Over the past week, the most frequently asked questions dealt with the Mets starting pitching. In the latest edition of the MMO Mailbag, we tackle the two most representative questions asked by our readers:
@MetsWS18 asks . . .
What are the chances of Steven Matz starting the year in Triple-A?
John replies . . .
If you asked me before the beginning of Spring Training, I would have pulled a Francesca and gone on a rant about it never happening, tell you to stop wasting my time with questions like this, and wave my hand for Monzo to hang up on you. Like Francesca, I would have had to quickly backtrack and pretend like I never said it.
Right now, it is very fair to question what the Mets will do with Matz. Yes, we should always disregard Spring Training stats, even ugly stats like a 54.00 ERA and a 7.20 WHIP. However, what we should not disregard is how a pitcher is throwing.
With Matz, we see him having trouble locating his pitches, and we still have not seen his velocity come all the way back. That’s problematic.
If Matz should continue these struggles, he’s going to create a window of opportunity for either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo to claim the last open rotation spot. In that scenario, I believe it is more likely the Mets assign Matz to Extended Spring Training than have him start the year in Las Vegas.
However, it is still just March 7th. There is still plenty of time for Matz to pull himself together and be the pitcher we know he can be. If he is, he should be in the Opening Day rotation because, in reality, he’s definitively one of the five best starting pitchers in the Mets organization.
Joe Friday asks . . .
Question for you, how realistic is it to go with a six man rotation? Doesn’t that actually put more pressure on the bullpen because in lieu of having seven guys you are now down to six, and it only takes one early extra-inning game to upset your whole plan for a given week thus leaving you to play catch-up or moving guys up and down on the 40 man?
John Replies . . .
This is a fun question because we have heard Mickey Callaway give two wildly different answers to the question of whether the Mets would use a six-man rotation or not.
In February, Callaway said, “We may go to a six-man rotation at some point to give guys a break when we can. I pitched over in Asia, and when you start pitching every sixth day, it is a hundred times easier. It really is. I think we have enough depth to make those adjustments.” (Kevin Kernan, New York P0st).
After the Mets signed Jason Vargas, Callaway changed tune saying, “Now that they’ve added more off-days, that can be challenging to actually pitch six pitchers, because then guys are pitching on their seventh day and things like that. And that’s probably a little too long to keep guys in.”
Personally, I don’t see the Mets or any MLB team going to a six-man rotation for a full season.
The first reason is it’s too expensive. Year-in and year-out, we see back-end starters get more money than some of the best pitchers in the bullpen. For example, this offseason, we saw Tyler Chatwood, a starting pitcher with a career 105 ERA+, receive a three-year, $38 million contract. The Cubs also signed Brandon Morrow, who has put up a 212 ERA+ over the past two seasons, to a two-year, $21 million deal to be the team’s closer.
As we have seen this offseason, teams are increasingly becoming more restraint in their spending. Since starters are more expensive than relievers, it is likely we will not see teams add a sixth starter.
Other than the balance sheet, another reason why we won’t see a six-man rotation is the recent emphasis on “bullpenning.” To effectuate that, teams will need more arms in the bullpen, not less.
Ultimately, we may see a six-man rotation at different points in the season to help the pitching staff get rest when it needs it. If you are looking for a blueprint, look no further than what the Mets did in 2015 when, by some miracle, their top pitchers remained healthy for a full season. Put more simply, the six-man rotation will be utilized more to find a starter a day of rest at different points of the season and not for extended periods of time.
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Hopefully, you enjoyed this mailbag as much as I enjoyed answering your questions. Keep the questions and comments coming and make sure to send them to AskMMO@metsmerizedonline.com