If there’s ever been a team that could benefit from going to a six-man rotation the 2015 Mets could be that team.
Here are a few reasons why:
ü Matt Harvey-The returning young gun ace, who missed all of 2014, is coming back with a new ulnar ligament in his prized right arm.
ü Bartolo Colon-last year’s 15-game winner turns 42 in May and hurled over 200 innings for the first time since W was president.
ü Jonathan Niese-the rotations only southpaw, who has a partially torn rotator cuff, is coming off a season where he threw the second highest inning total of his career.
ü Dillon Gee a lat strain sidelined their #5 starter for six weeks last season.
ü Jacob DeGrom-their 2014 ROY pitched a career high innings last season and has already had one TJS while in the minors.
ü Noah Syndegaard-the system’s top prospect, who is expected to make his MLB debut by summer will be on an innings limit and could have a crucial role down the stretch if the Mets are chasing a wild card birth.
Add to that mix #3 starter Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero and rising southpaw prospect Steven Matz. That gives them 8 options for 5 spots. Syndegaard and Matz will start the year in Vegas, so barring anything unforeseen, the first couple of months they won’t be a factor. As for Montero, he will most likely be the long man out of the Mets bullpen.
I’m not saying that a six man rotation isn’t without its faults. For one thing, they ruin the timing of starting pitchers who normally rest four days between starts. They also don't allow a staff ace to pitch as often as he normally would. It also can cause issues with your bullpen-forcing you to choose between playing with either one less reliever or one guy on the bench. These are legitimate concerns. But so are the things I listed above with each pitcher. The team has six good starters to rely on so rather than put one of them out in the bullpen, why not use all six and hope the extra rest for each starter helps.
I can at least say that six-man rotations hypothetically could help. They'd reduce injuries by reducing the number of starts and, by extension, the number of innings handled by each starter. In a five-man rotation a starter averages 32.4 starts a game and in a 6-man rotation it’s 27. As you can see by the chart below (2011-2014) this wouldn’t impact the Mets too much. Niese has made between 26-30, Gee 17-32, Wheeler 32 in his first full year in the majors, Colon 26-31, deGrom 29 combined last year, and Harvey topped out at 26 in ’11 and ’13.
Starts 2011-2014 *(includes Minor League starts too)
Personally I think that Niese can be more effective making between 25-27 starts, it also allows extra rest for his troublesome shoulder. If the Mets went with a five- man rotation, Gee, a solid MLB-starter, might only make a handful of starts-depending on heath or effectiveness of the other starters-but in a six-man he’s good for 25-27. Wheeler throws a lot of pitches in his starts and having an extra day off could help him avoid any arm fatigue. How many starts can you get out of 42 year old arm? I feel more comfortable trying to coax 25-27 successful starts from Colon than 30-32. deGrom could probably pick up one or two of Harvey’s tarts, giving him 28-30. As for Harvey? His innings limit will probably be around 150-160 innings so you could count on probably 22-25 starts.
I didn’t include Montero, Thor or Matz because each are a wild card. You really don’t know what trades or injuries could occur to impact how much a role any of the trio may play as a Met starter this year.
How the Met starters fare on 4-6+ days of rest:
Harvey w-l era gs
4 days 5-5 3.07 19
5 days 3-4 2.25 10
6+ days 4-1 0.77 7
Niese w-l era gs
4 days 22-23 4.08 66
5 days 21-19 3.42 57
6+ days 9-9 4.26 25
deGrom w-l era gs
4 days 3-2 3.17 10
5 days 5-2 2.08 9
6+ days 1-2 3.15 3
Colon w-l era gs
4 days 108-73 3.67 219
5 days 61-45 4.55 142
6+ days 31-21 3.72 70
Wheeler w-l era gs
4 days 12-5 2.81 26
5 days 5-8 4.71 16
6+ days 1-3 3.69 7
Gee w-l era gs
4 days 19-19 4.08 53
5 days 11-10 3.86 29
6+ days 10-5 3.40 20
A small sample size but overall Met pitchers have fared well on 6 games between starts.
Also bear in mind, that the Mets two best pitchers, Harvey and deGrom both have had TJS. In Harvey’s case, you want to manage his innings this season but don’t want to shut him down for any period of time. The Mets will need every win they can get if they hope to snag one of the Wild Cards.
A six-man rotation can go a long way to both keeping him pitching on a regular basis, and at the same time, allowing him to stay within whatever innings limit the team gives him. The Mets wouldn’t lose much as far as quality starters by adding a sixth rotation spot either. They are deep and have a nice mix of experienced vets as well as high ceiling youth to choose from. Adding a sixth starter, Gee, for example, wouldn’t weaken the starting rotation. It would also allow Niese extra rest for his troublesome shoulder, maximize the starts of the 40 something Colon, who faded in August and September last year.
The 2015 Mets need to keep close in the Wild Card race and then have its best five or six ready to carry them through September into a shot at the post-season. Of course, by then, you could be looking at Syndegaard and Matz added to the mix. Inserting one, or both, into a six-man rotation would keep them from being shut down for any innings limit reason. Personally, I am a fan of a 4 man/spot starter kind of rotation but I really believe that this season is an exception, for the reasons I talk about, and the Mets should seriously consider going with a six-man rotation in 2015.