Will The Mets Pitchers Stay Healthy?

photo by CeetarMost of the Mets starters were injured last season, and have a history of injury. You know this. I know this. Sandy Alderson knows this. Sandy added Jason Vargas. He’s a pitcher that pitched well for half a season last year after he missed time due to injury in the years prior. Turns out most pitchers have an injury history, and trying to figure out which ones will be injured next year is a fool’s errand.

 

I would’ve gone after Yu Darvish. If you think you need another pitcher, get the best one.  That’s not to say Darvish is without flaws or concerns, or that he best represents the guy you still want on the roster in 2022, but he’s certainly more polished than Jason Vargas.

 

The Mets pitching depth is deep though. They’ve got 9 or 10 guys of various quality on the roster right now even if some of them, like Rafael Montero, aren’t filling us with a ton of confidence. The Mets season was derailed mainly by pitcher injuries last year, and 2018 again hinges on that health. Can these pitchers stay healthy? Are they more risky than someone who’s been more of a workhorse in recent memory?

 

Is there such thing as a healthy pitcher? There’s a common thought that all pitchers have some form of elbow damage, as the very act of pitching is damaging to a human arm. A healthy pitcher is just a pitcher that’s hasn’t yet gotten hurt enough to not be effective. This led me to ask myself, how many pitchers that stayed healthy in 2016 also stayed healthy in 2017?

 

Not very many. There were 73 pitchers that qualified for the ERA title in 2016. 33, or about 45%, of them also qualified in 2017. That’s not a great conversion rate, and it gets worse if you bump up the minimum from about 163IP to 180. 37%, 17 in 46, of those pitchers also pitched 180 in 2017. Of course this includes two pitcher deaths, which is typically outside the scope of arm injuries, but even if you drop those guys it’s still only 39%.

 

That’s just one year though. Let’s look at the three years prior to 2017 to try to rule out random fluke injuries that may skew the sample. Was the general health of a pitcher between 2014-2016 predictive of health in 2017? There were 123 qualifying pitchers for those three years, but only 50 of them qualified in 2017, so not particularly comforting.

 

The shocking conclusion here is that pitchers get hurt. A lot. There’s very little reliable way to predict which pitchers will make it through the entire season, or which will end up being ineffective due to nagging injuries that don’t land them on the DL but still keep them from being their best.

 

There are some guys that have been reliable, but you never really know if next year will be the year they’re not.  Max Scherzer has been reliable for years and years but last year he did experience some hamstring pain, and some neck pain. He still pitched 200 of the best innings of his life, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that those were the first cracks of an aging pitcher who’s led the league in innings pitched for a while.

 

The Mets pitchers were injured. They’re starting 2018 with no restrictions and are ready to pitch, and they have a lot of talent in those arms. It’s almost a given that they won’t stay that way for long, but the Mets have made coaching and medical changes aimed at keeping them healthy, and that very well may be the better gamble over acquiring other pitchers that have been healthier in recent history.

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Can We Talk About Chris Capuano?

Chris Capuano was a Met last year, as you may remember.  He wasn’t a particularly good pitcher, although he had his moments.  After 66 innings in 2010, Capuano came to the Mets healthy for the first time in a while and had a pretty good first half before tailing off in the second.  The Mets correctly assumed that Capuano would get too much money for a near replacement level starter and didn’t retain him, but what he has become this year has been anything but average, although he does again appear to be tailing off in the second half again.

 

Perhaps this ‘change’ is simply him being comfortable with his body one year removed from surgery, but he’s got basically the same K/BB as last year.  He’s got a career low ERA even after a sub-par second half so far.  He’s throwing much more pitches in the zone, but actually getting less contact on them, and much less contact outside of the zone. It certainly seems like he’s setting up hitters better and keeping them more off balance. He’s allowed less hits overall, and less home runs.

