapidly approaching, too. So, how does the club remain competitive and also make the innings work?

First, let’s look at the team’s pitchers and their innings totals:

2014 2015 Remainder
Bartolo Colon 202.1 105.0 127.1
Jacob deGrom 178.1 113.2 94.2
Matt Harvey 0.0 111.1 68.2
Steven Matz 140.0 104.0 66.0
Jon Niese 187.2 104.2 113.0
Noah Syndergaard 133.0 96.1 66.2

The Mets’ preference is to keep their starters to a maximum of a 30 innings increase from one year to the next. The remainder column is adding 30 innings to the 2014 innings total and then subtracting what they’ve already done in 2015. So, deGrom should have 208.1 innings available this year, meaning he has 94.2 innings remaining. It’s a little trickier with Harvey, who didn’t pitch last year. But MetsBlog has reported that the team hopes to keep Harvey to 180 innings, so his 68.2 remaining reflects that.

The club’s solution to manage innings was to go to a six-man staff. But that fix was dealt a blow with the injury to Matz, which will leave him sidelined for at least three weeks and likely longer. But the six-man staff is still likely to be used going forward. If the Mets were to use a straight five-man rotation the rest of the year, that would mean that two pitchers would make 14 starts and three would make 15.

Harvey SyndergaardHarvey and Syndergaard are the two pitchers most burdened by innings limits with Matz on the shelf. If we give them 14 starts apiece, with a conservative average of six innings per start, that would be 84 innings, which would put both of them comfortably above their innings goal for 2015. Harvey would be at 195.1 and Syndergaard would have 180.1. Their innings goal for the club is 180 and 163, respectively.

If the Mets used a six-man staff the remainder of the year, five starters would have 12 starts left and the other would have 13. With neither Colon nor Niese having restrictive innings limits, either could take the extra start. Also deGrom would not have trouble making 13 starts, even if we up his average innings to seven. More importantly, both Harvey and Syndergaard would be just over their innings goal with an average of six innings over 12 starts. Those 72 innings would put Harvey 3.1 innings over and Syndergaard 5.1 innings over, both realistic overage numbers.

So, who takes Matz’ place as sixth starter? The early favorite would be Dillon Gee because of his MLB experience. Logan Verrett should also be in the conversation. Neither one is likely to offer the upside of Matz. That’s why the news yesterday of Rafael Montero returning to live action is so encouraging. In Matz’ two starts this year, he had Game Scores of 64 and 74. Montero had Game Scores of 68 and 71 last year. Gee only topped 60 in Game Scores two times in his last 20 starts. Gee did have two starts last year with Game Scores in the 70s but both happened in April and it’s hard (for me at least) to imagine him coming back from the beatings he’s suffered recently in Las Vegas to deliver his April 2014 form.

At a bare minimum, Montero would need at least four more rehab starts before he could be ready for MLB action and that’s assuming no setbacks. The rose colored glasses view could have him available to pitch on August 8. But as long as we’re talking about best-case scenarios, that’s also right about the time that Matz could return, too. Yet we know when it comes to the Mets and injuries, the best-case scenario never happens. If history is any guide, it’s much more likely that one of the other five starters goes down with an injury then it is for Matz to return in three weeks.

Therefore, we should resign ourselves to seeing Gee or Verrett until either Matz or Montero is ready to return to action. That is unless the Mets decide to put Harvey and Syndergaard on the DL at some point with a phantom injury to solve the innings problem once one of the M & M boys return. Of course, the Mets could also solve this issue by not being so dogmatic about the 30-inning increase.

23 comments on “Managing the innings for Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard

  • Chris F

    I had a sinking feeling this was going to circle back to Montero!

    Point of matter: You state he would need “at least four more rehab starts”, which gives the impression he’s a starting pitcher. He’s logged 1 inning of relief in rookie ball since his DL stint. Before he would be suitable to start in NY, surely he would need to have strong outings in St Lucie and Bingo while being stretched out, then a couple solid starts in LV to get used to big league hitters and strong offenses. Can that all be accomplished in 4 starts after 1 IP? My guess is that its a month from now at the earliest before he would be ready for the show, especially given we have no idea why the shoulder is barking.

