Why a Second Half Collapse is Imminent

Shaun Marcum had a rough first start today.  I’m not going to hit the panic button on him yet, after all it’s just one start.  We have Harvey and Niese in the rotation.  If Marcum plays to the back of his baseball card, we don’t have to worry about Gee being anything more than a 4 (or a 5 if Wheeler performs to any level when he eventually gets called up).

The team can muddle around .500 for awhile, and they very well may do that.  But there is one problem that is looming large on the horizon and is already apparent.  The bullpen.

And it’s only going to get worse mid season.

Why?

Overuse.

I’ve never been a proponent of the lefty/righty reliever pitching matchup.  I know the lefty specialist has been a part of the game for quite some time, and while the matchup may work in the short term – unless you have a particularly deep bullpen, it’s going to come back to bite you.

Back before the pitch count, moneyball (where players are taking counts deeper, drawing, walks, and making starting pitchers work harder) and the advent of the role of the middle reliever – team bullpens didn’t need to be as deep.  You could go perfectly well with a 10 man staff with 5 guys in the pen.  Relief pitchers could go more than one inning and because of it, they didn’t pitch every day.  The really good guys in the pen pitched fewer games, but they covered more innings and in the end, the manager got more out of them.

Doing the lefty/righty creates two problems:

1) If you take out a reliever that’s pitching effectively, you run the risk of running out a pitcher that’s going to have an off night.  If you throw out 4 and 5 relievers on any given night in order to get matchups, you’re going to eventually run into a pitcher that doesn’t have it that night and you’re going to blow the game.

2) You burn out the staff.  The individual pitchers may be pitching less in the actual games, but they’re up more in the pen, on more days, and not getting enough rest in between.

While the Mets pen hasn’t been that great, it’s going to get worse.  Not counting today’s game against the Phillies that just concluded, the Mets have played 21 games.

Scott Rice – 12 games

Scott Atchison – 11 games

Brandon Lyon – 10 games

LaTroy Hawkins – 10 games

Josh Edgin – 11 games

Bobby Parnell – 9 games

Their inning total isn’t high, but the number of games is.  Scott Rice let a game slip away the other day when he wasn’t as effective the day after pitching more than an inning.  Had he stayed in another 2/3 of an inning the night before when he was pitching well instead of coming out due to a matchup issue, the Mets would not only have saved themselves from tossing out a tired reliever, they’d have one less appearance on another arm in the pen.

After time, it adds up and will take its toll.  We saw it happen last year.  We saw it happen the year before.  The pen already isn’t that deep and once you burn out the guys at the major league level, the pen is going to be carrying a lot of guys that should be in the minors.

Then the collapse in the second half will happen.

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