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:
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 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.