    • Brian Joura

      He is a starting pitcher.

      His spot in his first rehab start is irrelevant. But if it makes you feel better, he started the game.

      As I clearly said in TFA – At a bare minimum, Montero would need at least four more rehab starts before he could be ready for MLB action and that’s assuming no setbacks. The rose colored glasses view could have him available to pitch on August 8.

      Should I have put more qualifiers in there?

      • Chris F

        To be a starter surely he would need to have logged those innings to be able to throw 90+ pitches at competition level. Going 1 inning as a starter is not a start from a pitching standpoint. Indeed you expressed caution, but what I dont understand is how at any level Montero could be considered for a stop in Flushing given he’s barely pitched this year, when he did it was mostly as a reliever, and now he is recovering from an undiagnosed shoulder injury with no current prognosis. I feel like we might have a better sense if it is even possible once we see more rehab innings and he gets stretched out.

        • Brian Joura

          I agree completely with your last sentence.

  • Name

    You want more innings? No problem. Just throw less pitches per inning, which is exactly what most Mets are doing this year.

    Last year, Noah threw a total of 2314 pitches over 133 innings, an average of 17.4 pitches per inning.
    This year, Noah is averaging 15.5 pitches per inning. Given the same 2314 pitches, he could pitch 149 innings this year. 16 extra innings

    Last year, deGrom threw a total of 2829 pitches over 178.2 innings. Given the same pitch total, he could pitch 187 innings. 8 extra innings.

    Even Harvey’s Pitch/IP ratio is down a tick from his 2013 season (probably due less strikeouts)

    Get rid of the silly innings limit, and get rid of the silly 6 man rotation.

    • Metsense

      If the Mets really, really want to make the plyoffs this year they should ” Get rid of the silly innings limit, and get rid of the silly 6 man rotation.” Go with a five man rotation, monitor the pitchers closely with their pitch counts and don’t extend them in a game. If one becomes fatigued during the second half then skip his turn and go with your sixth best starter. In other words, actively manage your personnell. They did it with JDG last year and had success.

  • James Preller

    I am inclined to agree with Metsense and Name on this one. I really hope Sandy does not pull a Strasburg here.

    For spot starts, Verrett and Gilmartin are good candidates. I’d also consider Fulmer.

    But thanks, Brian, for bringing the raw numbers into the light. The pitch count info was also illuminating. I hope the Mets don’t think themselves out of Game 163.

  • Steevy

    I don’t believe in innings limits.

  • Brian Joura

    My belief is that if you watch pitches, you don’t need to watch innings.

    It doesn’t apply to the current-era Mets but my hope is that someday, some team will try a 4-man rotation with sensible pitch limits. I don’t believe the danger is 40 starts or 275 innings. My theory is that it’s 130+ pitch outings that does a pitcher in.

    • Name

      “I don’t believe the danger is 40 starts or 275 innings. My theory is that it’s 130+ pitch outings that does a pitcher in”

      When i talk about innings limits being stupid, it’s not because of the injury concern, but because it “penalizes” good pitchers.

      For example, say you have 2 pitchers. Player A always throws 100 pitches through 5 innings and Player B always throws 100 pitches through 7 innings. If you had a 140 IP cap, Player A gets 28 starts (and throws 2800 pitches), but Player B only gets 20 starts (and 2000 pitches).

      And if you want a real life example, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are perfect examples of this. In 2013, Matt Harvey made 26 starts over 178.1 IP and 2697 pitches. Even before he got hurt, there were tons of articles written about how and when Harvey should be shut down. In 2014, Wheeler made 32 starts over 185.1 IP. But he took a whopping 3308 pitches, 611 more pitches than Harvey just to accrue 7 extra IP. Because of his inefficiency, there was never any talk about shutting Wheeler down .

      Essentially you are saying, if you pitch well and efficiently, you’ll start less games. If you labor and struggle through the innings, you’ll get to start more games. Sounds Stupid to me and should be for everyone else. Pitch limits should unquestionably be the way to go.

      • Eric

        +1000

  • Rob Rogan

    The innings limit thing is kind of odd in the first place. Obviously not all innings are created equal. Keeping track of the number of pitches thrown, on the surface, seems to make more sense. Unless you factor in things like “starting and stopping” between innings. I dunno. I feel like most teams probably do this anyway, but it’s easier to convey “200 innings this year” than “2575 pitches” to fans and the media.