 

I guess you could attribute some of that to defense, although the Dodgers defense doesn’t seem particularly awesome, just better than the Mets. Seems a big jump to attribute just to that. His FIP is better, but his xFIP is worse. (Although it’s hard to trust a stat that says fielding independent and yet gets better when fielders make plays) Is this an indictment on Dan Warthen and the Mets staff? Was there an adjustment to be made that he was unable to figure out with the Mets?  I know Ron Darling mentioned on the broadcast one day that he worked with Capuano a little last year on some things, and while it’s cool that he’s helping out, it seems like a bad sign that the broadcaster is helping out the pitchers on the side.  This wouldn’t be the first pitcher that struggled here and succeeded elsewhere, although maybe that’s true of every team and it just seems like it’s more with the Mets.

 

This is just piece of evidence against Dan Warthen’s tenure as pitching coach continuing.  With all the young pitchers the Mets are going with, I’d really love to have a brilliant coach that can really nurture these guys and get the best out of them.  I don’t believe Dan Warthen is that guy.

 

 

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On Wishing Johan Santana into the Cornfield

The talk lately has been whether or not the Mets should shut down Johan Santana for the season.  He’s been mostly ineffective lately, and there is a growing concern that he’s hit a wall with all the rehab and work he’s put in to be healthy this season.  No matter what you or I think, the Mets and Santana have a lot more knowledge of the situation than we do.  There is probably no clear and obvious answer here even for the Mets, and especially not for people outside the situation, which includes the media.  The media are writers and reporters, not doctors.  They’re as unqualified to speak on the right course of action as they were to speak on the state of the Mets finances.  Take their info on how Santana is feeling and what the Mets are saying about it, but their prescribed course of action is not necessarily the best one.

 

Personally I’d err on the side of keeping him pitching.  At least until he throws a good game or two.  This is all presuming that there isn’t some unseen or unreported injury, but recovering from a serious injury to perform at the top level of your craft is hard, tenuous work.  Throughout his life Johan Santana’s arm has been what’s separated him from his peers, it’s what makes him special.  To have that arm give out on you so seriously can be crushing.  I imagine that feeling has been in the back of Johan’s mind all season.  The same is true of any injury; if you hurt your foot even days after you feel no pain you still often step tenuously because you expect it to hurt.  Johan Santana has all the same doubts floating through his head that we do about the durability of his shoulder and whether he’s the same pitcher.  So on that note, I think it’s valuable for him to get through this period the same way any pitcher wants to get through the valleys inherent in every season.  It’s important for him to dismiss the doubts that his shoulder is failing him and allow it not to be the undercurrent of every outing he has next spring.  Reaffirm that hard work will get him where he needs to go, and then shut him down.

 

I do think there could be some value in getting Johan Santana an extra week or two off this offseason by shutting him down in September once he’s hopefully bounced back from this stretch.  The Mets might like to get a start or two out of prospects like Colin McHugh or Jeurys Familia and Santana’s spot would be one way to do that. After all Johan Santana has given us as fans, particularly the no-hitter, it’d be nice to see him go out this year on a high note.

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R. A. Dickey: The King In The North!

Saw this post in The Academy of Sports Management about R.A. Dickey.  He’s a big fan of the Game Of Thrones, and since we know he’s a reader, perhaps the entire Song of Ice and Fire series.   Dickey has changed his intro music to the theme song from the HBO show.

 

That’s pretty cool.  The post mentions that some Mets fans have taken to calling him “The King In The North!”, which is what Rob Stark’s followers use to hail their new king.  This is the first time I’ve heard it, but I’m always a fan of the Mets playing along with popular trends.  They should play the “The King In The North!” clip after every Dickey strikeout at Citi Field.  Before you inquire about rights to do so, remember plenty of teams already play clips of movies and shows and songs.  The Mets frequently play that clip from the movie Network about opening your window and shouting.

 

Maybe some fans could find a nice corner to make a Dickey K-corner,  but instead of K’s, the Stark’s dire wolf sigil from the show.  Or we could shout “The King In The North!” ourselves after strikeouts or strong innings but that might be harder to get going.  We could probably get it going on Twitter though.

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