While conventional wisdom had the Mets taking someone who had previous ties to the organization, they instead went in a different direction to hire former Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. On a podcast shortly before the hiring was announced, I mentioned to Matt Bruce that my choice was Callaway because of the belief that the team needed a guy with more experience managing pitchers. So, I’m very happy they went in this direction.
Bill James once said that the first job of a manager was to ask (and answer) what needs to change. Here’s my wish list for Callaway, fully recognizing that he won’t have autonomy – or a magic wand – in all circumstances:
1. Keep guys from extended DL trips
2. After the month of April, not to be so dogmatic about 100-pitch limit.
3, Have pitchers move the ball up and down as well as in and out
4. Put more of an emphasis on throwing strikes
5. Do not jump through hoops to play the matchup game
6. Look for multiple innings out of 3-4 relievers on a regular basis
7. Limit the number of times that a reliever has pitched in three of the last four games
8. Make starting rotation positions based on merit, not seniority
Maybe Callaway, in conjunction with the new training staff, can have some regimen that can help keep pitchers healthy. It’s good to have hope – sometimes that’s all you’ve got.
Pitchers need to build up stamina and it’s not realistic to expect a guy to throw 120 pitches his second start of the season. But hopefully once the staff is stretched out, it doesn’t become an automatic move to the bullpen if the starter is cruising and he hits the 100-pitch level. Ideally, we’ll see decisions made on the basis of what’s happening in the current game, rather than pitch limits and nothing else.
Jacob deGrom should be the poster boy for how all of the pitchers operate. We started to see pitchers utilize areas of the zone besides low and away at the end of last season. That’s something we should both continue and see more of in 2018.
Not everyone can be prime Greg Maddux and throw the ball exactly where they want all of the time. But there’s got to be a middle ground between that and what appeared to be meek acceptance of lousy walk rates/high pitch counts. If Rafael Montero or Zack Wheeler can’t throw strikes – move him to the pen. If a reliever can’t throw strikes, send him to the minors. Establish early what the expectations are and then enforce those expectations.
There are times when it’s absolutely appropriate to bring in a lefty reliever to face a lefty batter. And there are times when if your righty reliever is cruising, he doesn’t need to be removed because of a generic lefty coming to the plate. That’s a distinction worth making.
If seven-inning starts are going the way of complete games, then it’s essential that relievers pick up the slack with longer outings. With several guys who’ve started games in the majors likely to be in the pen, it also helps them keep stretched out if they go three or four innings at a time in their relief stints.
The philosophy for relief pitcher under the old manager that it was all hands on deck each and every game and hope that the game didn’t go extra innings. If you needed six pitchers to go three innings, so be it. And if a pitcher had gone three of the last four days, he was expected available. Days off are good things and there’s nothing wrong for a reliever to have three days off between appearances.
If Matt Harvey is healthy and getting lit up, he shouldn’t get unlimited chances to straighten himself out as a starter just because he’s got the longest tenure with the staff. If Harvey gets pounded three starts in a row, put him in the pen and elevated Robert Gsellman to the rotation.
None of this is rocket science but it would all be a welcome departure from what we’ve seen the last seven years.