Sunday, July 28, 2013

Why A Pitch Limit Is Better Than An Innings Limit

Photo by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus

The Mets have stated that Matt Harvey is going to be capped at around 210 innings.  Similarly, Zack Wheeler will have his season come to an end when he reaches 185 innings.  As of today, Harvey has competed 145 innings, while Wheeler has tossed 108 innings between AAA-Las Vegas and the Mets.  That leaves approximately ten starts for both Harvey and Wheeler to reach their innings limit.

But is an innings limit really the best way to prevent a young pitcher from overexerting himself?  Wouldn't a pitch limit be a more accurate way to shield Harvey and Wheeler from potential injuries?  Allow me to explain.

On Friday night, Matt Harvey pitched eight beautiful innings against Washington, allowing an unearned run while throwing only 99 pitches.  Meanwhile, on July 20, Zack Wheeler was only able to pitch 4⅔ innings versus Philadelphia, needing 106 pitches before he was removed from the game.  Although Wheeler threw seven more pitches than Harvey did, Harvey pitched 3⅓ innings more than Wheeler, who was not nearly as effective with his pitches as his more experienced colleague.  However, the extra innings would go towards Harvey's innings limit, getting him closer to his final outing of the season, while Wheeler's shorter effort would give him a few extra innings to play with.

In all, Wheeler has thrown 1,996 pitches in 20 starts between Las Vegas and New York, averaging 18.4 pitches per inning and 100 pitches per start.  Meanwhile, Harvey has made 21 starts for the Mets, throwing 2,198 pitches - an average of 15.2 pitches per inning and 105 pitches per start.  That means Wheeler throws nearly 30 extra pitches than Harvey does for every nine innings pitched.

Assuming Wheeler and Harvey stay on their current pitch per inning pace, Wheeler will have thrown over 3,400 pitches when he reaches his 185-inning limit.  Harvey, on the other hand, will have thrown fewer than 3,200 pitches at the 210-inning mark.  That's over 200 extra pitches thrown by Wheeler, or the equivalent of two additional starts.

Matt Harvey has been an innings eater for the Mets in 2013, pitching into the seventh inning in 17 of his 21 starts.  Meanwhile, Wheeler has thrown a pitch in the seventh inning in only three of his 20 starts.

As two of the Mets' top young pitchers, it's a good thing that Harvey and Wheeler are being protected by the team.  The Mets are right to make sure they don't overexert themselves so early into their careers.  However, when one pitcher is more effective at limiting his pitches per inning than the other, he should be rewarded for his effectiveness.  Therefore, an innings limit for Harvey actually hurts him because he goes deep into games more regularly than a pitcher like Wheeler, who labors more in his innings.

An innings limit is a good idea, but a pitch limit is far more effective.  The Mets would be better served to implement the latter limit than the former if they want to be fair to Matt Harvey and conservative with Zack Wheeler.

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