Friday, August 23, 2013

Innings Limit, Surgeries, Daisuke: Mets Limping Towards Seasons’ End

The Mets signed former Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka yesterday. Matsuzaka arrived in the United States amongst much fanfare back in 2007. The Red Sox paid an astronomical ransom of $51M posting fee to Japan to negotiate with him. Then the BoSox signed him to a 6 year $52M contract.

Matsuzaka didn’t live up to expectations, though he did have a solid season in 2008, his second year with Boston, going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. That was as good as it got, because his record in the other 6 seasons with Boston was 32-34.

Matsuzaka hasn’t pitched in the Major Leagues since last year; this year he was with the Cleveland Indians AAA affiliate in Columbus, where he posted a 5-8 record with a 3.92 ERA.

Obviously Alderson is looking to catch lightning in a bottle, but do the Mets really need a 32 year old pitcher whose lifetime record is a mediocre 50-37 with a 4.52 ERA?

Another issue the Mets are dealing with is yet more arm injuries to their young pitchers. Jenrry Mejia and Jeremy Hefner are set to undergo season ending surgeries; Mejia to remove bone chips from his elbow and Hefner to have Tommy John surgery. Mejia should be ready to start the season next year, but Hefner will most likely miss most, if not all of the 2014 season. There is also Bobby Parnell with a herniated disc in his neck. Is it me, or have the Mets seemed to have more injuries than any other team over the last decade or two?

Then there is the innings limit imposed upon Harvey and Wheeler. Collins has said that he doesn’t want Harvey going more than about 200 innings, and probably less for Wheeler.

All this leads me to one major point that I have been screaming about for years. Is the problem with the pitchers or is it something else?

The problem with what has become of baseball is pure Tony LaRussa. Pitchers are not expected to throw more than six innings in any start; a quality start is considered going 7 innings giving up 3 runs; a pitcher that throws 210 innings in a season is considered a workhorse…

Pitchers aren’t conditioned as well as they were 30, 40, 50 years ago. Teams set limits on how many innings a pitcher can throw. This pampering doesn’t usually work. Look at Stephen Strasburg – he has been shut down due to the number of innings thrown, and he has still had injuries.

Sandy Koufax pitched over 300 innings three times in his last 4 years…all with a badly damaged elbow. In 1963 he hurled 311 innings, 335.2 in 1965 and 323 in his final season in ’66. Pitchers today need almost two full seasons to hit 300 innings.

I think a lot of the problem is the dedication to lifting weights. Not that lifting weights is bad, but is the workout pitchers (and players) are doing conducive to their profession? There are more arm injuries than ever, pitchers are coddled and they pitch less innings. When was the last time a pitcher was permitted to pitch out of a jam?

Are the Mets the only team that have subscribed to this theory? No. Most teams mollycoddle their pitchers. But has this treatment of young athletes actually worked?

Rangers President Nolan Ryan has the right idea telling his young players that they better be prepared to pitch 9 innings every time they take the hill.

The Mets young pitchers look like a huge positive for the future, with Harvey, Wheeler, Mejia, Niese, Gee/Hefner – not including some young arms down on the farm –but will these players become all they can be by being babied in the work regimen and their game restrictions?

I long for the good ‘ol days when a manager like Davey Johnson would go out to the mound and tell a struggling pitcher, “you got yourself into this mess, you get yourself out…”

Innings limit, surgeries, Daisuke:  are the Mets limping towards seasons’ end…or their future?

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