Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint, and the importance of pacing yourself through it starts from opening day.
The one position that comes to mind when it comes to pacing yourself through a baseball season is the pitcher. An extra inning in April could have lasting effects throughout the season.
With that in mind, as the calendar has turned to May, pitch counts and innings limits are already being discussed around the Mets and their talented young rotation.
Last September, innings limits became a major issue for Matt Harvey. In his first season back from Tommy John surgery, Harvey and his agent, Scott Boras, had an innings limit in mind and Harvey came very close to it in early September. Boras urged Harvey to stop pitching when he hit the limit, and that caused a battle with the Mets, which Harvey quickly put to rest when he announced he would pitch in the postseason.
Harvey wound up pitching through the World Series, as did Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard, who also were on innings limits to protect their young arms.
Last season, making the playoffs was everything to the Mets, and that caused some consternation from pitchers when it came to leaving games, as the focus was on the here and now.
The awareness of the importance of pitch count and innings limits among these talented pitchers may not have been as high as now, with a return to the World Series as the focus.
Going through a postseason run, and knowing how sharp you have to be in September and October, the most intense games of the season, has changed the mentality of this team.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said of that on Wednesday morning, “Yeah, and I think they proved something to themselves last year, too, as it ended up working out at the end of the year. Some of the things we did last summer paid off, and I think those guys now understand the importance of that. They also understand they can get through 200 innings plus, and still be okay. Certainly, we can’t worry about next year until that comes.
“Right now, we’re focused on making sure that, in September, those guys are still healthy, they’re still strong, because those are the games that, which we think and plan on right now to be huge for us as we get ready. I think they buy in to the situation, not just innings pitched, but the pitch counts themselves,” said Collins.
Collins said of the pitch counts for his four young starters, “One of the things we have tried to come up with, with making sure these guys don’t get carried away early is to keep their pitch counts under control the first six weeks for sure.”
On whether pitch counts or innings limits is the better measure of a pitcher’s workload, Collins said, “I’ve told you this story before. I had, arguably, one of the greatest orthopedic surgeons in the world that I dealt with in Frank Jobe. We had basically a workshop for about three days, where he had his fellows, his physical therapists, talking about how to keep these young arms healthy. At the end of the three or four days, Dr. Jobe said, you have to understand one thing, all the work, pitch counts, throwing programs, innings pitched – if they’re gonna break, they’re gonna break. You can’t stop it no matter how hard you try. But one thing you’ve got to do is try.
“You’ve got to come up with some type of a maintenance program that you think will work, and it may not. But, at the end of it, at least if you know you gave it a shot to try to take care of these guys and they do break, you feel better about it, that you didn’t overdo it. These numbers that are coming up with innings pitched and pitches per game are pretty much the general instead of saying, well, this guy’s throwing 142 pitches and all of a sudden he breaks, then you’ve got to question it because there’s nobody else is doing that type of workload. I still go with what he told me, and that is you can try the best you want and can and come up with great programs that are gonna work, but some of them don’t.”