    • NormE

      Good point, Rob. Perhaps both pitch counts and innings logged should be taken into account. I’m not sure that the present Mets field leadership is up to such a blending of these two concepts.

  • Eric

    I don’t understand why it’s so difficult. Skip Harvey and Noah’s turn once or twice through the rotation either with a spot start from Gee/Verrett/Bowman or utilizing off days etc…and if need be skip DeGrom once. This rests on Niese and Colon being able to make every start, obviously. Then when Matz is ready to come back – he and Noah go to the pen for the playoffs.

    • Brian Joura

      Harvey complains about going from 5 to 6-man rotation and you think he’s going to be okay going 10 days without a start? Multiple times?

      • Metsense

        If the Mets were to decide to skip Harvey one or more times in the second half $cott Bora$ would reign him in.

      • Eric

        As Collins says – He’ll just have to deal with it. And as Metsense says, Boras would be on board. If I’m Harvey – I think I prefer to pitch on regular rest every 5 days except for 1 or two starts where I get skipped, rather than pitching on irregular rest with a 6 man rotation, and days off. It’s 1 or 2 interruptions to his routine over the last 10 weeks, rather than 1 interruption each week.

  • John

    I agree with all the comments about pitches being a better barometer than innings. But it really goes one level deeper….pitches in stressful situations. A 1-2-3 inning is much less stressful than an inning with runners in scoring position. Also pitching with a 3 or 4 run lead ( I know this is irrelevant with the Mets) is not as taxing as pitching in a 1 run game.
    So there really is a lot of art to managing the staff. It was Gil Hodges brilliance. Also DaveyJohnson. We’ll let history judge Terry.

  • Pete

    Why Can’t Montero when he comes back be used in alternate starts in the 5 man rotation? Skip Harvey every 5th start (which should be about 25-30 days from today). Then the following week deGrom and so on. What if by some miracle the Mets have to play to get into a wildcard spot? Talk about one ugly predicament, Leave Gee in Vegas. I have zero faith in him

    • Brian Joura

      It’s not normal to go 10 days without starting and you run the risk of having that start be a disaster. Let’s say you skip Harvey, so you miss a (potentially) dominating start from him. Then he comes back and gets knocked around while he shakes off the rust. So, you run the risk of punting two excellent starts to reach an arbitrary innings limit. And then you have to repeat the process later in the year, too.

      And repeat for everyone else in the rotation that you plan to do this for.

  • Pete

    Brian the better they pitch the faster they reach their cutoffs. Then what? You will have to insert Montero (if healthy) and Gee (bad idea) back into the rotation for the final 3 weeks where the balance of the season may be on the line. Based on the Met’s sincere medical reporting I wouldn’t count on Matz returning this season.

    • Brian Joura

      The innings increase is arbitrary. There’s no proof that if the increase is 25 innings everything is okay but if it’s 40 innings you’ve suddenly tripled your risk of injury. We all want to do whatever we can to help prevent injuries but we should admit that this is based on hope as much as anything else. And even with these innings caps in place, we’ve seen season-ending injuries to Harvey and Wheeler and extended DL trips for Montero and (in all likelihood) Matz.

      When Matz was healthy or if Montero is able to come back sooner rather than later, a six-man rotation makes sense to me because you’re dealing with guys you want pitching anyway. But these guys are creatures of habit who don’t adapt well making big changes to their routine, which is why I’m against skipping starts. Shoot, we’ve already seen Harvey react negatively to one stinking day. He’s not going to react well to skipping a turn.

      And it’s easy to do the macho thing and tell these guys to get over it. My opinion is that is easier said than done.

      • Metsense

        Having watched Met baseball for all of their existance I have yet to see a pitcher’s arm fall off when they have reached a certain innings amount in a season. I have seen, more than once, a fatigued pitcher serve up a gopher ball when his pitch count got too high and his breaking pitch didn’t break. Good managers know how to read fatigue and the Pirates have enhanced the read with technology. The Mets just need to manage fatigue better, not innings.

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