October baseball may still be a dream for Mets fans, but for Mickey Callaway and company it’s not too early to start planning for the extra tax on the pitching staff that will add innings and stress to these tender arms in the playoffs.
It’s April, and I’m already thinking about October. Premature? Yes and no. But the part that is yes demands attention now. It calls for a ready-made plan that is primarily drawn up by Mickey Callaway to maintain the health (to the degree he can) of the Mets pitching staff over the next 150 games. This, with an eye towards the added stress to cover as many as 130-150 innings, depending on how the playoffs go for the Mets in 2018.
Roughly speaking, the New York Mets need only to finish the rest of the remaining 150 or so games nine games over .500 to finish with 90 wins for the season, which should be more than enough to get into the playoffs crapshoot. Whether that happens or not is anybody’s guess, but the odds indeed are in the Mets favor.
At the moment, the Mets are flying high, and the Five Aces are all healthy and productive. The bullpen has the second lowest ERA in the majors (1.57), and Jeurys Familia would finish the season with an unlikely 130 saves at the rate he’s going.
Jason Vargas is moving along steadily in his rehab, and all signs are pointing to Callaway needing to make six equal five (starters) in the next week or so. Meaning someone will be dropped from the rotation to make room for Vargas, who as a lefty provides the Mets with some balance to their right-handed dominated staff.
Either Matt Harvey or Steven Matz are the most likely candidates to be dropped, not because they haven’t pitched well, but because they haven’t pitched enough in their starts, causing the bullpen to pick up those unfinished innings.
Maybe Callaway could go another way, though. While not officially turning to a six-man rotation, perhaps two or three planned skipped starts for Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, the two heavy hitters on the staff, would benefit the Mets in October when the dual aces are needed most.
The salient point is the Mets do not want to see either or both Syndergaard or deGrom finishing the regular season already having pitched 200 innings if they can help it. Injuries and the possibility of stealing the NL East from the Nationals might be a factor down the road, but that is no reason to delay in formulating a plan now to have these two in top form come October.
Familia may be a horse, but the bullpen needs the same attention. What began as a closer by committee plan hasn’t worked out that way because of how the off days and rainouts have affected the schedule, allowing Callaway to use Familia as much as he has.
But this can’t go on forever, and someone else will need to be called on to step up to the ninth inning. Gsellman is a possibility, but again it’s something Callaway needs to decide sooner rather than later to preserve Familia for when he (too) will be required most.
The Mets play ’em one at a time. But management is charged with the responsibility of looking ahead and always being ready with Plan B, and these days even a Plan C to keep the team afloat and thriving at all times.
The Mets are fortunate, though, to have picked a manager whose specialty is handling a pitching staff. For Mickey Callaway, he should be in all his glory in being able to pull strings on the Mets staff while answering to no one as was the case when he was the pitching coach at Cleveland.
In his head at least, I’m betting Callaway had this all figured out two weeks ago, at least in pencil. And all that remains for the rest of us is too how he plays it out.