In the past couple of days the New York Mets fans base has been all up in arms over comments made by ace Matt Harvey that his doctor put a 180 innings limit on him this year following Tommy John surgery. Given that he’s already pitched 166 1/3 innings and the Mets still have 26 games left during the regular season many fans are ready to ship him out of town saying he’s not a team player, he’s being selfish, why didn’t this come up sooner, etc. None of this would really be an issue if the Mets weren’t in first place, four games ahead of the Washington Nationals and therefore having a great chance at the postseason and a potential championship.
Of course, the general public doesn’t really know what’s gone on behind the scenes, how much the Mets knew or didn’t know about the limit. Given that the Mets have skipped Harvey’s spot in the rotation, gone to a six-man rotation at times, and given him an extra day off between starts her and there, I would say they had some idea that Harvey’s innings needed to be monitored. Whether they were aware of a hard cap of 180 innings, who knows.
Regardless of what the Mets knew or didn’t know, for the fans to be calling for the Mets to trade him is rather extreme in my view. Having this come out in the public at this point in the season is certainly not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world. All that needs to happen is for Harvey, manager Terry Collins, GM Sandy Alderson, and Dr James Andrews to come together and have a conversation about what to do going forward, about a way to come to some sort of agreement that will allow Harvey to continue to pitch into the postseason, if the Mets get there. Let’s see what transpires when everyone sits down and talks about solutions before we send the guy on the first bus out of town. It would be highly premature for the Mets to suddenly decide to ship one of the best pitchers in baseball off to another team. Knee jerk reactions to these things have a tendency to come back and bite you in the end.
No matter what you think of Harvey the person and what he has done and said off the field, on the field he has been as consistent as it comes. His 2.47 ERA through 61 starts is almost a run better than Clayton Kershaw’s was at the same point (3.28). Yes, he only has 24 wins, but 17 times he’s allowed 0 or 1 run and not gotten a win. This year alone he’s left 3 games with leads that the bullpen blew and had 4 others where he gave up 0 or 1 run and got a loss or a no decision because the offense didn’t get him any runs. To just jettison a guy who has allowed 0 or 1 run in over half (31 of 61) his starts and has gone at least 6 innings 85% of the time doesn’t seem to make much sense.
As for not being a team player, how much would it help the team for him to go out in Game 1 or 2 of the playoffs and have to come out after an inning or two with a sore arm? With the way pitchers are babied nowadays of course there was going to be an innings limit for Harvey. Yes, he feels healthy now. But, what if he keeps pitching and suddenly it doesn’t feel good, how does that help the team? I do think he should keep pitching as long as he feels good enough to, but having him go down in the playoffs because he pushed it too far wouldn’t help the team either.
For a team that’s had six straight losing seasons coming in to this year I think the expectations were a little tempered at the beginning of the year. At the start of the year the Mets were probably hoping to be .500 or maybe contend for the Wildcards so the issue of innings for the postseason was a TBD issue at best. Obviously, they have done better than expected and the Nationals significantly worse than expected so now that the end of the year is approaching and the playoffs are all but a given, its an issue that needs to be addressed. For the record, having a rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon, and either Steven Matz or Jonathan Niese would still be pretty formidable in the postseason. If Matz hadn’t gotten hurt and they had gone longer with the six-man rotation this might not even be an issue given that Harvey probably would have had a couple less starts to this point.
The truth is they have been trying to limit the innings and stress on everyone not named Colon or maybe Niese. With five young, talented pitchers under team control for the next few years the Mets are going to do all they can to keep them healthy and on the field. Regardless of how things play out with Harvey, come the postseason everyone other than Colon is an IF as none of them has postseason experience. Postseason baseball is a different beast (just ask Clayton Kershaw) and it’ll will be interesting to see how all of the Mets young pitchers deal with it.
While Harvey is getting all the attention right now, I think it’s interesting to note that deGrom, Matz and Syndergaard haven’t pitched more than 180 innings in a season either. Zack Wheeler did pitch 185 innings last year and look where he is now. Even Niese has only pitched more than 180 twice (190 in 2012 and 188 last year). So Harvey aside, the rest of the staff (sans Colon) is entering uncharted territory themselves approaching and passing that 180 innings mark.
Ultimately, I really think that the way pitchers arms are babied nowadays has to have something to do with why you see more arm injuries. Teams limit their innings and pitch counts and then when they get in stressful situations or need to throw those extra 10-20 pitches there arms aren’t prepared for it. Throwing as hard as you can for as long as you can has never and will never work for the majority of pitchers.