Would the Mets be better off missing the postseason?

Noah Syndergaard

WP

Week 13 of the MLB season is complete — the true halfway point of the year — and the Texas Rangers have the most wins in baseball. Let’s go Whip …

 

 

MLB on Fox analyst and Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz recently told USA Today that going to the World Series last season might have been the worst thing that could have happened to the Mets.

It’s a great point that deserves some explaining. The Mets went on an incredible run all the way to Game 5 of the World Series last year, and they did it on the backs of their great starting pitching. Each of those stud pitchers brought some concerns though when it came to the idea pitching into October.

Matt Harvey missed the entire 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and was on an innings limit. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz had made their major league debuts earlier that season and neither had never pitched beyond Sep. 1 in their careers. Jacob deGrom had just completed his first full season the year before.

Matt Harvey (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Each of them made starts in the World Series, with Harvey taking the mound for the final time of the year in that fateful Game 5 on Nov. 1.

When you play in the postseason, your offseason gets cut short — in the case of these World Series-bound Mets, by a full month. There was not the same amount of recovery time, despite needing more, and there was not as much workout and training time available to get ready for the 2016 season.

When you go back and trace what was going on with each of those pitchers in 2015, you realize they all could have used a full offseason. The lack of that full offseason seems to be showing up in 2016.

Syndergaard and Matz are dealing with elbow injuries, Matt Harvey has not been the same, with diminished velocity and a less effective slider, and deGrom only recently seems to be back to his old self with his fastball being down a tick or two over the first couple of months of the year.

The Mets are chasing the Nationals this season and they’ll have a shot at the division if their offense can get going, but I can’t help but wonder if in the grand scheme of things that the Mets and their young pitchers might be better off missing the postseason this year and getting that full offseason this winter. The organization would never lose on purpose, but it might not be the worst thing for the future of these Mets if they do not reach the postseason.

METS PITCHERS: 2015 vs. 2016

Pitcher 2015 ERA/WHIP/K per 9 2016 ERA/WHIP/K per 9

Noah Syndergaard 3.24/1.047/10.0 2.41/1.059/11.0
Matt Harvey 2.71/1.019/8.9 4.55/1.404/7.3
Jacob deGrom 2.54/0.979/9.7 2.62/1.105/8.8
Steven Matz 2.27/1.234/8.6 3.40/1.232/8.7

 

 

We saw some funky things happen in baseball games last week with pitchers playing the outfield and position players pitching.

The latter ended with some unfortunate news for one position player who took the mound for his club. Toronto’s Ryan Goins, a second baseman by trade, pitched the 18th inning in the Blue Jays’ 19-inning loss to the Cleveland Indians on Friday.

Goins faced five batters and incredibly, pitched around two hits and a walk to preserve the 1-1 tie. Goins threw 15 pitches.

The next day, however, Goins had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm tightness, an injury he suffered due to his pitching.

I have been saying for the past few years that as we see more and more position players pitching in emergency situations — 16 this season alone — that perhaps teams would be smart to prepare a designated position player or two for these moments.

Each manager knows who they will likely use in those dire situations. Having those players throw one bullpen per week, around 20-25 pitches, might be a really smart idea to build up some stamina and to get those players’ arms used to throwing downhill off a mound. They would be more effective come game time and they would be put in a better position to avoid an injury.

Ryan Goins (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

I asked Reds’ manager Bryan Price about this idea and he agreed. He also added that having the emergency catcher catch one bullpen per week would be a smart idea as well. We rarely see the emergency catcher, a position player who will catch if none of the catchers on the roster are capable, get into a game. When they do however, they play a crucial role, and catching big-league pitchers — especially these days with velocities — is no picnic.

 

 

Last season it was widely known that Yoenis Cespedes was not the Mets’ first choice for a bat at the deadline. After a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers fell through over medical concerns with Carlos Gomez, the Mets turned to the Detroit Tigers and Cespedes. It worked out pretty well for them and not so much for the Astros, who did trade for Gomez and saw him miss significant time in 2015 due to injury.

Last week, I was working on radio with Jim Bowden, former general manager of the Reds and Nationals, when he brought up a good point. Both Daniel Murphy and Dusty Baker were not the Nationals’ first choice for second baseman and manager this past offseason.

The Nationals tried to trade for the Reds’ Brandon Phillips. Phillips would only approve of the move (his right as a 10/5 player) with an extension added on to his current contract. Washington was not interested. The Nationals also had agreed to hire Bud Black as their next manager, but things took an unusual turn when the agreement fell through over contract negotiations.

The Nationals went to Plan B and signed free agent Murphy to a three-year contract and hired Baker as their next manager. When you examine the success of the Nationals this season, you undoubtedly come to the conclusion that Murphy — hitting .438 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs — and Baker are two of the biggest reasons they are in first place.

Sometimes you make smart decisions. Sometimes you get lucky.

Daniel Murphy (Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

 

 

The greatest thing I heard this week came from a conversation with a man who has been in professional baseball since 1967, Dusty Baker:

“Hank Aaron told me it’s OK to be nervous. Just don’t be scared.”

Love that quote. We were talking about young players coming to the big leagues for the first time and how they deal with emotions. Jitters are one thing — you should have them. But if you are scared, you’ll have a hard time competing and being successful.

We were talking about Lucas Giolito, and Dusty was impressed with what he saw from him in his first big-league start last week. Dusty also told Joe Davis and me about the time he spent around Satchel Paige when he was 19 years old. That is an amazing connection to baseball history. I asked Dusty how old Satchel was at the time — “Nobody was ever really sure.”

MLB Whip Around — The Show, airs weeknights on FS1.

Dusty Baker (Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)