Should Sandy Alderson regret building around pitchers over hitters?

Posted: June 7, 2017 in Future Mets, News, Opinion
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

By Steven Inman


Photo from NY Times

The Mets 2017 season, that started with so much promise, has been completely derailed by injuries to key players. The pitching staff that finished 2016 with the 3rd best ERA in MLB, has been the WORST in the majors with a 5.01 ERA. The pitchers that the front office believed could lead them back to the World Series have all dealt with injuries (Or in Matt Harvey’s case off the field troubles and regression) this season except for Jacob deGrom, who has been decent, but far from the elite arm he’s been the last few seasons. It must make fans wonder if Sandy Alderson and his team creating the blueprint around young pitchers was the right choice.

When Sandy Alderson came to New York, he had the plan of tearing everything down and following the San Francisco Giants mindset, which was to construct a team around one offensive star (Buster Posey for SF, Yoenis Cespedes for NYM) and pretty much all other offensive players were interchangeable, while building around superior pitching. The trio of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner were as formidable as any rotation in baseball for not one or two, but three championships. That model created a borderline dynasty, but it was short lived. Cain never had an ERA under four after his age 27 season, and Tim Lincecum now 32, is out of baseball. The Giants success while impressive, has a stroke of luck attached to it. Looking back on it, all of those postseason innings Cain and Lincecum threw turned out to just be too much mileage on their arms. The club has had a dismal start to 2017.

The Mets like all other franchises, want to make long runs in the postseason every season. The way their pitching has not been able to stay on the field the last few regular seasons, it’s fair to wonder if they’ll have the ability to do that. Even workhorses like Cain and Lincecum were not able to handle that kind of workload going on deep playoff runs after awhile.

Sandy Alderson did an excellent job of following the Giants model. He waited out long and expensive contracts left behind by the previous Met regime and made some shrewd trades to acquire future starters such as Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler. Offensively, Sandy has made it clear in his tenure with the Mets that home runs and walks are the most important traits he wants his position players to have, while defensive range and athleticism haven’t been considered as important. Hopefully for the Mets sake when the team calls up Amed Rosario in a few weeks, they can improve a very poor defense. The Atlanta Braves are also on record saying during their current rebuild that they’re trying to emulate the starting pitching plan the Mets have committed to.

With that said, there aren’t too many teams that build around pitching in today’s game. Obviously, you need quality pitching to win, nobody is disputing that, but with pitchers being as brittle as they ever have been, does it make sense when rebuilding to build a core around arms? Or does it make more sense when rebuilding with prospects to go after young hitters over pitching like the current Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs went with the opposite strategy of the Mets and Giants, selecting position players at the front ends of drafts such as Kris Bryant & Kyle Schwarber and trading big league pitching for Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo. The Houston Astros also have a nice young core of position players such as George Springer, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. The ‘Stros have enjoyed the majors best record to start 2017.

The story of this Mets era, built around the arms of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler is far from over but at this point it’s a legitimate question if this group can stay healthy enough to win the franchise’s first World Series since 1986. The 5 starters mentioned, who the Mets were hoping would anchor their pitching staff for the next decade, have never pitched a single turn in the same rotation.

When all is said and done will the Mets regret building around pitching over hitting?

  1. Mike Young says:

    Steve – It is certainly looking like the Mets rotation plan for the short and long term isn’t working. I do think Thor will come back strong, de Grom will rebound and Wheeler should at least be a strong third or fourth starter. Matz’s durability is a concern and Harvey has to figure out how to pitch when his velocity isn’t what it used to be. What puzzles me is why with all the relief options that were available during the recent off season, SA waited until they were all gone except Salas and Blevins and signed them both at a lower rate than all the other relievers then gone had signed for. In an era where 100 pitches, usually 6 innings, is the norm it should be understood that a strong BP is a must if a team is going to be successful during the season and post season. As for position players the Cubs have gone that route and have signed starters who were not home grown rookies for them. That takes money because pitchers like Scherzer, Arrietta, Lester, Greinke etc. don’t come cheap. So, it comes down to money which not only must be spent to win it needs to be spent judiciously. In hind sight, Wright was a bad investment and the now the over 30 Cespedes has been on the DL while the Mets languish. Its not an easy question for the Mets but the NYY seem to have done the right thing – so far – in the right way which included signing Chapman, also on the DL, for 84 million. Maybe just maybe a NL DL would favorably change how the Mets plan their team make up. Thanks, Mike

    • Steven Inman says:

      All very good points Mike, I liked the Mets bringing back Salas and Blevins and I think both have pitched very well (Salas has just been severely overworked which is hurting his recent numbers). They obviously should have brought in some more help and they didn’t have to break the bank to do that. For example we talked over the winter about how former Met Joe Smith would have made sense to bring back. He winded up signing for just $3M, a week before Spring Training. Smith has a 3.41 ERA in Toronto with 47 strikeouts in just 31.2 IP. The Mets could have bargain basement shopped and potentially improved the bullpen.

      With that said, I understand starters are 6 innings, 100 pitches then out of the game but the Mets starters aren’t even giving Terry and company that. The Mets starters are 21st in innings pitched. All but one of the teams with less innings than the Mets are under .500. That is no coincidence.

      All of the best bullpens in baseball are ones that don’t get overworked on a nightly basis. Blevins, Reed and Salas have all been severely overworked. The Mets can’t get back in this race if their starters don’t start going much deeper into games.

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