Mickey Callaway’s list of what needs to be changed

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.

19 comments for “Mickey Callaway’s list of what needs to be changed

  1. October 29, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    What I don’t understand is most Latino players play baseball all year long in their native countries including pitchers. So why do pitchers have to build endurance? Why can’t they pitch a simulated game say once a week tossing 80 pitches or so? Let’s do away with The Baseball Classic. And finally new ownership should be at the top of any new manager’s wish list coming to this franchise.

  2. Rabbit
    October 29, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Great list,I would add one thing, more emphasis on defense up the middle. Maybe give Lagares a real shot in center and get a second baseman that can play the position at a high level rather than a 2B who is a bat, in other words no Flores at second.

    • October 29, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      Yes, those are worthwhile goals. However, I was focusing on the pitching aspect only and should have made that clearer in my headline.

  3. Jimmy P
    October 29, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    There was an interesting article recently on Callaway’s emphasis on the curveball. Seems like the Indians threw it more than anybody. Obviously, you have to coach to a player’s individual strengths and weaknesses, but it was a noteworthy trend.

    • Chris F
      October 29, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      This is also a path taken by the Astros. I listened to a Hinch interview sometime this year and he said, everyone is going power arm, so the Astros, aiming to capitalize on a forgotten area invested in breaking ball pitchers. Doing something different…

      • Jimmy P
        October 29, 2017 at 7:47 pm

        Top four teams in terms of curveball use in 2017: Indians, Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox.

        FWIW.

        • Chris F
          October 29, 2017 at 8:12 pm

          yep

  4. TexasGusCC
    October 29, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Brian, in an interview earlier this month, Jerry Blevins said that baseball is moving towards better bullpens and keeping opposing lineups see a pitcher a third time through, unless they are one of the better pitchers. That means more 5 and 6 inning starts rather than less.

    Pete, MLB uses the Baseball Classic to promote their brand overseas. It’s well received and the players enjoy representing their motherland. It’s not going anywhere. In fact, players like Lugo can use it as their breakout forum. They just need to prepare differently all winter.

    My view on Callaway is that of all the hires so far, he is the only one that can truly improve players in an area based on his work. Cora and Martinez may be good communicators, but I can’t see how they can improve an area on their team by themselves. So from that respect, the Mets did well. I’d like to see two smart ex-managers (Girardi and Pena/Acta) come to mentor this new manager and put him on his way. Building a super team of coaches Gerardi, (bench) Pena/Acta (third base), Bere (pitching), Long (hitting), Sherlock (catchers), Tuefel (infield), and a Spanish speaking qualified outfield and baserunning coach, would give these players more training than they’d ever have seen in this #LOLMets organization. I wonder just how good the Mets could be if they used their resources to compliment some good fortune instead of their usual approach that makes winning a secondary result to some other goal.

    • Chris F
      October 29, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      Gus, at the risk of piling on…I mean 10 year skipper with the Yankees, WS champion, strong winning record, and hes gonna take orders from Callaway as the 3B coach? His salary alone would be 5-10x what Callaway is making, and a premium for being 3B coach. Not in a million years.

  5. Eraff
    October 29, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Gus…Joe Girardi as a Bench Coach!!!!,,,hahahaha…That’s Wild!!!!

    • Jimmy P
      October 29, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      Yeah, sure, he’ll go from Yankees manager to Mets bench coach and take a massive cut in salary while he’s at it. Not happening.

      • TexasGusCC
        October 29, 2017 at 11:33 pm

        Eraff, James, and Chris, laugh, all of you. I invite more to mock me. But, I think for a short while, maybe a year or two, Girardi would do it. He would do it because he’s not ready to relax as he made a point that he isn’t leaving on his own and feels he has more to give, his family wouldn’t have to move anywhere (and he says his family will have input), and it would give him an opportunity to recharge the batteries that have been expensed. In fact, when Girardi was asked if he thought that Washington wouldn’t sign him due to his large salary, he said that he never said that he would need a high salary, and I don’t blame anyone who gets as much as his performance warrants.

        I want all of you laugh now, but, it would be a home run and when it happens, I want props! Lots of them!

        As a reward, I want to be able to capitalize in my comments for a whole year!

  6. Metsense
    October 29, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    All eight points need to be changed although point #1 is really on the medical and training staff. A good, concise summary of the changes, Brian.
    Pitching is what wins games. The starters need to pitch six innings and will be able to accomplish this by throwing strikes to go deeper into games. The back end of the bullpen must pitch as expected for their three innings when it is a hold/save situation.to secure victories. The drastic change is to allow the second tier relievers to pitch two-three innings instead of “one inning and out”
    when they team is behind. It would save the bullpen. All starting and relieving positions should be based on merit and not salary, potential or past reputation.

    • TexasGusCC
      October 29, 2017 at 11:36 pm

      One inning? We would have done backflips if Collins allowed them to pitch a whole inning. The only reason he allowed them to complete a whole at bat is because the rules force him to.

  7. TJ
    October 29, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    Brian,
    All excellent points. I especially like #8…I will assume the Mets bring in a competent vet to stabilize the rotation. deGrom-Syndergaard-Vet get 3 of the 5 and the remaining two spots go to those who earn it. And, once the season begins, no one owns a starting spot unconditionally. Performance matters (not one bad start, but 5+ERAs after 1/4 of the season qualifies for demotion.

    • October 29, 2017 at 11:01 pm

      Thanks for the kind words.

      My fear is that they’re not going to address the starting rotation except perhaps for stashing a veteran at Triple-A.

  8. Jimmy P
    October 30, 2017 at 8:18 am

    The role of long man has been sacrificed at the altar of one-out specialists.

    We watch last night’s WS game and even with the rest day built into it, both pens are toast and the starters can’t go long. Managers over-managing.

    TC got ridiculed for this in 2017, but it’s a problem throughout the game. In some respects, I felt like I was watching the Mets in May. One gassed guy after another trying to do the job in sub-optimal situations.

  9. Eraff
    October 31, 2017 at 12:03 am

    Jim…it’s a mild myth that Collins wore out bullpens—all the MLB bullpens are trashed.

    There are so many great arms in the game—they’re gonna get used. There’s a good amount of information that says it works!……and a ton of information that says It Breaks!!!!!

    • Metsense
      October 31, 2017 at 8:30 am

      https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/so-what-do-we-think-about-bullpenning-now/

      This is an excellent analysis of bullpen usage and pulling starters early.

      Cameron points out that , ” the adjustment that probably needs to be made is the acceptance that, even in the World Series, there are still innings that should belong to a club’s depth arms.”

      There are many good points in the article that can be applied in the current trend of starter/reliever usage. Pitch counts for relievers may be more important than for starters. “Depth pitchers” are more effective than starters going through the batting order a third time. Using the back end of the bullpen for non save/hold situations isn’t the most effective utilization of bullpen personnel. I think the article is a good read.

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