With the New York Mets in flux, it should come as no surprise the hiring of a former pitching coach as manager would bring about changes in the thinking about their pitching staff. But the latest news of the Mets hopping on board the bullpen trend is disappointing, and in the end, will be counterproductive.
The New York Mets, according to Mark Carig of Newsday, have decided with the deluge of injuries inflicted on their starting staff last season, they have a better approach for the upcoming season. Carig explains:
“With the exception of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, Mets starters may be shielded from facing lineups more than twice in a game, mirroring an industry-wide trend, according to a source. The adjustment comes after a season in which team officials watched many of the Mets’ starters fade badly as they pitched deeper into games.”
Which means the Mets are buying into the latest trend in baseball emphasizing a team’s bullpen, soon to be in the trash can with the previous pattern, the shift, later rather than sooner. Which lately, seems to be the way with this organization hopping on a train that’s already left the station.
Because the first question coming to mind is, where is this bullpen coming from? The Mets bugaboo last season was their bullpen, and unless I missed something, Sandy Alderson has yet to address the problem in the offseason.
But that’s not even the point or the argument against the fallacies behind the move. Unless, of course, the message being sent by Mickey Callaway to his starting staff is something like this: “You want to stay in a game beyond the fourth or fifth inning? OK, then throw strikes and stop dancing around the plate. Go after hitters and stop playing around out there, keep your pitch count down.”
The Mets in retreat
But that’s not the feeling I’m getting from this new design.
Instead, it sounds more like the Mets retreating from their past mistakes of misusing pitchers, and Matt Harvey takes the cake on that with his courageous, but foolish, insistence to rack up the innings during the Mets ill-fated playoff run and World Series appearance in 2015. And you can add Syndergaard’s refusal to have an MRI before his next start in 2017, causing him to miss the rest of the season.
It was a classic case of the inmates running the asylum, and now the Mets are paying for it, while vainly attempting to atone for their sins by not making the same mistake again.
And who are they “protecting”? Robert Gsellman, who tips in at 6-foot-4 and 200-pounds? Like he’s not built to pitch seven innings every start, assuming he is effective. Or Steven Matz at 6’2″ and 200 lbs? What are these babies doing in the major leagues if they can’t bear the burden of what’s required of a starting pitcher?
And maybe that’s the real problem. The Mets have the cart before the horse. And they don’t have the pitching they once had when all of baseball looked to them as Gods who rained terror on batters. So, they backtrack, and instead of trying to rebuild the staff through trades or free agent signings this winter, Alderson and the Wilpon Brothers decide that less is more. And if we can get four innings out of Matz or Seth Lugo, we’ll take it. Take it where, though, and to what?
And to beat a dead horse, the Mets are not the Yankees, who are stacked with depth in their bullpen and could but tellingly won’t, make the same move the Mets are making by shifting dependence on their starters to the bullpen.
By all accounts, Callaway showed up for his interview with the Mets before he got the job with black binders in tow which delineated his plans for the team. It got him the job. But, is this the sum of what was in those binders? Can’t be. Or at least, we should hope not.