Baseball fans are understandably focused on free agency, player acquisitions, payroll, and trade rumors during the offseason. However, in the case of the Mets, it may be the following off field changes that have the biggest impact on the team's success in 2018...
Mets pitchers, get ready to be prepared
Mets manager Mickey Callaway repeatedly said this past week that it is vital that the team's pitching staff be healthy and mentally strong when taking the mound. In his view, this includes conditioning between starts and proper advanced scouting, but it also includes things like visualization techniques and being properly hydrated.
Callaway told Daily News reporter John Harper that in Cleveland he often had players give the trainer a urine sample to be sure their hydration level was where it needed to be before taking the field.
"If they weren't hydrated properly they weren't allowed to go on the field," Callaway told Harper. "When they're hydrated, they're less likely to pull a muscle."
New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)
Similarly, despite reports that the Mets intend to be more aggressive pulling starting pitchers in favor of their bullpen this season, Callaway believes in throwing and -- in an ideal world -- every starting pitcher tosses 200 innings in a season.
"One of the things that we realized (in Cleveland) is that backing off (throwing) is no way to condition a pitcher to stay healthy," Callaway told Harper. "You have to get after it. You have to push yourself. You can't go run a marathon without pushing yourself to condition the right way."
The fact is, he added, "You throw more, you stay healthier. ... If you're injured, you need rest. But if it's just soreness, you have to rest, recover, and push through it."
Biomechanics and wearable technology
I've heard Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland plan to have their pitchers use a wearable technology between starts and before games that track arm angles, stress levels, joint mobility, muscle tension, velocity and other trackable information that can help report on performance and potential injuries.
Injury expert Will Carroll, who works for Motus Global, advocated the Mets use this technology (as the Indians did) last summer when he and I talked for a post on MetsBlog.com.
Director of High Performance
In his interview Thursday with SNY's Mets Hot Stove, Mets assistant GM John Ricco said the team is planning to hire someone to be a Director of High Performance, "who kind of sits on top of the entire medical department."
"I think baseball is a little behind the other sports in using this model," Ricco explained. "The days of two trainers and the head trainer taping ankles and also overseeing the medical staff is, I think, are behind us. There's just too much information and other points of data that need to be looked at for one person, who's also hands on, to do it all."
The Director of High Performance will not travel with the team like the training staff will because the job is about keeping focus on "the big picture," and the entire health of the player, not just what needs to happen to keep the team ready for that day's game.
I love this. Again, it is exactly what Carroll and I said the Mets needed this past summer.
The position, as it has been explained to me, is essentially a coordinator that understands all aspects of training and rehabilitation, including diet and nutrition, kinesiology, strength, endurance, medical, mental toughness, etc., all as it specifically pertains to professional baseball players.
I shudder to think how many games Terry Collins was forced to play shorthanded because a player was riding the bench and being evaluated at the same time. How many skipped starts could have been avoided? How many injuries were ignored or rushed and led to more costly injuries down the road? How many missed games could have been avoided had players had a better understanding of nutrition and mental training skills?
Mar 2, 2017; Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard walk to the dugout in St. Lucie. Credit: USA Today
My hunch is the Mets believe these answers are sizable, at least enough so that they felt it necessary to make some important and revolutionary changes to the way they do business...
Injuries are going to happen to every player in every sport. It's part of the game, especially in baseball, which is only played well when having exceptional fine motor skills. That said, based on the evidence (injuries, time on the disabled list, replacing staff, creating new positions, etc.), the Mets were handling the health and well-being of their players in a less-than-optimal way the last few seasons.
I'd love to eradicate injuries altogether, but it's just not possible. Instead, I'll gladly settle for the Mets better managing their injuries so guys maybe avoid the disabled list or at least are on and off it in the least amount of time possible.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...