New York Mets Matt Harvey Ruckus – MLB BaseballTuesday, September 15, 2015 19:00
Matt Harvey, the New York Mets, and limiting innings pitched.
Mets Harvey Ruckus
When Mets pitcher Matt Harvey told reporters that he’s always considered 180 innings pitched this season his limit and won’t answer questions about the playoffs, there was something incredibly unsettling about it. Isn’t the whole point of playing baseball to pitch at moments such as this very situation the Mets are in: on the precipice of a playoff berth, ready to battle for a league pennant?
Instead of gearing up for a chance at history, the news instead came off as if Harvey was preparing himself for the rest of his career in terms of earning potential, not in terms of winning rings.
Just because it sounds unsettling doesn’t mean there is anything inherently wrong with that viewpoint. First off, any individual player can play the game of baseball for whatever goal he desires, be it a paycheck, the love of the sport or the championship at the end. Not saying Harvey cares more about the paycheck than either of the other two, but if he did, that’s allowed. No one can force him to rearrange his priorities in any other way.
His doctor, the world-renowned Dr. James Andrews, suggested an inning limit for the 2015 season that he advised Harvey stay below. That total was echoed by Harvey’s agent but was apparently not something the Mets were aware of prior to the news break. Team general manager Sandy Alderson was quoted as being “floored” by the development.
If the plan was indeed a secret from the organization, it’s another mark against Harvey’s side in this debate. The bottom line, though, when it comes to these things is no one really knows for sure what will or won’t happen to a pitcher’s health; not even the famed Dr. Andrews. He doesn’t really know for sure how many innings or pitches Harvey can safely throw. Heck, the big righty might hurt himself during the next pitch he throws. That is the nature of the game. Andrews’ innings limit was an educated hypothesis, similar to the nearly random 100-pitch count universally held to most pitchers around the league during any given start.
Just as some guys can throw well over 100 pitches per start, Harvey could perhaps throw well over 180 innings this year despite this being his first season since returning from Tommy John surgery and rehab. But there’s no way to know what that actual limit is.
Folks remember the superhuman performance put together by CC Sabathia in 2008, then a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Sabathia threw 130.2 innings and made 17 starts in less than three months after coming over in a trade to the Brew crew midseason. He threw complete games (seven in those 17 starts!), started on short rest and withstood the workload and the toll on his body to get Milwaukee into the playoffs. It likely would not have made it without his above-and-beyond performance.
The Mets may be in a similar situation here, albeit up a notch. They could very well make the World Series if Harvey goes all out to help the team win the NL East and move through the postseason. And the odds seem similarly stacked against New York if Harvey shuts it down and doesn’t pitch at all come October.
But who’s to say that Sabathia didn’t permanently do damage during that run? It’s impossible to know. Sabathia, now 35 years old, is a carcass on the mound, doing more harm than good for his New York Yankees every time he takes the mound. What if he would still have that good fastball and control right now if he hadn’t pushed himself so hard for the Brewers way back when? Was the postseason berth worth it then? And what if Harvey is at the same turning point even though he’s younger because he is coming off of that major injury?
There is no easy answer to this dilemma currently plaguing baseball. Beyond Harvey, the entire sport and every organization is having a hard time discovering how best to manage pitchers and workload. Teams have tried six-man rotations, four-man tiered rotations, yanking starters after twice through the order, etc. Nothing has proven to be a cure for the common ligament tear or shoulder tendinitis.
For the Mets, a team with a real chance this year to have the type of success no one imagined they would be in position to achieve when the season began, there would be no way to overcome the absence of their best starting pitcher. Even if Harvey takes it easy for the remainder of the regular season, he wouldn’t be available for more than a round in the playoffs. It’s just not a position the team wants to be in.
And yet, they have his future to consider. This isn’t like what the Washington Nationals pulled a few years back with Stephen Strasburg in 2012, although it’s close. Both situations involved guesses about how much to use a special arm. In Strasburg’s case, the team decided to pull the plug against the wishes of the player. That was its prerogative. With Harvey, it is almost the other way around. The player’s camp is advising the shutdown (or innings limit) while the team wants to keep throwing him out there.
There is no denying two distinct paths of this story: 1) The Mets will be better off if Matt Harvey throws significant innings in the playoffs. 2) No one knows Harvey’s body better than him and his doctor. Most fans would conclude number one is more important than number two because the latter is so fluid and volatile with no clear parameters. Most fans should realize though that two is more important than one, and Harvey should do what he feels most comfortable doing… or not doing.
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