Hot Stove Report: Can Mets Pitching Staff Repeat Their 2015 World Series Run

FB_Mets-logoBeware of what you wish for
By Chris Saunders
One of the merits of the New York Mets playing so deep into the season is that it makes for a very quick off-season. It’s crazy to imagine that spring training has already begun with some clubs already playing games against college or other minor league teams.
Even with all the hype of last year’s dream season, one does need to pump the brakes a little. Yes, Mets fans, I’m talking to ALL of you!  The only reason why the Mets even made it as far in the Fall Classic was because the rotation carried the offense for a majority of the season!   That begs the question: How will the Mets manage workloads for their starting pitchers; all of whom threw into unchartered territory from an innings pitched perspective in 2015?
Typically, the organization prefers its young starters to have a net increase of 30 innings over their previous full year. Due to injury, Steven Matz saw the lowest net increase from his innings count last year. Jacbo deGrom went modestly above that 30-inning preference by about eight innings, although Terry Collins suspected deGrom (who was suffering from fatigue at times in September and October) threw above his previous innings high (+37 1/3 innings).  Like deGrom, Matt Harvey also went modestly above the 30-inning preference from his previous high.
Matt Harvey_NY MetsSome late-season controversy arose when both Harvey and his agent questioned the hard 180-inning cap, inclusive of the postseason, as he was coming off Tommy John Surgery. Their concern was unfounded, however, when  Harvey went 36 innings above that threshold.  Further evidence of not only his determination but also his heart and belief in his ability was his epic performance in Game 5 of the World Series. That doesn’t mean there can’t be ramifications. The concern from Harvey and his agent was genuine and understandable, and he threw well above expected levels despite having just had major elbow surgery the previous year. Fortunately, he is now two years removed from the procedure itself, which can only help his particular circumstance.  First and foremost, Harvey does need rest, no matter what he thinks.
Noah Syndergaard went well above the 30-inning preference, doubling his efforts  (+65 2/3) , and he only seemed to get better with each start he made down the stretch and in the postseason as well. That doesn’t mean the Mets shouldn’t tread lightly with Syndergaard. It’s worth considering that Zack Wheeler is on-track to return at around the All-Star break. Given that time frame, he should not be under an innings limit coming back from his injury.  This could possibly allow the Mets to give Syndergaard  additional rest and keep him healthy throughout his career. No matter how he looked, he endured a lot of extra mileage on both his arm and his body, thanks to his postseason workload, and that cannot be overlooked.
The coaches have assured Mets’ fans that they have no reason to be worried, though. They have a plan on how to manage their pitchers not only through this winter, but in spring training as well. According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, Dan Warthen said the plan is to delay all of their throwing and preparation programs in spring training, and not have them throw in Grapefruit League games until later in March.
“They wouldn’t miss any starts [in April], but we may wait until later in spring training for them to start throwing,” pitching coach Dan Warthen told Puma.
Having said that, they could choose to use Wheeler at times to skip starts for their other starting pitchers and insert Bartolo Colon back into the rotation. Colon will presumably be dispatched to the bullpen once Wheeler returns. That way, they can avoid using a six-man rotation, keep everyone in a routine, maintain stamina and agility, and keep everyone happy in the process. It’s a tricky circumstance and one with which either the staff or the pitchers have experience. That’s not a bad thing, considering they just played in a World Series. Given the short off-season and the need for particular players to heal and be ready for the season plus be ready for another 162-game run relatively soon, it’s going to take some unconventional thinking and execution.  All this really begins now!
Beware of what you wish for, Mets fans, because while getting to the Fall Classic and reaching the World Series is expected now.  Remember this…there are consequences to achieving that goal!

Comment:  Twitter @C_Broadcaster, Facebook: Chris Saunders

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