Reese Kaplan -- Fomenting Bullpen Burnout?

A lot was written this week about the bullpen mismanagement of the current Mets skipper who seems sometimes to ride certain pitchers until they break down completely.  He seemed to have forgotten on Wednesday that Rafael Montero was active after Campbell was sent down.

However, even in non-critical scenarios he has been known to have multiple relief pitchers warm up in the same innings to face just one or two batters as a matter of course.  He's often been accused of treating every game as if it's the 7th game of the World Series and that level of intensity led to his problems with both the Astros and Angels.  He's mellowed in many respects but not when it comes to managing his bullpen.  It got me to thinking about the track record of injuries to relief pitchers since Collins took over as manager. 

For now we’re limiting the history to people who were used primarily in relief and who sustained injuries to their arms, shoulders or other pitching-related maladies.  It would leave off Jerry Blevins, for example, whose two incidents of broken arms were not the result of overuse and Taylor Buchholz whose DL stint was not a physical problem. 

So here in alphabetical order are pitchers who missed significant amounts of time due to injury during the period of 2011 to 2015 which corresponds to the current manager making the choices of who and how often to use members of the bullpen:

  • David Aardsma – can’t fault Collins too much on him as he was damaged upon arrival and working his way back (much like starter Chris Jones)
  • Scott Atchison – shoulder woes
  • Vic Black – you name it, he had it
  • Tim Byrdak – a torn meniscus and an anterior capsule injury
  • Buddy Carlyle – various ailments
  • Josh Edgin – lost to TJS
  • Dana Eveland – shoulder woes
  • Erik Goeddel – mostly shoulder and lat problems
  • Jeremy Hefner – used primarily as a reliever as a rookie in 2012, he was more of a starter in 2013 but succumbed to TJS
  • Danny Herrera – lost to TJS
  • Jack Leathersich – lost to TJS
  • Jenrry Mejia – various physical maladies
  • Rafael Montero – last year’s still a mystery but he has had various problems in the majors he never had in the minors
  • Bobby Parnell – lost to TJS
  • Scott Rice – the poster child for bullpen burnout, he was lost to TJS

By my count that’s 15 players in 5 years or an average of 3 per year.  3 pitchers in total for a staff might be acceptable, but we’re only talking about bullpen arms.  We didn’t get into the 134 pitch no-hitter of Johan Santana, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and others. 

Some is just beyond the control of the manager when a pitcher changes his mechanics or simply overstresses a part of his body.  Scott Rice, however, is a classic example of how overuse can destroy a pitcher’s career. 

While it would be necessary to do a similar analysis of all 29 other major league teams, the numbers look kind of ugly.  It would be interesting to see how the Mets compare to the rest of MLB.  It may be that it is indeed average or even better than average, but at first glance it seems like an awful lot of damaged arms. 


Anonymous said...

Pedro Feliciano aka Perpetual Pedro??

Reese Kaplan said...

Same pattern but he was done by the time Collins got to him. His last monster year in terms of usage was 2010 and the new regime took over in 2011.

Tom Brennan said...

I believe our team's bullpen injuries are high side. Maybe we lead the league in something.

Stubby said...

Yeah...not buying it in the least. Not even a little bit. I do think the Mets could benefit from a better conditioning program, but I don't lay any of this on Collins. Your list is padded, to begin with, by including Montero who even you say has had no physical issues--he just hasn't succeeded at the major league level. Yet. Lots of talented players never do. Vic Black's shoulder and arm injuries preceded his acquisition by the Mets. Scott Rice HAD no career before coming to the Mets and he was over 30 by then. And he was out there pitching with a hernia which he, apparently, didn't disclose to the club. Dana Eveland, Buddy Carlyle same thing--over 30 and Buddy (who has Type 1 diabetes, btw) went out and saved that opening day game even though he felt something wrong with his arm while warming up. Scott Atchison was, what, 180 years old when he pitched for us? 185? Herrera was toast by the time we got him, too.

There are coaches, trainers, and pitchers who will tell you that the problem modern pitchers have is that they don't pitch enough, not that they pitch too much. I think that answer is overly simplistic as well.

The only one I'd agree that the Mets "broke" is Mejia. Taking a kid that young and moving him back and forth from the pen to the rotation to the pen to the rotation to the pen...I said at the time that was a huge mistake. Not that anyone agreed with me. He's a professional ballplayer, they said. If he can't handle that, then he shouldn't be in the pros to begin with. Now...whether you lay that one on Terry or the GM...take tour pick. Personally, I think the organization failed Mejia from the top to the bottom (and then, of course, it appears he failed himself).

What's important to pitchers is routine, that they know their roles and are used accordingly. Relief pitchers expect to throw everyday, whether its in the game, in the pen, or just on the sidelines. Starters expect to pitch every 5th day and to get in some throwing on the inbetween day (basically, they'll going to throw every other day). And I don't fault the manager when he asks a player if they are OK and that player lies and says yes when they're not.

I'm not a huge Collins fan. And I might have been the one voice out there screaming at the TV in Game Five that Harvey had no business going out to the mound in the 9th. Not one pitch. He was obviously done. I saw it. Hell, Terry saw it. And all the apologists who said and say, well, you have to let him go back out there for at least one batter...then you pull him--all of those people were and are wrong. By that point, he had nothing. He'd been getting by on smoke and mirrors since the sixth.

But, no. Outside of Mejia, I can't lay any of this on Collins or the Mets. I don't happen to think Terry's a good fit for this type of team anymore, but I don't find him remotely responsible for the pitching injuries we've had.

Reese Kaplan said...

Stubby, you raise some excellent points. Thank you for your contributions.

I said I wasn't sure if it was all on Collins or on pitchers altering their mechanics, nor did I know how the Mets compare to other teams.

I will observer, however, that the manager tends to ride the hot hand WAY too long, often while others get dusty from lack of use. That's been a pattern since day one. How many innings did Sean Gilmartin get in relief last year? 52 -- about 2 innings per week.

Stubby said...

Gilmartin was a starter coming back from an injury. As a Rule V pick, he had to remain with the major league squad all year. But he needed yo be used judiciously because A) he was coming back from an injury and B) his future was always going to be as a starter. He was a first round pick of the Braves, originally, and--aside from his injury--hasn't done anything that suggests he should not succeed as a starter. He should be a 2 or a 3, ultimately. Doesn't sound like much when you've got at least 3 number ones, possibly 4 (I see Wheeler as a 2). Anyway, I think Terry used Gilmartin just right.

You go back and look at any Mets manager and the fans are always hyper critical of how the pitchers are used by whomever the manager happens to be at the time. That includes Gil Hodges, though you wouldn't know that if you weren't around at the time. As an aside, I just happened to be reading the "memories" section of the "Ultimate Mets Database" on Art Howe, yesterday. Fairly instructive, as the comments unfolded in real time. The Mets were brilliant to have hired such a winning manager...until the season started. Then Art "evolved" into the worst manager ever.

I tend to believe that the people who actually have these jobs know a far sight more than the people watching. As the old saying goes, those who can do, those who can't teach, and those who can't do or teach criticize those who do. I'm guilty, too. I've never been high on Terry as an in-game manager. At the end of the day, though, in-game, a manager makes very little difference. The best of them get you maybe two extra wins a year and the worst don't cost you more than that. As for over-use, I haven't seen anyone who had Billy Martin's knack for destroying a pitching staff. And there are plenty of very smart baseball people who don't think he over used his pitchers, either.

Metsiac said...

And in his first 2 starts in hitters paradise (aka Vegas) he's got an ERA under ONE! Terry must've really ruined him. ��

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