Somewhere back in the 1980s Bill James said that throughout MLB history, we’ve asked catchers to do more and more and pitchers to do less and less. With catchers, you have to think that improved protective equipment plays a big role in that, along with fewer doubleheaders. The 1969 Mets played 22 doubleheaders. Last year it seemed the Mets played a bunch of twinbills and they only played four.

So, why are we asking pitchers to do less?

It’s some combination of wanting to keep pitchers healthy while also looking to maximize their performance. We romanticize the pitchers from the 1970s and earlier who posted 300 IP in a season. And those hurlers deserve the accolades. The problem is that for every pitcher who did that and had a long career, we can name two guys that couldn’t handle the load.

On top of the injury concerns, we know that the majority of hurlers fare worse against hitters the third time through the order. It’s better to have a reliever come in and throw gas than to have your starter on fumes. We’ve all seen pitchers lose it in the later innings. And sometimes “later” isn’t late at all. Yesterday’s starter for the Phillies – Matt Moore – lost it in the fourth inning. And Joe Girardi removed him before he faced a batter for the third time. The reliever came in with one out and the bases loaded and got out of the jam.

If we had a crystal ball, we’d always remove a pitcher before the bulk of the damage hits. The Phillies successfully did that with Moore yesterday in the fourth inning. Luis Rojas and the Mets decided that Jacob deGrom was done after 77 pitches and six innings. Was it the right call? We’ll never know. Maybe the Phillies get to deGrom in the seventh inning if he was kept in. All we know is that they didn’t score a run against deGrom in six innings and scored five runs in two innings against the bullpen.

The decision to remove deGrom came after he retired the last nine batters he faced. My opinion is you never remove a guy with a low pitch count who’s cruising. deGrom needed just 32 pitches to complete the last three innings.

Historically, clubs are hesitant to push their starters in April. And it’s hard to imagine that trend being broken this year, since everyone is concerned how pitchers will hold up over a 162-game season after last year’s 60-game sprint. If you’re paying your ace $30 million or more a year, the last thing you want is for him to get injured by going to the whip in his first or second outing.

For years, we’ve dealt with the 100-pitch boogeyman, the idea that if you ask a starter to go over that number that you’re asking for trouble. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach that’s based on a round number. And on top of that we have the “don’t let a pitcher face a hitter a third time” belief. And do we now have an inning-of-the-game cap, too? Did the Mets decide before the game started that deGrom was not throwing a pitch in the seventh inning, regardless of how the game was going? It seems like the Mets are content with seven-inning starts for deGrom, generally. And in his first outing of the year, that limit was going to be six innings, instead.

When it comes to deGrom, the Mets have played it conservatively many, many more times than not. And that approach hasn’t kept him from winning two Cy Young Awards and be the favorite for the award again this season. He’s also throwing harder as he ages, which is generally unheard of from a pitcher in his 30s. Perhaps they are handling him in the best way possible.

Are the Mets being too conservative with deGrom?

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15 comments on “Poll: Are the Mets right with the conservative handling of Jacob deGrom?

  • Bob P

    I voted yes because, as noted, he was cruising at 77 pitches and I’d rather have deGrom pitching, even a 3rd or 4th time through the lineup than anyone else. He’s simply the best there is. And although some could say that even if Rojas kept deGrom in the game through the 7th, May still would have come in for the 8th and the result wouldn’t have been different. Whether the result would or would not have been different has no bearing on whether it was a good move or not. The later outcome does not change whether a managerial decision was a good one at the time or not.

    With all that said, deGrom seemed to agree with the decision, at least publicly.

    • Brian Joura

      Which one is better – to have a guy accept without complaint about being removed from a game where he’s cruising or to have a guy lobby to stay in and then give up the go-ahead runs? I think most of us would have preferred to see deGrom in the 7th and a good number would have wanted him in the 8th, too.

      We all want guys to be team players. But sometimes the best thing for the team is when your star pitcher says, “I can do more.” If Jake tells the manager he’s done, that’s one thing. But sitting in the dugout in the top of the 7th inning with a jacket on just his pitching arm didn’t scream, “I’m done.”

      • Bob P

        Agreed. I would like to think that Jake’s being a team guy and not going to challenge the decision in the media. If it was me managing, he’s going back out unless he tells me he’s done.

    • BoomBoom

      Also can’t discount the jolt it gives the other team when a pitcher like Degrom leaves the game. Every pitcher after him is just easier to face.

  • NYM6986

    Jake was once again dominant and once again was betrayed by the pen. Even if he had been left in the game chances are he would not go 9 this early in the season. So hopefully there was more to it than we know and Rojas just didn’t pull him after 77 pitches because of his inexperience. Then you turn the channel and Judge and Stanton go deep for the Yanks. Despite our power, remind me again which of our hitters strikes fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers? And with a force at home shouldn’t McCann have just caught that throw even if it was off a bit? Back on track tonight with Stroman.

