Was There a Right Way to Handle Harvey?

We knew going into this season the Mets that Matt Harvey was going to be on an innings limit. Recently, the reports have been that the Mets have been informed that Harvey shouldn’t go over 180 innings. 

After last night’s win, Harvey sits at 166.1 innings meaning he has 18.2 innings remaining. That’s roughly the equivalent of three six inning starts. Not counting October, it appears Harvey has three starts remaining in the regular season. This assumes a six man rotation and the Mets announced plans to skip another start. At least, the skipped start won’t be against the Nationals. Therefore, it seems that Harvey will finish within his limits. 

Now, these are the things you can do when you have a 6.5 game lead with a weak schedule. This is a luxury you have when Matt Williams is derailing the Nationals season. My issue is what would have happened if the Nationals were closer in the standings. Better yet, what will happen if the National sweep the Mets next week and make it a race?

Do the Mets still need to skip Harvey’s start?  They have really painted themselves in a corner. They didn’t need to be in this situation.  

The Mets could have started Harvey later in the season, but the Mets wouldn’t have missed out on the increased attendance and financial boon. Keep in mind, the Mets set their rotation to pitch Harvey on the second home game instead of Opening Day at Citi Field. It was a business rather than a baseball move. 

Also, there were ample opportunities all year to skip Harvey. Looking over his starts, he’s pitched consistently well all year with the exception of a somewhat rough stretch from May 23rd to June 10th. On these two days, he allowed seven earned runs. In the other two starts, he pitched fairly well. However, with the rough stretch, it might’ve been a good time for a breather. It should also be noted that after this stretch, he was lights out. 

Furthermore, there were chances for Harvey to pitch less innings in a number of starts. However, I will say this is not one area we should focus on too much. Harvey is averaging 6.2 innings per start. I think we can all agree you don’t want a starter going less than six innings. If Harvey was limited to only 6 innings per start, that would’ve only saved him 16.1 innings or two plus starts. 

I acknowledge it’s a delicate balance. You want to stretch Harvey out. He’s a horse. You want to ride him for seven plus innings. Plus, his performance this year has merited him going deep into games. I have no problem with him going 166.1 innings (or 6.2 innings per start) in his starts. 

The Mets have good team doctor. It may not seem that way because they don’t always follow medical advice or even seek it out. However, when you do receive it, you need to follow that advice. The Mets didn’t with their most valuable asset. 

I’m not saying the Mets should shut down Harvey like the Nationals did with Steven Strasburg. I would also point out the Cardinals treated Adam Wainwright different than the Nationals did after Wainwright’s Tommy John surgery. After Wainwright’s 2011 surgery, he pitched 198.0 regular season innings with an additional 15.0 postseason innings. That’s 213 innings or 33 innings more than what Harvey’s doctors recommend. 

The next two years Wainwright was an All Star pitching 241.2 and 227.0 innings respectively. He finished second and third in Cy Young voting respectively. It should be noted he had a balky elbow in 2014, and he needed offseason surgery on the elbow to clean up cartilage, which may or may not be related to the Tommy John surgery. My presumption is it isn’t, but that’s conjecture, not fact. We do know Wainwright’s season ending injury this year is unrelated. 

So what was the right call?  Do you pitch him all year like Wainwright?  Do you limit his innings like Strasburg?  Both of these pitchers have had injuries since, but it’s not like the subsequent injuries were necessarily related to their Tommy John surgeries. 

What we do know is even with the six man rotations and missed starts, the minute Harvey takes the mound in October, he’s definitely passing his innings limits. Every individual and pitcher is different. Every plan for dealing with post-Tommy John surgery is different.  It’s amazing with all of the surgeries we’ve seen there is still no clear cut rehabilitation plan. 

That’s part of the problem with Harvey. There’s no plan or road map. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that this plan is elite correct one. There’s a lot riding on it. 

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