News came out recently that the Mets are toying with the idea to use multiple people in the fifth starter’s role, playing matchups with Steven Matz, Michael Wacha and possibly even the two relievers who wish to be starters.
As stated here many more times than once, the idea is to run your team to maximize the talent available, not simply do what all of the other clubs do.
It remains to be seen if they’ll actually do this, rather than just talk about it early in the Grapefruit League season. It certainly would be unconventional here in the 21st Century. Could it work? Gil Hodges used five different pitchers, including Don Cardwell, Jim McAndrew and Nolan Ryan, to throw multiple games as both a starter and a reliever in 1969 and that worked just fine.
The question is: Do you believe Brodie Van Wagenen is as good of a manager as Hodges?
Cardwell, McAndrew and Ryan combined for 52 starts and 30 relief appearances. If the 2020 Mets try something similar, you have to believe that Matz, Wacha and Robert Gsellman would combine for many more appearances out of the pen.
Seth Lugo‘s name has also been mentioned as a potential opener. It’s hard to believe that having him pitch an inning or two at the beginning of the game and then having Matz or Wacha come on to pitch the middle innings is preferable than just having one of those two start the contest and saving Lugo for guaranteed high-leverage innings.
Yes, the issue is that Matz struggles in the first inning and Wacha in 2019 frequently failed to go five. But after his bullpen exile last year, Matz put up a 3.50 ERA in his final 12 starts. It seems strange that he’s not going to be given some time to prove that he can continue to pitch that well.
If the Mets hadn’t signed Rick Porcello, it would make some sense to use Gsellman as an opener and have Wacha come on next. That is, of course, assuming that a healthy Wacha would continue to be a four-inning pitcher.
From a distance, this just seems to be an experiment for experiment’s sake. Which is fine for a club projected to win 70-something games. It seems maybe not so great for a win-now team, at least right out of the gate. Here in late February, it seems like a solution in search of a problem.
Or maybe this is Van Wagenen’s way of trying to appease Wacha, giving him a shot at some starts after allegedly promising him that he’d be a starter while wooing him during free agency.