Thursday, June 4, 2015

0 comments Why are Baseball Sportswriters So Terrified of MLB Teams Thinking Outside the Box?

Terence Moore had an issue with the idea of a six-man rotation a few years ago. He did not like the idea that the Atlanta Braves may use a six-man rotation for a limited period of time. Now it's Joel Sherman who is furious and confused as to why in the hell the Mets would dare use a six-man rotation until late August. Why does it matter? The Mets are thinking outside the realm of conventional thinking because they choose to do so. What's the issue with this? I can't figure out why the idea of a six-man rotation is so offensive to Joel Sherman that he believes the mere suggestion should not be proposed. The Mets want to give their pitchers extra rest. I can't figure out what is so wrong with a different type of thinking about how many starting pitchers the Mets will choose to use. In baseball, any new idea is immediately met with resistance from sportswriters and I can't figure out why. So many sportswriters cling so tightly to how things were always done.

The Mets insist the six-man rotation is about more than protecting Matt Harvey.

Why does it matter what the reasoning is? The Mets have six pitchers they think are starter-worthy and want to use all of them for the time being. Why is it a huge deal to use a six-man rotation in order to give a pitcher an extra day of rest? It's just a strategy the Mets are employing, not the idea which will end baseball forever. I'm always miffed at why new ideas or an idea that is old, but different, seems to always meet resistance.

They also want to throttle back on 42-year-old Bartolo Colon, recognize that neither Jacob deGrom nor Noah Syndergaard has ever pitched a full major league season, and even prep for having Steve Matz step into a forum in which his innings can be better regulated.


I get it. Still, this is mostly about Harvey.

Which is why I don’t completely get it.

You don't have to get it. The Mets want to rest their young arms and not overextend Bartolo Colon's arm. Whether you think this is babying the pitchers or not, it's their plan. It's not the end of the world and if it doesn't work then they will change the plan. It's not the Mets plan for Harvey that Sherman has an issue with though, it's that the plan is a six-man rotation. The Mets are daring to try something different and that is not all right. It goes against what Joel Sherman thinks a team should do in order to keep young pitchers healthy. Also, this six-man rotation isn't simply being used for the benefit of Matt Harvey. It's for the benefit of all the Mets young starting pitchers.

Harvey is a client of Scott Boras, who is renowned for taking his best clients to free agency to seek peak market value. Remember, the Tigers offered Max Scherzer $144 million before last season, the Boras client rejected it and got $210 million from the Nationals. Harvey is due to be a free agent after the 2018 season. The Mets have a financially conservative general manager and ownership. The chances Harvey is pitching for the Mets in 2019 is what? Five percent?

The chances are actually 6.7%.

So the Mets should be building their rotational plans around the fact they believe they will lose Matt Harvey to free agency after the 2018 season, as opposed to building their rotational plans around helping the team win games between now and then? This doesn't make sense to me.

That being the case, shouldn’t the Mets be maximizing Harvey now?

Notice “maximizing,” not “abusing.”

Except the Mets are consciously keeping Harvey under 100 pitches as much as possible. Harvey is coming off major elbow surgery too. So when Harvey throws 110 pitches in three straight starts and blows his elbow out again, take a guess at who will be the one writing a column about how the Mets are "abusing" Matt Harvey and he thought the purpose of the six-man staff was to protect Harvey and not injure him? Joel Sherman, that's who. He'll be the one writing this column.

No one is suggesting Harvey throw 125 pitches regularly or be pushed extra innings within games. But I would want more starts, not fewer from Harvey for the next 3 ¹/₂ years.

I'm sure the Mets want more starts too. Here's the thing though...the idea of a six-man staff usually works itself out. One pitcher starts performing terribly or another pitcher gets injured. So it's not bad to aim for a six-man rotation, while knowing eventually the rotation will go back to a traditional five-man rotation out of necessity. If the Mets did use a six-man staff until August then that's not that many fewer starts for Harvey on the season. They have not indicated they plan on using a six-man staff for the next 3.5 years, just until late August. Let's simmer down a bit and gain some perspective. Maybe the Mets will go past that August date they want to "at least" go to with a six-man rotation, but again, starting pitchers are hard to find and usually a rotation goes back to five men due to injuries or ineffectiveness.

