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Around the NL East: Mets being cautious with Harvey

Sep 3, 2015, 11:00 AM EST

Sep 2, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during the second inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA BRAVES  

The Braves are nosediving as the season comes to a close. After being swept by the Marlins, they’ve dropped eight straight and have fallen to fourth place in the NL East (not that it matters, considering how poor the rest of the division is). Things are so bad right now that Atlanta is on pace to have its worst season since 1990, when the team lost 97 games. If there’s a potential bright spot, however, it’s that Cuban defector Hector Olivera has been called up. The 30-year-old needs to show well to give Braves fans something to be hopeful for in 2016.

MIAMI MARLINS 

Oh boy, here we go again with Marlins drama. Miami will reportedly ask manager Dan Jennings to return to his role as general manager after the season is over to find a more experienced person for the job. Of course, why the Marlins thought Jennings was a good fit for the managerial job in the first place is questionable at best, so now that decision looks even worse since they’re apparently looking for his replacement after less than a season with him at the helm. But given that this is the Marlins, is anyone surprised?

NEW YORK METS  

The Mets have reached the point where they must find creative ways to preserve their young starting pitching for a postseason push, with the highest profile case being Matt Harvey. A year removed from Tommy John surgery, doctors have reportedly “suggested” that the 26-year-old righty pitch no more than 180 innings for the season. In turn, the club has been skipping a few of his starts in recent weeks. He’s thrown 166 1/3 frames this season, meaning he only has about one to two more starts left in him before Terry Collins may to find other guys to fill in.

All of this sets ups what will be a huge series against the Nats early next week. While New York is still up 6 1/2 games, it still has six head-to-head match ups left with Washington that’ll truly decide who wins this division. What we know now is that Harvey and Jacob deGrom are scheduled to start in two of the three games, and that the Nats will counter with their top three starters. Will the gap between these two clubs shrink this time next week? We’ll have to see.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES 

At 53-81, the Phillies own the worst record in the game. The club hopes they’re in the process of bottoming out, but that all depends on what happens to GM Ruben Amaro Jr. A recent report says that Amaro’s fate will be decided over the next month. Given how much the Phils have been struggling for the past four years, logic says that team president Andy MacPhail will likely make sweeping changes in the front office and coaching staff this offseason.

  1. Guapo - Sep 3, 2015 at 11:10 AM

    Playoff opportunities are rare, and not guaranteed. See Nationals, 2015.

    Hopefully, the Mets will be smarter than the Nats in 2012 and now bow to an arbitrary innings limit for their stud pitcher. If the Nats have to miss out of the Division crown, I’d like to see the Mets represent the NL East well. They have a better chance of doing that with Harvey.

    • jd - Sep 3, 2015 at 11:24 AM

      Guapo,

      Everything is arbitrary. experience has shown (and if you look around baseball almost every team has some sort of innings limits on their young pitchers especially those returning from elbow surgery).

      Harvey is at 166 innings, apparently the goal they set for him was 200, so he has 34 innings left and they skipped a start and will be going to a 6 man rotation next time around the rotation, kudos to them for trying to think outside the box but still trying to protect their pitcher.

      Their bigger issue may be Syndergaard who is at 152 innings with a previous high of 133. I think his goal is 180 and I think that’s pushing it. DeGrom is at 162 and I think his limit is 215.

      I think their approach will let them get through the regular season without shutting anyone down but I think once they get to the post season they will need to make a decision because they will absolutely need to go higher than they planned to (Unless they clinch early in which case they will definitely be able to manage the innings better).

      The idea that inning limits are arbitrary goes against what everyone in the industry currently accepts as a reasonable probability. Just because this was not the practice in the past does not mean much. Many,many pitchers had their careers cut short by arm injuries. Pitchers are a valuable commodity as are championships and to balance these 2 conflicting goals is the challenge of today’s management leaders.

      • sec112 - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:05 PM

        The Mets as an organization would probably be better off if they were headed for a wild card game that they could lose, thus having the success of an earlier-than-expected appearance in the post season, but not burning out their young arms to lose a 5 game series – which would leave them in better position for next year. Yes – I know that no one would ever actively wish for that, but they’d probably be better off. Not an option in any case.

        As it stands, it seems likely they will do some damage to one or more of their young starters, hurting their chances next year.

      • therealjohnc - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:08 PM

        Nonsense, jd! Everyone knows that if *I* as a layman fan do not understand the medical and baseball rationales for a decision involving pitcher or player health, then there is no reason.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:09 PM

        JD, I’m confused. Daniel, in the post above, says the Mets’s doctors “‘suggested'” no more than 180 innings, which would leave him two starts if they don’t exceed that, maybe three short ones if they go just a bit over. Are the Mets essentially blowing off the medical advice and calling it 200 innings?

