Anyone who’s watched the 2024 Mets here in the month of May has witnessed some terrible baseball. And despite the bleating by some, there’s not one area that should be the recipient of all of our scorn. The pitching has been a disaster, the hitting has been sporadic and the fielding has been perhaps the worst in all of MLB. Meanwhile, the brass seems unwilling – or unable – to stem the tide.

However, the Jorge Lopez meltdown allows the Mets a convenient excuse to change the way things are.

But how can the team do that? They can’t really do much about their fielding or hitting woes. But they absolutely, 100% can do something about how they handle their pitching. Generally, my preference is to do things that make sense for the talent on hand, not the way that the 29 other teams do things. In a way, the Mets going to a 6-man rotation is an attempt to do just that.

Yet there are things that sound good in theory but simply don’t work in reality. Anyone who’s watched the results with the Mets using six starters would be hard pressed to call it a move that has worked out at all. This questionable attempt to keep starters healthy has ended up with the bullpen being shorted a member and has been a factor in the relievers imploding in the last two weeks.

It’s one thing to use a sixth starter when Kodai Senga, who spent most of his professional life with extra rest, was in the rotation. But with a group of players who cut their teeth pitching in a five-man rotation what’s the point again? With absolutely no data to support the decision, the Mets simply declared that their starters needed an extra day off and no one questioned that wisdom at all.

Look, we all want to do what we can to keep pitchers healthy. But when Francisco Lindor is asking the players to look in the mirror for reasons for the team’s poor play, perhaps we can ask management to do the same thing. And when the brass is looking in the mirror, here are a few questions they should be asking themselves:

1. Where’s the non-biased, peer-reviewed proof that a 6-man rotation keeps pitchers healthy?
2. How much of the relievers’ rotten performance here recently can be attributed to operating a man short? Is it 5% or 10% or 25% or more? Is there a number above 0 that’s acceptable?
3. Is there any reason to continue to operate with the idea that starters are incapable of pitching more than they do?

It’s maddening under any circumstance to watch a pitcher cruising being removed simply as a result of the team being a slave to pitch counts. The application of a random rule to all pitchers in all circumstances is the ultimate CYA mentality. It can’t possibly be the manager or pitching coach’s fault – the starter threw 98 pitches, what could they possibly have done differently?

In this era when front offices value “communication” in a manager over all else, why on earth can’t the manager talk to his starter and see how he feels? Absolutely, there are times when a starter throw 90 pitches in a game and the tank is empty. No one wants to see that guy asked to go back to the mound. And there are times when a pitcher is cruising early but the other team starts having better ABs as the game goes on. Get that guy out before the roof falls in.

Yet, let’s also allow managers and coaches to trust their eyes and their experiences playing and coaching for 25 or more years. Instead, we have this paint-by-numbers approach to handling starting pitchers and this is what we get:

5/29 – SP removed after 86 pitches, bullpen gives up 7 R in 4 IP
5/28 – SP removed after 98 pitches, bullpen gives up 5 R in 3 IP
5/25 – SP removed after 103 pitches, bullpen gives up 6 R in 3 IP
5/24 – SP removed after 94 pitches, bullpen gives up 6 R in 3 IP
5/22 – SP removed after 70 pitches, bullpen gives up 3 R in 2 IP

Not one of these starters had anything left in the tank? That should be incredibly difficult for any sane person to believe.

Undoubtedly, some will point to the 2015 World Series where Matt Harvey talked the manager into letting him pitch the ninth inning and after being unhittable thru the first eight, he got knocked around and the Mets lost. But two things jump to mind. First, no strategy is going to work every single time. Second, the manager still needs to be the adult and have the backbone to say no when appropriate.

Part of any manager’s job is to ask how the team will try to win the game. And there’s simply no way that Carlos Mendoza should answer that question right now with having his bullpen pitch as many innings as possible.

The Mets should communicate to the starters that if the circumstances are right, they will be allowed to pitch deeper into games. But before that happens, when the coaches feel that the time is right, the starter still needs to sign off on it. And the pitcher needs to be honest and not just answer “yes” every time if asked. It shouldn’t be that difficult with the great communicators that have been hired.

And they need to ditch the 6-man rotation. It was a worthwhile thing to try but it didn’t work and there’s no reason to continue a bad policy. Jose Quintana should be moved to the bullpen with the understanding that it’s not necessarily a permanent change. Any of the five remaining rotation members can be moved to the pen if they aren’t getting the job done.

Additionally, the goal should be to avoid using relievers in back-to-back games whenever possible. It’s inevitable that this will happen at times. But in a game like yesterday’s, one that didn’t go into extra innings, you shouldn’t use three different relievers for the second day in a row.

You accomplish that by asking more of your starters, having eight relievers in the pen rather than seven and by having your relievers pitch multiple innings whenever feasible.

