Terry Collins Is Going To Get A Pitcher Hurt . . . Again
Despite teams pouring a tremendous amount of money into the topic, no one is still definitive on what causes pitcher injuries. Many will suggest it is fatigue, but even that is inconclusive. The Verducci Effect has been debunked time and again. Moreover, there was a 2003 Nate Silver and Matt Carroll Baseball Prospetus article which suggests the link between fatigue and arm injuries might be overstated. Still, there is evidence there is a link between fatigue and arm injuries. That is especially the case with pitchers over 25.
It is that link that made what Terry Collins did last night inexcusable.
Now, if you want to argue the inning snuck up Collins, you could make that argument. There were two outs in the second inning with Jon Lester coming up. Reasonably, a manager should expect his pitcher to get out of the inning. As we all know, Zack Wheeler didn’t. He grooved a pitch right down the middle to Lester, who hit a single to left. From there the doors fell off and the inning fell apart.
Wheeler was still only 18 pitches deep into the inning when he walked Albert Almora on four straight pitches. However, at this point, it was clear Wheeler was losing it, and to make matters worse, the Cubs lineup had turned over. From there Collins allowed Wheeler to throw 28 more pitches before lifting him for Josh Smoker. In total, Wheeler threw an inexcusable 46 pitches in the second inning.
This is the same Wheeler who missed two years after having Tommy John surgery. This is the same pitcher the Mets were rumored to want to limit to 125 innings this year. You need to be careful with Wheeler. Collins wasn’t. He would then compound his error with Wheeler by abusing Smoker.
Last year, Smoker’s high in pitches thrown in a game was 32. This year, he has already topped that six times. However, last night took the cake. Collins pushed Smoker to pitch four innings throwing 81 pitches. That’s a starter’s workload, not a reliever’s. There was a tangible effect.
Smoker is a pitcher that can get his fastball up to 97 MPH, which he did a couple of times last night. By the time Collins finally lifted Smoker in the sixth inning, he was throwing 89 MPH.
Collins went ahead and asked more from Smoker than he could possibly give. He did it despite the Mets bullpen only having thrown only 6.2 innings over the past four games. That was also despite the fact Jacob deGrom gave the bullpen a night off with his complete game. By the way, the only reason the Mets were able to obtain Smoker was because the Nationals former first round pick was released after two shoulder surgeries.
It’s not that Wheeler and Smoker need to be babied by their manager. Rather, they need their manager to not push them past the breaking point. This is no different than the protection Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Jim Henderson, and any number of pitchers Collins has left in his wake as manager.
In the modern game of baseball, the most important job a manager can do is managing his pitching staff. He needs to do all he can do to get them through a season both healthy and effective. Time and again, Collins has failed in that regard. Last night was the latest example. For his part, Collins has never had to face any ramifications for his actions. Unfortunately, his pitchers have. We should all cross our fingers Wheeler and Smoker will not be the next.