Both Terry Collins and Mets assistant GM John Ricco made the case this is a way of making sure you get those starts between now and the end of the 2018 campaign, by limiting Harvey’s innings and giving him five days’ rest regularly.

I am not wearing a hat, but I will eat my hat if the Mets regularly use a six-man rotation from now until the end of the 2018 season. I am betting the vast majority of the time, if he stays healthy, Harvey will make 30+ starts during a season from now until 2018. It's hard enough to find five quality starters, which is why it's no big deal that the Mets want to use six quality starters. It's a nice goal to aim for, but not reasonable to expect over a three year period.

Nevertheless, the baseball industry is still not at peace if workload is the be-all and end-all in causing arm injuries

And of course when writing "the baseball industry" Joel Sherman is referring to himself as not being at peace if workload is the end-all in causing arm injuries. He clearly feels this way and is just passing it off as the entire industry agreeing with him to make himself feel like he's in much better company than he possibly really is.

The Mets did not seem to be abusing Harvey before he needed Tommy John surgery, the same for Zack Wheeler. The reality is most pitchers — particularly power pitchers — will break.

Okay, so knowing this would it make sense for the Mets to aim for a six-man rotation, where they have six guys capable of starting a baseball game, while fully knowing they won't be able to use this six-man rotation over a full season? The Mets would have six guys ready and used to starting games, as opposed to having a guy coming out of the bullpen who gets long relief work only, then has to step in as a starter.

There is no magic formula to keep that from occurring

Other than robots replacing humans on each MLB team to where the game of baseball is played by computers instead of real, live players. At that point, only a hard drive crash or other technological issue would stop power pitchers from breaking. This is obviously what Sabermetericians like Andrew Friedman are hoping for in the future.

Stars such as Harvey are assets and do you begin to devalue your asset by going from a five-man rotation to six? Why not a seven-man rotation? You can’t put the pitchers in Bubble Wrap.

At least Joel Sherman isn't reacting so negatively to the idea of a six-man rotation that he is suggesting absurd ideas like a seven-man rotation. You can actually put the pitchers in Bubble Wrap. They just can't pitch on the mound that way or else Fredi Gonzalez will tell on them for using a foreign substance, since obviously the popping of the bubbles would cause so much glee for the batter that he couldn't focus on hitting the baseball.

You use them, you do it with the best practices for keeping them healthy and you hope for the best.

But see, that's what the Mets are doing. They are trying to keep their pitchers healthy by aiming to have a six-man rotation. The problem is that Joel Sherman, who is not a doctor or specialist of any kind in the medical field, thinks that using a six-man rotation is not the best way to keep young pitchers healthy. He may be right, he may be wrong. But his suggestion that a team use "best practices" to keep a pitcher healthy, as if this isn't what the Mets believe they are doing, is incorrect. 

“There is a big picture in this and that is even if we don’t have him [after free agency,] we want to make sure we have him the next three years,” Collins said. “And right now we think the best thing for Matt is to have the extra day.”

But again, reality will eventually probably creep in. The Mets won't trot a shitty starter out there every sixth day for the sake of a six-man rotation. I really doubt they would do that. So Harvey will most likely pitch for the majority of his Mets career as part of a five-man rotation. It's so hard to find five quality starters, much less six quality starters, I can't imagine the six-man rotation lasting for 3.5 years like Joel Sherman seems to believe it will.

Collins recently referred to Harvey enduring “a dead arm” phase and the stats show that after 100 pitches, Harvey morphs from Cy Young to Curt Young. 

So maybe keeping Harvey under 100 pitches in a game is a good thing? OF COURSE NOT! Joel Sherman thinks this is another example of the Mets babying their pitchers. Fuck stats. What do they mean anyway? 

But it also should be noted that in his 45-start career, Harvey has faced just 58 batters after 100 pitches. Translation: The Mets already have been babying him.

