Over the weekend, Newsday’s Marc Carig broke some interesting news about the New York Mets’ new rotation strategy. The Mets are now planning on limiting their starters to only two times through the batting order due to statistics indicating they are dramatically less effective beyond that. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom will be the exceptions to this rule, but on a fundamental level it makes sense. Fewer outs would put less stress on the starter’s arms, allowing them to stay healthier and be more effective. This would also allow the Mets to plan out their bullpen strategy in advance, allowing them to more optimally use their relievers to ensure no one is overworked.
The theory is interesting, but in order to implement it effectively the Mets need to do the following things:
Hope that deGrom and Syndergaard can consistently go deep into games: The Mets will need deGrom and Syndergaard to average over six innings a start if this plan will be successful. Both pitchers are capable of going deep into games on a regular basis, and if they stay healthy this shouldn’t be a problem.
Add More Quality Relievers: The Mets are planning to go to an eight man bullpen full time to support this strategy, but in order for it to work the Mets need a lot of quality arms. The bullpen currently has three top arms in Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos, and lefty Jerry Blevins. The Mets are looking for a fourth in free agency, with Bryan Shaw a top target of General Manager Sandy Alderson. Stopping at four quality arms isn’t enough, and the Mets will need at least one more quality relief pitcher so their best arms don’t get overworked. Having the starters come out after two trips through the order won’t work if the Mets are relying heavily on the likes of Hansel Robles and Paul Sewald to get big outs.
Be Flexible: While the general rule of thumb will be to get starters out quicker, the Mets need to be flexible with this plan. If Zack Wheeler or Steven Matz is throwing a gem and gets through the order very efficiently, the Mets should let them get deeper into the game on occasion.
This experiment, if the Mets fully commit to it, will be a truly modern use of “bullpenning”. This type of bullpen usage is highly prevalent in the playoffs, when more off days are built into the calendar. Doing it over the course of the regular season, when the Mets will play 162 games in roughly 186 days, will be a real challenge.