Mets' success hinges on a six-man rotation

Jacob deGrom wavered Friday.

One of the pitchers who had not been happy with the idea of the Mets changing his regular routine, deGrom was definitely more open to listening after the injury-plagued 2016 Mets season. The righthander said that he would listen if the Mets come to him this spring to say that they are changing things up.

“I like pitching on every fifth day, but if that’s the plan, then that’s what we’re going to do. I’ve made the statements that (Robert) Gsellman and (Seth) Lugo have done a great job,” deGrom said of the two rookies who stepped in and saved the Mets’ injury-savaged rotation in 2016. “That’s how I got my opportunity; somebody got hurt and getting to fill in. I can’t say enough about those guys, so if they want to fill those guys in and give us every six days, then that’s what they want to do.

“If it helps keep us healthy, then I am for it.”

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The Mets need to take this opportunity and start with a six-man rotation at day one of spring training — and commit to it for most of the 2017 season.

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Jacob deGrom says that health is the Mets’ No. 1 priority.

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Mets protected their golden young arms — deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz — with innings limits and scheduled rest through the minors and early in their major league careers. They were able to use a six-man rotation and extra rest through some of 2015 — while trying not to use the term and rankle the starters who cling to the tradition of five-day routines — to get a rested rotation into the World Series.

If 2016 showed the Mets anything, it’s the importance of having rested, healthy starters. They lost deGrom, Matz and Harvey to season-ending injuries and are still waiting for Zack Wheeler to make his way back from March 2015 Tommy John surgery.

After protecting these young arms as they rose through the ranks, the Mets should take the extra step and set out the plan from the first day of spring training for these pitchers. Enough with tradition and routines, let them work through the discomfort in spring and commit to what is not such a crazy idea.

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While some in baseball dispute the correlation between injury and rest between starts, Rob Arthur of 538.com looked at statisitcs of injuries and days rest for starters from 2006 to 2014 and saw a link. He found that with five-days rest, standard for six-man rotations, just 0.8 percent of pitchers suffered an injury in the next 14 days. That is a 20% decrease in risk of injury from the normal four-day rest routine.

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Noah Syndergaard was the last young Mets’ pitcher standing as Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom both saw their season’s halted early due to surgery.

(Howard Simmons/New York Daily News)

The Mets should play those odds.

With deGrom, Harvey and Matz coming off season-ending surgery and realizing how fleeting their career can be with injuries, now is the time to talk to them. Wheeler will be on an innings limit anyway in his first season back from surgery and Noah Syndergaard even admitted that seeing his fellow starters go down with injuries made him decide to rest this winter and not pitch in the World Baseball Classic. The Mets’ starters are ready to listen to the argument.

With Gsellman and Lugo ready to step in, the Mets have the manpower and unique talent from No.1 starter to No. 5 to pull this off. They would have tried last season if injuries hadn’t piled up, but making a commitment in 2017 could help them get out in front of that.

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Earlier this week the team committed $110 million over the next four years to bring back Yoenis Cespedes. That timing lines up with the window the Mets have with these young pitchers. Harvey is scheduled to become a free agent in 2018 and then the Mets’ window will begin closing.

Robert Gsellman

Robert Gsellman

(Frank Franklin II/AP) Seth Lugo

Seth Lugo

(Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Robert Gsellman (l.) and Seth Lugo emerged last season as reliable rotation arms.

“We see the window,” deGrom said. “That’s the goal. It’s every team’s goal. Every team is out there trying to win a World Series. Now we have a good opportunity.”

At least Friday, deGrom seemed to understand that the opportunity to win a World Series is directly connected to the Mets’ pitchers’ staying healthy and ready to pitch on their day.

“I think health is the biggest thing,” said deGrom, who said he would start throwing for the first time next week. “I think that’s what everybody wants to do, go out there stay fit and compete. Let’s see Harvey, me, Matz, Wheeler, I think everyone of those guys wants to get out there and compete every fifth day.”

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Old habits for pitchers are hard to break, but the Mets should take this opportunity to do it now. Getting out there every sixth day would be much better for deGrom and the Mets.

Tags:
mlb
new york mets
jacob degrom
matt harvey
noah syndergaard
steven matz
zack wheeler
sports injuries
tommy john surgery

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