Babying him = Seeing his effectiveness greatly wanes after 100 pitches and removing him from the game so the Mets have a better chance of winning said game. 

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said he envisioned staying with a six-man rotation until at least mid-August. The Mets believe they will be in contention and that the conservative approach now will keep their starters strong for a six-week dash to the finish line — and perhaps into October.

It's funny how Sherman writes "at least" mid-August when Dan Warthen indicated in other articles that mid-August was when the six-man rotation would most likely stop. A little bit of semantics here, but to prove his point Sherman seems to have added "at least" when other news outlets report the six-man rotation would be "through" mid-August, "until" mid-August, and "until" the middle of August. Other news outlets have a sense of finality in August regarding the six-man rotation, while presumably in order to help prove the point he wants to prove, Joel Sherman uses a term with less finality when describing how long the six-man rotation would last. 

Warthen conceded none of the starters was enthused about this process and Collins told Harvey he is on an innings limit this year and the alternative to accepting the six-man rotation was to sit out September, go on the DL a time or two or be pulled constantly after five innings.

I'm guessing that Collins dressed it up better than this when talking to Matt Harvey. 

But, again, are we positive 180 innings is going to keep Harvey healthier than 200 or 210? It is well-intentioned guesswork, but guesswork nevertheless.

Yes, it is guesswork, but what isn't guesswork is that Matt Harvey is coming off elbow surgery and he becomes less effective after 100 pitches, thereby giving the Mets two reasons not to see if he stays healthier at 180 innings than 200 or 210 innings. I don't believe in babying pitchers, but I also don't pretend to know the best way to prevent Tommy John surgery. 

The same as in limiting Syndergaard, whose effort Wednesday made you want to see more — not less — of him. He was facing the woeful Phillies in a matinee after a night game.

Still, his 7¹/₃ shutout innings were impressive against any opponent, any time. He cranked two-seam fastballs he only refined last week that were scary — topping out at 100.7 mph (according to Brooks on Baseball data) and averaging 97.7.

Well of course Mets fans want to see more of Syndergaard. I wanted to see Craig Kimbrel throw every single night, but that doesn't mean his having 110 appearances in a season was a smart move. 

The Mets want to keep Syndergaard, Harvey, deGrom, eventually Matz and Wheeler healthy for the short and long term. I get it.

You say you get it, but then you claim to know the best way to keep these young pitchers healthy for the short and long term. It just so happens that way (in Joel Sherman's opinion) isn't to use a six-man rotation, which is an idea that is new and obviously won't work simply because new things are scary. Because a five-man rotation helped to keep Wheeler and Harvey so healthy and all.

And I respect their forward thinking in trying the six-man rotation.

The Braves tried a six-man rotation a few years ago (much to Terence Moore's chagrin) and it lasted two times through before an injury caused them to go to a five-man rotation again. I can completely see this happening again, which is why the Mets trying a six-man rotation isn't a reason for gnashing of teeth and questioning the sanity of the Mets' front office. 

But at full health, Gee should be used as a safety net, not an equal to the Mets’ best starters.

A safety net? Like a long reliever or a guy who can step into the rotation if an injury should occur? I don't get how it matters. If a pitcher gets injured, then the idea of the six-man rotation is kaput anyway. If anything, this six-man rotation negatively affects the bullpen and bench depth the Mets have as much as it affects their starting rotation. But I don't get why Sherman's next beef is with Gee being considered equal to the Mets' best starters. Gee projects as a pretty good fifth starter. Why can't he be a good fifth or sixth starter rather than relegated to the bullpen?

That is why this doesn’t make sixth sense to me.

What a horrible way to end the column. The point is that Dillon Gee should be treated as an equal to the Mets' best starters because the Mets' best starters haven't proven they can pitch 180 innings in a season on a consistent basis, partially due to their young age. This six-man rotation is going to be a short-term thing. Something always goes wrong with a starter that moves the six-man rotation back to a five-man rotation. Don't be afraid of new ideas and hide behind the illusion there is a certain way to prevent arm injuries to young pitchers.