Understand this: Mets ace Matt Harvey is best used as a starter. However, if the sudden innings and/or pitch limit being imposed on him by whomever is calling the shots now—be it his agent Scott Boras, Dr. James Andrews, or Mets GM Sandy Alderson—continues, it doesn’t really help the Mets chances in 2015.
The innings limit would be understandable from the context that the Mets are concerned about the future of their pitching star and don’t want to risk pushing him too hard just a year after Tommy John surgery. Of course, even relievers who don’t approach 180 innings in a season get the same injury—there’s no known way to stop it. Plenty of pitchers go through their whole careers without such an injury.
But right now isn’t the time for the limit. If there was such a plan to hold him to 180 innings this year, it should have been implemented by delaying his start to the the season—not in crunch time with baseball’s postseason just a couple of weeks away.
After all, what good is it to have an ace if you can’t use him when you need him the most?
Harvey should be moved to the bullpen instead of limiting his starts. Here’s three reasons why:
1. Five innings from a starter—let alone your ace—doesn’t really help the team.
Harvey’s last start, on Sunday, summed it up best when Collins had to lift him (in accordance with the innings plan) after throwing five scoreless innings—while tossing just 77 pitches—against the Yankees, and having a 1–0 lead. The Yankees then proceeded to jump all over the Mets bullpen, scoring 11 runs over the next three innings and in helping them take the rubber match of a three-game set with an 11–2 win.
Leaving after just five innings taxes your bullpen.
Unless you have a really deep ‘pen, four innings is too much. Harvey could provide much needed help by making himself available late in games where he wouldn’t be expected to go more than an inning—and be just as effective.
2. The Mets already have a deep starting rotation.
Collins already has the luxury of being able to send out quality starters Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon, Steven Matz, and Jonathon Niese on a daily basis. That’s five good pitchers any team would take and they'll only need four of them come playoff time. While Harvey is the best of the group, he’s not in the way he’s being used now. A bullpen with him in it would be nice weapon in the postseason.
3. Harvey probably doesn’t feel great about being the only one doing his job halfway.
Imagine you’re healthy and you’re the ace of the staff that the team depends on, yet in crunch time you have to come out of the games early for fear of re-injuring yourself. Meanwhile, the rest of your team is not limited by the same concern and are putting themselves in harm’s way every night.
Or even worse, imagine he has to come out after five sterling innings again in his next start and the pitcher who replaces him blows his arm out and misses a year himself with Tommy John surgery—how would he feel then?
Harvey going to the bullpen isn’t going to necessarily prevent anyone else from getting injured, but none of the other starters has such a limit on their arms. It wouldn’t be ideal for the ace to head to the bullpen, but at least he’s not forcing others to pick up his slack this way.