        Either way, I don’t want to see anybody’s arm fall off, but he’s looking almost as toasted as Strasburg did before the Nats shut him down in 2012.

      • jd - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:59 PM

        Sec3,

        I read the same thing as you and I also read what the Mets consider their plan. I think they are comfortable with 200 for Harvey because he is 26 and because he pitched 178 innings in 2013.

      • Tyson - Sep 3, 2015 at 2:56 PM

        Jd- they’ve made their decision: if they make the playoffs, the kids will have no restrictions. They’ll skip at least one more Harvey start after his Nats game, and go with a 6 man. It helps when you have a stud like Matz to be the spot starter in this scenario.

        Sec112- what on earth would losing a wc game be preferable to losing a 5 game series? If they lose a 5 game series, then that’s one extra start for all but one pitcher. Considering that these innings limits are instituted without taking into account number of potches, number of high stress pitches/innings, spring training innings, bullpens, side work, etc., it’s hard for me to understand how ~6-7 extra innings would make any appreciable difference. Also, the Mets are far from a squash match for the Dodgers, who have plenty of problems of their own.

        Sec 3 my sofa- I don’t know what Harvey you’ve been watchimg, but he looks far from toasted. His last month has been outstanding and while he faded early last night, he started out the game with the best stuff I’ve seen him have all year, which is being chalked up to dehydration (it was nasty humid here in nyc last night) and he was getting an IV after the game. He’s 22 months from his surgery, everyone seems to think he’s only 12-18 months out- he’s not the typical TJ guy because of the 6 months extra recovery that he had.

    • adcwonk - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:02 PM

      Hopefully, the Mets will be smarter than the Nats in 2012

      Accch, that again?

      To repeat, for the gazillionth time — Strasburg was on fumes towards the end of the summer. In his last three starts his ERA was 6.43. In his last start, he lasted three innings, after giving up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs.

      It was worth gambling his entire future for more of _that_?

      And playoffs are a craphoot anyway. You just need to go back as far as 11 months ago to see plenty of evidence of that.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:10 PM

        AND … Detwiler, the Alt-fourth starter, turned in the best start of the five.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:10 PM

        AND … Detwiler, the Alt-fourth starter, turned in the best start of the five.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:13 PM

        Jeez, as if that hasn’t been said enough already. Lo siento.

      • bowdenball - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:50 PM

        SO frustrating that nobody- or at least nobody other than longtime Nats fans- talks about this.

        Stras was clearly running out of gas late in 2012. In two of his last three starts he got shelled for 5 ER with just 3 Ks. Even if you set aside the prudence of protecting his future, there’s very little chance that he could have outpitched Detwiler’s effort. They likely made the correct call even if Strasburg never threw another inning for the Nats after 2012.

      • micksback1 - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:54 PM

        agree 100% and I was one of many in 2012 that strongly supported the decision to shut down Stras, regardless of whether or not he was running out of gas.I believe in the medical protocol, PERIOD.

      • jd - Sep 3, 2015 at 1:13 PM

        wonk,

        who cares?

        What I liked about 2012 was that Rizzo had a plan, stuck to it, didn’t allow the standings to alter his plan and he certainly didn’t give a s*it about what all the geniuses had to say on the topic.

        The Mets are taking a different approach with their young pitchers, they are trying to finesse the innings by skipping turns and going to a 6 man rotation. I am not that impressed with their approach because I’m not sure how easy or helpful it is to keep restarting pitchers and also altering their routines. They are in a bigger conundrum that the Nats were because they have to maneuver 3 young arms instead of 1 and in fairness if it works for them, more power to them. I am not sure if that was their plan all along or if they started improvising when they found themselves in firm control of the division.

      • adcwonk - Sep 3, 2015 at 1:24 PM

        You raise a good point, jd. For baseball’s sake, I sure hope they don’t ruin those young arms. It’s complicated for them — way complicated.

      • Guapo - Sep 3, 2015 at 1:37 PM

        Baseball is a game where approach is everything. The impact was more than what Stras could do during the playoffs. The bigger issue was that it sent a very clear message that Stras long term earnings potential was more important than the team, and every single other player who exposed themselves to risk each time they stepped on the playoff field. You think his being pulled didn’t influence that locker room and put into question what the team’s priorities are? Anyone who understands the slightest bit about athletes and team sports knows the answer to that question..

        Did Baugartner risk injury closing the World Series last year or short rest? Absolutely he did. And he’s already got a couple of rings. If you want to win, you have to put your chips in the middle. Could you imagine what would have happened if a GM tried to sit an immortal like Nolan Ryan down during a playoff run….

      • therealjohnc - Sep 3, 2015 at 1:54 PM

        Comparing decisions involving the health of a pitcher who had pitched four consecutive seasons of 200+ innings with no ill health with a pitcher who had never pitched more than 113 professional innings – and who had pitched those 113 once, required TJ surgery, and was still recovering from TJ surgery … well, apples and oranges is an insufficient metaphor. Apples and orangutans, maybe.

