Early Look Into The Second Half Rotation

USATSI_ bartiolo colon by brad barr

This is undoubtedly one of my favorite times of the year. I get to retire my big coat and not look at its depressing hues of gray that I have been wearing daily for the past three months. I have the luxury of enjoying one or two weeks of fresh air before my nose is greeted by the arrival of allergy season, but most of all, I find a new way to give myself (false) hope in the upcoming baseball campaign.

I visit this site daily in hopes of hearing about or discussing something new that is related to blue and orange. And with the common topics having been kicked around more than a pair of flip-flops that are falling apart, I can’t help but think about the second half of the season already. In particular, the starting rotation in August and September.

With seven starters available in the early part of the season, the Mets should not have many rotation decisions to make until June. If one of the top five is injured, they get replaced by #6 and #7, which appear to be Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan, respectively. And in a worst case scenario where injuries leave you with Jenrry Mejia, Dice-K and Lannan as your 3-5 starters, the trio should be able to carry you into June when it would financially make sense to bring up Rafael Montero and/or Noah Syndergaard.

But why be pessimistic to start the season? I want to think of an exciting scenario, ideally after the All-Star break, when we have pitchers at each level, from Savannah to Las Vegas banging on the doors for a promotion.

In this scenario, the Mets have the original seven starters as well as newbies Montero, Syndergaard, and deGrom ready to pitch at Citi Field. For reality’s sake, let’s say of the ten total starters, two are injured and one is performing so poorly, he is no longer considered for a rotation spot. That still leaves SEVEN pitchers to fill in five slots. So let’s go ahead move deGrom to the pen, as relieving is likely his ultimate destination anyway, and we are now down to six pitchers for five slots…or do we have another option?

syndergaard montero

Could the Mets just go with six starters for the remainder of the season? On a team where the top of the rotation is usually significantly better than the bottom half of the rotation, it would not make sense to reduce the number of starts that your #1 and #2 make – but it doesn’t look like that would apply to the Mets in our situation.

A six man rotation could be beneficial by

  • Giving the team the ability to evaluate another starter for next year.
  • Limiting innings gives more recovery time between starts for injury prone pitchers.
  • Limiting innings for younger pitchers helps build their arm strength or keep them from reaching their innings cap.
  • Another bonus is that pitchers who have an extra day of rest increase their effectiveness.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Half of our personnel is not built for the grind of a full season and the other half has never even been through a full big league campaign. Here are the two groups and their injury history plus workload ability.

The disabled list veterans:

  • Colon – He’s been throwing baseballs since before the Stegosaurus became extinct from our ecosystem.
  • Niese – Anyone who successfully acts surprised if he lands on the DL is more Oscar-worthy than Leonardo.
  • Matsuzaka – Two years removed from Tommy John but looked very good this spring.
  • Mejia – Jenrry knows the MRI guy on a first name basis. His career high in IP was in 2012 when he registered 108.2 innings.

The youngsters:

  • Wheeler – Career high in IP is 168 between Triple-A Vegas and the Mets last year.
  • Montero – Career high of 155.1 innings in 2013.
  • Syndergaard – Career high of 117.2 innings in 2013.

The biggest argument against a six man rotation would be the usage of an extra roster spot at the expense of a bench or bullpen player. But would the benefits of a sixth starter outweigh the loss of a utility glove and bat? If the Mets have seven/eight starters in July and none of them get traded then this is an interesting proposition to consider, additionally it’s definitely not a bad problem to have.