Lack of planning might have doomed the organization
The last five years have seen their ups and down for the New York Mets baseball organization. From a World Series appearance in 2015, to a 90+ lose season in 2017. Even in the good times of the 2015 play off push, mistakes were made by the organization. Mistakes that could impact the Mets team for years to come.
The Mets have been built on the promise of top notch starting pitching. Sandy Alderson acknowledged early on in his tenure as general manager, that home grown, top tier starters would be a priority.
The Mets in turn, made countless mistakes in the development of these pitchers.
The first mistake is the lack of development of Travis d’Arnaud. Now let’s be clear. Travis never has to throw another runner out to be an effective catcher. His potential has always been with the bat. If his bat is working, his arm doesn’t need to.
There is more to a catcher’s defense then throwing runners out. Working with the pitchers and calling a well planned out game is of utmost importance in today’s game.
The main mistake the Mets made is not bringing in a veteran catcher to mold and tutor Travis. All due respect to guys like Rene Rivera, Anthony Recker and Kevin Plawecki. But these are players trying to figure out how to catch at the MLB level too.
A veteran like one of the Molinas, or even Matt Weiters this off season, could teach d’Arnaud how to scout opposing hitters, how to formulate a game plan based on that scouting, and finally, how to work with the pitchers to implement that plan.
All of this would have helped the prize starters reach their full potential. A young staff needs a catcher that can lead them. A year or two under the right mentor, and Travis could have been that catcher and he could be leading this staff now.
The next mistake the Mets organization made was giving up defense, particularly on the infield, in exchange for offense.
The Mets starting pitchers, over the last four to five years, have all been young, developing pitchers. They all have been on a pitch count and innings limits. And rightfully so.
If a pitcher is on a pitch count, every pitch is important. If a certain second baseman can’t turn a double play, it adds pitches to the starters total. 10 extra pitches could mean the difference between working into the 7th inning, or being taken out after 5 2/3.
Having Murphy, Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada up the middle in those first couple of season with the young staff just wasn’t good enough defensively. Even things like having Yoenis Cespedes play center cost these young pitchers.
In 2016 the Mets added Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker. While these two improved the infield defense tremendously, they are still considered offensive players first. In 2017, the Mets took a major step back defensively. They had one of the highest averages against balls put in ball, in the majors.
Improved team defense could have saved runs, but also would help to keep pitch counts low, allowing these starters to work deeper into games.
Coming off Tommy John surgery, there should have been a plan in place before Harvey even made it to spring training in 2015. If there needed to be a meeting in the off season with Harvey, his parents, his agent, the Mets front office, doctors and Terry Collins, there should have been.
It is incredible no one thought or talked about a set innings limit before August 2015, while the Mets were in the middle of the play off hunt.
Coming off surgery like that, no pitcher can push 200 innings after missing the previous season. Especially true if you care about the long term health of the player.
A plan should have been in place to keep Harvey’s innings down, while maximizing his talent. There are plenty of ways to accomplish this.
One simple plan would have been to keep Harvey in extended spring training the first month of the season. He could have worked out in the warm Florida sun, instead of working his way back in cold New York. Time missed in April could be time pitching in September.
The St. Louis Cardinals have at time, with either young pitchers, or those coming back from surgery, have the pitcher start the season in the bullpen.
The pitcher knows what days he’s pitching prior; he only pitches an inning an outing, and starts a clean inning. He does not work back to back days. It takes planning, but it could be done. If the Mets had any plan at all.
One solution they tried early on but abandoned was to have a six starter. Dillion Gee would have fit this role perfectly. But again, it seemed like the Mets did not have a real plan, and were piecing this together as they went. They did a poor job implementing it, and communicated the plan poorly to the pitching staff, the media and the fans.
After a week or so of tough, non stop questions, Terry Collins caved and abandoned the entire idea.
If there was an actual plan in place, it could have worked well. It means each of the top 5 starting pitchers all get 5 days off between starts. Not 4, which is the norm, but also not 7 or 8 days off, either.
If the team has an off day, the 6th starter goes to the pen for a couple of days. When the Mets play 7 or 10 or 12 days in a row, the 6 starter slots in, to provide full rest for all of the starters.
This would have kept Harvey’s innings down, and benefited the other young pitchers like Noah and deGrom as well. Maybe both of them stay healthy in 2016 and 2017, respectively, if their innings were managed better in 2015.
A plan was needed from the beginning.
When Sandy Alderson took over as General manager, he recognized the need to build from within. And the best way to do this, according to Sandy, was to build a strong starting rotation from within the organization.
Sandy accomplished that, but fell short in developing these young pitchers into the dominate staff Mets fans believe these pitchers could be.
The lack of vision, and long term planning could cost the team dearly, in the years to come.