The issue of innings caps for Met starting pitchers in 2015 would be mitigated if the Mets thought forward and initiated a six-man starting pitching rotation. For many, the idea of a six man starting pitching rotation is too revolutionary and defies what is believed to be standard protocol in most baseball circles.
Yet, the number of starting pitchers major league teams employ has gradually grown over the years. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s pitchers sometimes started 50 games in a season needing only two days of rest between starts. When rest days increased to three days an additional pitcher was added to the starting rotation. Four-man pitching rotations were vogue as baseball headed into its expansion years in the 1960’s. Then due in great part to Mets pitching coach Rube Walker, the rotation stretched again, this time to five, as innings pitched replaced games started in the definition of a starting pitchers workload.
A six-man rotation might rankle baseball traditionalists, but with the depth of potential starting pitching in the Mets system, they are perfectly positioned to start the 2015 season with six starters.
Why use six starters? With a stockpile of young pitching talent, 2015 is the year the Mets should challenge for a spot in the postseason. Baseball is tipping toward strong power pitching, exactly where the Mets rebuild is centered. Rather than speculate all season long about pitch counts and the potential of shutting down young starters in the rotation, guys like Matt Harvey, returning from elbow surgery, or Jacob deGrom, who faced limited innings in the just finished season, or perhaps even Noah Syndergaard, who might be transitioning from a minor league innings count to a major league workload, Mets starting pitchers could pitch uninterrupted from the start of the season to the finish.
An added day of rest would also help the aging Bartolo Colon, and Jon Niese – who often suffers from tired arm syndrome – would benefit as well. It couldn’t hurt Dillon Gee, who has dealt with his share of injuries throughout his career. There’s a good chance that one or two of these veterans won’t even be here next season, but that brings Rafael Montero into the picture – another youngster whose innings will be limited.
Conceivably, moving to a six man rotation might allow the Mets to amp up the expectation that pitchers regularly work into the seventh or eighth inning of games. This would lessen the load on the bullpen and allow Terry Colons the luxury of mixing and matching his relief pitchers.
Detractors will emphasize the fact that the best pitchers in your rotation will actually have five or six less starts a year. Who would you rather see pitch, Matt Harvey or Dillon Gee (?) they will counter. That’s a valid argument.
In fact, it would be foolhardy to consider stretching a starting pitching rotation from five to six, if you didn’t feel you had a wealth of quality starting pitching. Evaluating the Mets, I do believe they have that kind of starting pitching depth. In using a six man rotation, the Mets can keep someone like Syndergaard on the big league roster rather than return him for another round of pitching at Triple-A, a less than motivating outlook for a promising young pitching prospect.
An additional benefit would be a pitching-rich starting rotation that could easily transition to a five man plan should a starter suffer an injury or simply under-perform. Using a six-man rotation gives the Mets an advantage and positions the team with the flexibility to adjust and adapt to the changing events that impact a 162 game regular baseball season.