      • jd - Sep 3, 2015 at 2:02 PM

        Guapo,

        I think you are dead wrong. The message sent was that we don’t treat players under contract with us as meat. We don’t risk a high probability of injury even at the financial detriment to the team’s owners.

        Baumgarner is a terrible example, he already had 3 200 inning years under his belt. Once you cross a certain age and a certain inning threshold of course you’l be expected to go all in when the chips are down. Strasburg was 22, 1 year after TJ, having never thrown more than 125 innings in a year and clearly gassed and ineffective when he was shutdown.

      • Tyson - Sep 3, 2015 at 3:00 PM

        Granted that hindsight I’d 20/20, and the way that Stars looked combined with Detweets performance soften the blow, but don’t you guys wish that he was handled differently? Why were the only options shut down or disregard innings limit? Why not have him start a month late? Why not have him take a DL stint in the early summer? Why was it only one extreme or the other? I never understood that from the outside looking in.

      • NatsLady - Sep 3, 2015 at 3:06 PM

        The other thing is, people forget the Nats weren’t a lock for the 2012 playoffs in June or July when a decision to start skipping starts for Strasburg would need to be made. Strasburg won and contributed to winning a lot of games that spring and early summer.

      • therealjohnc - Sep 3, 2015 at 3:24 PM

        Yeah, what NatsLady said. The Nats were not a lock for the playoffs at all (remember that as of August 3rd their lead was only two games). Even as it was they only finished four games ahead of the Braves. Managing Strasburg’s innings would have meant more John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang. No bueno. Had they done that, they easily could have found themselves in the Wild Card game, not Atlanta. Where the Braves had their TJ surviving ace, Medlen, available to pitch. And lost anyway, because anything can happen in one game. And to add injury to insult, Medlen has since needed a second TJ surgery.

        Also, going along with managing innings during the season assumes a fact that the Nats couldn’t know at the time – that Strasburg would stay healthy all season. Imagine this scenario: the Nats give Strasburg a few extended breaks, skip a few starts, and come into the stretch run ready for him to roll … and he tweaks a hamstring running out a grounder. Or anything, really. If it’s serious, then the team doesn’t get the full 160 innings that they wanted out of him (again, jeopardizing their chances to win the Division). And to make it worse, if they lose enough innings then they might have had him on an innings limit in 2013 as well.

        No, the more you think it through, the more you realize that the Nats thought it through. If one accepts innings limits (and that is true pretty much across all of MLB) then the only way to handle it better than the Nats did is through hindsight.

      • adcwonk - Sep 3, 2015 at 4:24 PM

        Add one more factor — skipping starts wouldn’t have done much. You’d still have to throw, a lot, on the day you’re skipping a start (otherwise be ineffective). So all that does is take away real innings pitched, and converts them into “mound sessions” that don’t help the team on the field at all.

      • needanatsfix - Sep 3, 2015 at 3:35 PM

        I have yet to see anyone ever respond to the idea of starting Stras a month later. Terrible idea because you are hoping to ramp up innings over the next few years. What happens if you start him in the middle of May, he pulls a hamstring and ends up on the DL for a month. Now you are lucky if you get him up to 120 innings for the season and will likely have to limit innings again next season. Too many things can go wrong during a the season to try and back into the most optimal starting date for a pitcher returning from TJ.

      • adcwonk - Sep 3, 2015 at 4:33 PM

        Yep — that’s another good point.

        Let’s also recall the Nats were 80-81 the year before. So, to hold him out for March/April because “because we’re going to need him for the playoffs in Oct” wouldn’t have been the smartest bet at the time.

  2. micksback1 - Sep 3, 2015 at 11:22 AM

    Zim has been outstanding!! It would be sad to waste such an effort

  3. alexva6 - Sep 3, 2015 at 11:58 AM

    I doubt the Marlins worried whether Jennings was right for the managers job nor did they expect him to stay on past 2015. seems pretty obvious that it was done to avoid taking on another salary.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:12 PM

      seems pretty obvious that it was done to avoid taking on another salary.

      If it were any other team, we’d say that sounded too dumb to be true. Marlins, it’s obvious.

    • nats106 - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:49 PM

      I dunno there are lots of high school baseball coaches who would have taken a summer job for $60K.

    • Tyson - Sep 3, 2015 at 3:08 PM

      Yep… those morons were already paying 2 other managers. What a disgrace Loria is

  4. Tyson - Sep 3, 2015 at 2:44 PM

    Harvey is not one year removed from TJ surgery- he had it done in October, 2013. He’s not the typical TJ guy as he didn’t return until about 19 months after the procedure. That’s an important note that is being left out of all these pieces by media.

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