The Mets went into spring training with a starting rotation that was the envy of almost every other team. Since the season started it has been mostly in shambles with only Jacob deGrom avoiding the disabled list.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Friday that the greater trend of pitching injuries in the game could cause major shifts in coming years. He sees durability becoming more important in evaluating pitchers and the current emphasis on pitching velocity being reduced.
“I think what you’ll find over the next several years is clubs will be more interested in ‘pack horses’ instead of ‘thoroughbreds’ because it’s about being able to go out . . . and get 30 starts,” Alderson said during a panel at Citi Field for the 2017 SABR Analytics Conference.
Asked a question about the impact of playing year-round youth baseball, Alderson said that “there’s quite a bit of evidence that overuse at a young age can have a really negative impact” and riffed about the velocity trend.
“We’re starting to see now baseball schools that are emphasizing velocity above all else. They use programs with weighted balls to build velocity,” he said. “I am not blaming those schools because what is baseball looking for in pitchers? Velocity. But I do think at some point you’ll see a trend back to ‘pitchability’ versus velocity Why? Because velocity often leads to injury.
“The things that might be the difference between good pitching and great pitching may also be the difference between health and an injury.”
With Mets pitchers hit especially hard by injuries, it is probably no surprise that the GM is craving durability. However, he cited a statistic that only one in every five big-league starts lasts at least seven innings.
“If you have a rotation that’s five pitchers, based on the major-league averages only one is going to get through seven innings every time you go through the rotation.,” he said. “It means there is a greater emphasis on the bullpen and it’s not just about the quality. It’s also about the quantity of innings they have to pitch.”
Mets relievers have had to do more than planned. Jerry Blevins leads all NL pitchers with 42 appearances and, during June, has been asked to face more hitters per appearance. Blevins had 13 appearances where he pitched an inning or more and seven of them came in June as others in the bullpen showed signs of fatigue.
“We had this elite starting rotation — now that’s gone,” Alderson said. “The thing we had to adjust to is now we’re just like the rest of the league.”