Terry Collins and the dangers of expanded rosters

Terry CollinsThe Mets have 39 players on their expanded active roster. That’s tied with the Dodgers for the most in baseball. That’s also literally every player on their 40-man that isn’t recovering from some surgery or another. That’s a lot of players, and the dugout and bullpen are crowded with guys looking to get some kind of playing time down the stretch.

Expanded rosters are thought of fondly in a sense, depending on the situation in which your team finds itself in September. If your team is out of it, it means that you get to see the kids come up and take their first sips of that cup of coffee they’ve been working so hard to get. It’s a taste of the future in a lost season made more bearable by what could be. If your team is in the thick of the playoff race, it means vital reinforcements for a broken, beaten down roster that’s been duking it out for five months.

It also means a lot of players and a lot of in-game substitutions. Does a game where the teams combined to field almost 50 players sound like a lot of fun? That’s what happened during the Mets-Phillies 11-inning game this past Thursday. Sure, the Mets won in exciting fashion, but they did so by using a franchise record 27 players (including 10 pitchers).

The lengthening of games can be an annoyance, and having to watch 19 different pitchers belabors that point, but it’s not the worst that can come from having so many players available to an MLB manager. The Mets’ Terry Collins demonstrates great examples of overthinking your strategy in a game where you had players to burn.

He’s managing like every game counts, which is exactly what you generally want your manager to be doing in the situation in which the Mets find themselves. When asked about the possibility that he wouldn’t be able to line his best pitchers up for the Wild Card game, he made it a point to note that they have to qualify for that game in the first place. That’s encouraging to hear, especially considering how often we see managers making decisions based on tomorrow’s game rather than the here and now. It also may have a weirdly synergistic effect on his in-game decision making when combined with his roster having so many players.

Look, we all have our issues with how Collins manages games. Sometimes we may make more out of his decision-making than need be, but there’s no question he’s had his moments where he left us scratching our heads (at best). The combination of expanded rosters and the pressure of the Wild Card race has led to some “interesting” decisions on Collins’ part. It also has seemed to exacerbate things like his obsession with same-handed matchups regardless of the context.

Take the recent Braves series, for example. In what world is replacing Addison Reed, the Mets’ best reliever this season, with Josh Smoker in a tight situation to face Freddie Freeman remotely a good idea? It only makes sense if you can’t break yourself away from the lefty/lefty matchup mindset, and even then if you also just completely ignore track record and actual numbers. The same mindset leads to having Eric Campbell hit for Kelly Johnson and Kevin Plawecki at the plate instead of James Loney. The sheer number of players on the roster seemingly makes it easier for Collins to burn them in nonsensical ways. Without the expansion, Plawecki and Campbell wouldn’t have even been on the roster at all.

We also have to look at some of the upside of expanded rosters, of course, especially as it pertains to the Mets’ bullpen. The Mets are 17th in the league in relief pitcher innings with 492 innings, but they’re seventh in total appearances with 505 games. That’s all on Collins and his bullpen management. They’ve certainly been valuable with 5.7 fWAR, good for fourth in baseball, but the back end of the bullpen is second (Reed) and fifth (Jeurys Familia) in relief appearances. Hansel Robles is seventh in relief innings (76.1). The added reinforcements are a boon to a team that has had to rely on so many pitchers because of injuries.

Just because you have a thousand players available doesn’t mean that they should be used, particularly in the incredibly important games the Mets will be playing for the rest of the season. There are several notable reasons why rosters expanding has been shown to be an issue. Arguments have been made elsewhere as to why the MLB should reduce the number of players allowed. For Mets fans, the most important reason may be to save Collins from himself.

10 comments for “Terry Collins and the dangers of expanded rosters

  1. Name
    September 24, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    I’m ready to swing the pendulum back to almost no September roster additions.