  • Woodrow

    Pitchers break down, a lot. It’s smart to take care of your pitchers especially when they’re making 25 million or so a year. Harvey,Wheeler,Syndergard spent a lot of time on the DL.Maybe the Mets learned something.

  • Name

    I’ll add a 4th boogeyman to the list – the “Never let a SP be yanked mid-inning in his first start” boogeyman. Because not finishing an inning will destroy the confidence and render him an ineffective pitcher for the rest of the season.

    There’s a difference between caution and irrational fear and this crosses that line.

    There has been 59 games or 108 starts so far this season.
    35 pitchers were able to throw 90 pitches in their first start. 61 were able to go 80+ pitches. You can’t possibly say with a straight face that at deGrom’s fitness level even early in the season lags to the point where he doesn’t even crack the 50th percentile in terms of workload.

  • Wobbit

    I hate that things are determined before the game and then the real-time information is disregarded. He was not laboring, he was nursing a two-run lead, and the point is still to win the game. How about the manager takes everything into account and let’s Jake inform him how he’s feeling?

    That’s why you want a mature guy leading the team who has the confidence to use his baseball sense. Rojas manages scared to make a mistake… Great pitchers pitch…that’s what sets them apart.

    • Name

      “I hate that things are determined before the game and then the real-time information is disregarded.”

      Very eloquently stated. like like like.

  • Metsense

    Rojas was too conservative. I vote yes.
    Good managers know all the analytics before the game starts and then manage the particular game by the way the game evolves. An innings count has too many variables to use it as a statistic to pull a pitcher. Pitch counts are useful in determining when a particular pitcher needs to be carefully watched. It should not be used as the sole reason to pull a pitcher. A good manager can think on his feet and knows when to pulls a pitcher by what he sees.
    Too many times deGrom was pulled when he was dominant. Thirty one times he left a game when is was leading only to have the Mets lose. Too conservative management.

  • TexasGusCC

    To take a thought from Wobbit, I also hate when teams feel they can script a game. It’s obvious that the Mets script every game and Luis follows the script. Any conjecture is useless.

  • ChrisF

    This was criminal behavior by Rojas, and if scripted from above, then the FO. In any event what we saw last night was hideous use of deGrom, and now from an already stressed bull pen. In no way can anyone envision that taking deGrom out after 6 is the least bit justifiable.

    Let the facts show:

    1. Jake had only a 2 run lead. By any standard, that’s very little, espcially for a team that was already 3-0.

    2. Much has been said about the 77 pitch count by deGrom. That alone is fails to meet the expectation for a true ace, with 2 CY awards in his pocket. I want this guy on the mound more not less. No way 77 pitches is reasonable (see Name’s comment). But digging further, it is easy to say deGrom was getting *better* and not showing any evidence of more difficult pitching. Actually it was the reverse. In the fist 3 innings, Jake averaged 15 pitches per inning, and in 4-6th innings it was down to 11 pitches per inning. He was becoming more efficient. On that course, he would have gotten through the 7th at about 90 pitches. Even then I want him back for the 8th.

    3. No matter who the Mets put out there from the bull pen, no one is better than deGrom even 77 pitches in. Period. For the Mets to be successful, they need to have starters go *more* innings not less. As I have stated a number of times this Spring, the bull pen is the classic Alderson failure we have become accustomed to. The only decent arm in there is Lugo, but he ain’t there. Worse yet, the Mets absolutely love to use the pen even though it sucks. More starters, less relievers.

    4. Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh

  • TJ

    Unless deGrom specifically stated that he need to be removed or that he was done, there is zero rationale to remove him. He wasn’t sharp early, given the odd circumstances and prolonged layoff. Nonetheless, he settled in and was cruising That, combined with the zero rationale to lead off Pillar in combination with sitting Dom, has started 2021 with multiple egregious and unforced errors. This needs to get fixed immediately.

  • Mike W

    deGrom is a generational talent, a shade below Seaver. He was cruising and mowing them down. He has earned the right to go out for the 7th inning after only 77 pitches.

    If I am a manager, I say whoa, Jake is going to give me some extra tonight and push us closer to victory. It’s Rojas’ call. Way too conservative. He doesnt have a feel for the nuances of the game. Too much by the book. Every game is a different battle. The same gameplan for every game will give us diminishing results.

  • Paulc

    Too conservative. I’m a proponent of advanced analytics and I believe in watching pitch counts. But the analytics are a guideline. Managers still must use their eyes to see if a pitcher is tiring. Jake was cruising and easily could have thrown 25 more pitches over 1-2 innings. On any team, the weak point is the bullpen. That means getting as much from your starters as possible. Another wasted deGrom gem.

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