The Mets’ poor play this month, capped by Lopez’ outburst yesterday, gives the team a golden chance to change the way they do things. Because the way they’re doing things currently has been an unmitigated disaster. It’s easier to make radical changes to the pitching staff than with any other aspect of the team. Perhaps they can encourage guys to run more. But there’s not a lot to be done with the offense or the fielding, other than to say – play better.

Yet they can make big changes to how they run their pitching staff. Just don’t hold your breath expecting this to occur.

10 comments on “In the wake of the Jorge Lopez meltdown, Mets have a golden opportunity to overhaul their pitching philosophies

  • TexasGusCC

    Initially, the problems were the walks by the pitchers.

    All year long the production with RISP has been pathetic.

    Then, there’s the fielding. The eighth inning of Game 1 the other day was classic Bad News Bears. It’s not fair to judge the pitchers with this defense behind them, except for the walks.

    For whatever reason, there’s a malaise hanging over this team. All these guys liked the 2023 huge payroll as a crutch to have more big names and haven’t gotten over the sell-off, so they’ve sold out. Their money is guaranteed, why try too hard. Lindor has it; Marte has it; McNeil has it.

    Marte needs to lead off and steal bases to provide energy. Alonso has no business hitting second, that’s for Nimmo who takes pitches to give Marte chances. Martinez, Lindor, Alonso (when he returns), McNeil is the next way to go. I’m pretty sure that the team sees the favoritism Alonso has gotten since last year and there is a turn off to that.

    • TexasGusCC

      Sorry, my point was that it isn’t the pitching.

  • Brian Joura

    The pitchers have a 5.31 road ERA which ranks 28th in the majors. If you don’t think that’s a problem, I don’t know what to tell you.

    And the worm is starting to turn with the pitchers’ home results, too. In their last six games, they’ve given up 36 runs.

  • Dan Capwell

    Dallas Green on Ryan Thompson, the ballyhooed prospect they got for David Cone: “I told him to look in a mirror. The problem is that when he does that, he sees Willie Mays.” RIP Big D.

    They did get Mark Clark for Thompson, who turned into Turk Wendell. Sometimes you just have to be patient.

  • Metsense

    5 man rotation- Severino, Manaea, Quintana not because of merit but because of tradability and value retention. Twoor three of them need to be traded.. Scott and Megill are the other two. Ottavino and Diekman are one inning pitcher and should pitch on back to back game. The other relievers, Garrett, SRF, Peterson, Walker, Nunez and Young should do multiple innings. Butto should have been promoted instead of Young.

    • Metsense are

      Edit: Ottavino and Diekman should not pitch back to back games.
      Scott and Megill are the other two for the rotation.
      Sorry for the miscommunication,

  • NYM6986

    Nice article. Drives me crazy that the number of pitches dictates how long the starter stays in. The other thing that is insane is that pitchers have a hard time the third time through the batting order. I am thinking that the must successful pitchers and even those a level below being a star, figured out how to change their approach the third time through and not be so predictable of what is coming, short of it being a pitcher who should not be afraid to throw their strongest out pitch. I think we have a better team than what we’ve seen and given the starters ERA, why not mix up
    the approach. As a long time bench coach before he arrived here, Mendoza should have a better sense of his handling the pitchers.

  • Bob P

    In addition to the starters going longer, I would love to see a change in bullpen philosophy, where the majority of relievers can go multiple innings. Brian, I think you’ve brought this up before. Like the starters, I would rather see a reliever stay in the game if he’s throwing well and go multiple innings. The evolution that baseball has seen to one inning relievers adds more risk of one of the pitchers not having it that day, replacing someone who did have it.

    I’ve watched a lot of college baseball the last few years, and most teams will allow pitchers to go as long as they are pitching well. I know that it is different in that college teams are not playing as many games in a week as MLB teams, but there should be a way to work this into the game. It would also take some conditioning of pitchers in the minors so they are prepared to go multiple innings at a time, but I it doesn’t seem to me that it would be a difficult transition for most pitchers, especially since the majority of young pitchers coming up were probably starters at some point in their younger careers.

    • Brian Joura

      Nice to see you back in these parts, Bob!

      Even though I’m a big fan of multi-inning relievers, it’s not a role for everyone. Even when he’s right, it’s not something that should be asked of Adam Ottavino. It seems to me the “sweet spot” for multi-inning relievers would be three. The Mets have at least two, with Houser and SRF.

      • Bob P

        I get it with certain guys and Ottavino is a good example. I would like to see a shift where multi-inning relievers are the norm rather than the exception. It would take time, and I agree that you can’t just “convert” relievers that are used to doing an inning, but I think it would be a great long-term strategy if a team could use this philosophy in the development of younger arms.

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