    I’d be willing to expand to a 26 man roster(maybe 27), like for doubleheaders currently. However, that 26th spot can be changed daily among anyone on the 40 man roster

    Secondly, i’d reduce the 15 day DL to the 7-day DL currently used only for concussions, which will allow for more liberal use of the DL while not ruining the integrity of the game of open rosters.

    Finally, i’d like to reduce the waiting time before someone can be recalled when they are optioned, but this one would be tricky to avoid abuse. Originally, i proposed reducing it from 10 days to 5 days, but then i’d realize that no one would use the 7day DL then (unless players complained about service time). I also realized that they could abuse it with SPs as they could make a start, be optioned down for 5 days, and then come back without missing any time and make another start. It seems like the only way to avoid this would be to have a 7 day waiting period to make it on par with the DL.

    Since this would rule out many callups, in order to appease the “rookies can learn from the major league players” crowd, i’d allow anyone on the 40 man roster to be on the taxi squad, which means they can travel, suit up, and sit in the dugout with the team.

  2. September 24, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    It’s my feeling that the issue isn’t just September. There’s a roster problem other months of the year, too.

    I’d like to see either 27 or 28-man rosters the entire season. Teams need to have a third catcher and another bullpen arm each month of the year. And they need to play by the same rules in April that they do in September.

    • Name
      September 25, 2016 at 2:57 am

      Just to keep the thought bubble going, how would an extra arm or a 3rd catcher be better for the game?

      Sure, it’s going to make the lives of the manager easier with more options and the players will be less taxed throughout the season, but does it make the game more fun to watch for the fans? Most of us don’t like the numerous PHs and pitching changes now, so why would we want to see a 3rd catcher?
      Will it speed up the game? Very doubtful.
      Will it reduce injuries? I guess the greatest case could be made for pitchers because they would pitch less, but in honestly, no one has a clue why or how pitchers get injuries.

      To me, there’s no overwhelming reason to add more men.

      • September 25, 2016 at 10:42 am

        It won’t reduce game time, that’s for sure.

        The shortened bench due to carrying extra relievers, in my opinion, has made the game worse. And the near-universal refusal to use your backup catcher makes the bench even shorter. I don’t think you can mandate teams going back to 9 or 10-man pitching staffs. So to me, the choice is either expand the rosters or limit the pitching changes per game or per inning.

        • Name
          September 25, 2016 at 1:28 pm

          “The shortened bench due to carrying extra relievers, in my opinion, has made the game worse”

          Could you please elaborate on this point? We seem to lament to fact that SPs don’t throw CGs anymore, but we want to see position players play less and have more PHs and double switches?

          • September 25, 2016 at 5:05 pm

            The 1986 Mets ran platoons at 2B, 3B and CF, had a PH deluxe in Danny Heep and later in the year added Lee Mazzilli and Kevin Mitchell. I think that deeper bench was a real asset and could be so again.

            • Name
              September 25, 2016 at 5:24 pm

              So basically you’re saying more platoons are better for the game?

              Unless you can think of something else, if you make a rule change to the game, you have to achieve one of the 3 objectives i named above, or else why change for the sake of change?

              I really don’t think what you have proposed fulfills any of those 3 objectives. If anything, it might detract from the “more fun to watch” objective because more platoons would probably lead to less chances of finding superstars, who draw attention to the game and are main reasons to watch.

              • September 25, 2016 at 5:55 pm

                Yes, I think more platoons should be used.

                I disagree that more platoons = fewer superstars found. Young players with star potential are given every chance to develop. You don’t turn Michael Conforto into a platoon guy. But you turn Wilmer Flores into one.

  3. MatyyMets
    September 24, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    The bigger problem is roster construction – like having no speed and too many left handed outfielders. In any case if we make the playoffs, settling on the 25 to forward is going to be interesting – and a topic of my next post.

  4. Metsense
    September 24, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    I hate September roster expansion. Twenty-seven roster spots from game one to game 162 would solve the problem, level the playing field, and short circuit these four hour games.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: