After the Mets lost an eventful series finale in Miami, Terry Collins reiterated his belief that pulling Jacob deGrom after 97 pitches on Saturday was the responsible decision. And given the conservatism across baseball these days, lifting deGrom should hardly be a head-scratcher...
Yet, it is worth noting that 85 times from Opening Day through Saturday, a starter reached the 100-pitch plateau around the majors. And in only one of those instances was it a Mets pitcher who tossed triple-digits -- Noah Syndergaard, in a 5-2 win against Miami on April 9 at Citi Field (103 pitches).
The Nationals, by contrast, already have had seven games in which their starting pitchers have logged at least 100 pitches -- two apiece from Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez, and one from Max Scherzer. And that's coming from an organization that once shut down Strasburg entering the postseason, potentially depriving themselves of an opportunity to win a World Series.
A year ago, the Nationals had an NL-high 91 games in which their starting pitcher reached triple-figures in pitches. The Mets, by contrast, had just 55.
May 3, 2016; Terry Collins (10) takes the ball from Matt Harvey. Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
On Saturday, after deGrom departed, Fernando Salas served up consecutive home runs to Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton and the Mets lost, 5-4. Salas was working for the eighth time during the season's first 12 games.
Collins is undoubtedly being cautious at the request of the organization, which is not meritless given three of its starting pitchers are returning from surgery. But if pitch counts and innings limits were such an exact science, why have Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, deGrom and Steven Matz all required surgeries since joining the Mets organization?
No one is advocating using Harvey for 157 pitches, a total he once tossed in a game at the University of North Carolina. That would be reckless. However, Major League Baseball is a business and each pitcher has a shelf life with a team before he hits free agency (like Harvey after the 2018 season) or until his arm just gives out (like Bobby Parnell a few years ago).
The smarter play is to maximize the contribution of healthy pitchers now -- not to preserve them for future events that may come with another team … or never.
Again, that's not advocating being reckless. But if deGrom is cruising along in a game, why is 97 pitches so much safer than throwing 115?
Jul 12, 2008; Pedro Martinez delivers a pitch against the Rockies at Shea Stadium. Credit: Murray | US PRESSWIRE
A decade ago, while in the middle of a pennant race, the Mets started Philip Humber during the last week of the season to give Pedro Martinez extra rest between starts. The rested Martinez and the Mets ended up missing the playoffs by one game.
Now, all MLB stadiums are equipped with sophisticated real-time tracking systems that can detect if a pitcher's delivery is altered by fatigue and, therefore, if his health may be compromised.
Unless the Mets front office has completely beaten all old-school thinking out of Collins, I bet somewhere deep inside he believes it's more important to win every game now and worry about nebulous consequences later Nevertheless, he touted the party line on Sunday after the Mets dropped their third straight game in Miami.
"We could have ran Jake back out there," Collins said. "But, you know what? If something happens during the summertime and he runs out of gas or something happens, we can't look back at a game on April 16 when he threw 115 pitches."
Adam Rubin (Facebook | Twitter | Contact) has covered the Mets since 2002. He previously worked for the Daily News and ESPN. He also serves as assistant athletic director for strategic communications at NYIT. He is a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the University of Pennsylvania.