As we turn the calendar to March, we look at the Mets pitching staff, and we have almost full health. Jacob Degrom got a stiff back the other day, but all signs point to him being just fine. Yet there seems to be a narrative being pushed that it almost mocking, that the New York Mets have this innate ability (or disability) to not not stay healthy. The narrative among many fans and writers is that this collection of Mets pitchers has demonstrated a beyond typical rate of injury for a long enough body of work (or not work), that the idea of the pitching staff experiencing an injury rate this upcoming season that is MLB average, is not only unreliable or unlikely, but downright laughable.
I get that many Mets fans can end up being a jaded bunch. This is no Yankee experience, filled with glory and aura of inevitable greatness. The New York Mets aura of incompetence or mismanagement or consistent losing has taken decades to take on it’s full form. But that feeling of negativity can sometimes overshadow the reality.
The reality, is that all pitching is frail and ephemeral. Why is there no Yankee narrative on the frailty of their pitchers? Both Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda were recent high-end investments only to be derailed by torn UCLs. Has CC Sabathia been the picture of durability the last few years? Why don’t we remember that Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Joba Chamberlain were supposed to be the next great Yankee things for a decade? Phil Hughes is making his way back from a second surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome with the Twins, injury robbed Joba Chamberlain if his high octane fastball years ago, and Ian Kennedy, well he’s durable but just not very good. The bottom line is, the Yankees have used both financial muscle and a top-notch player development system to overcome these injuries.
The Dodgers teenage phenom, Julio Urias from a year and a half ago? Torn labrum in his pitching shoulder, may never be the same again. The Dodgers also had to bail on significant financial investments in Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy due to significant injury issues. Ryu has barely pitched in two years. Don’t get me started on Rich Hill’s blisters.
This is pitching folks. The game has become dependent on extreme velocity, and the Mets are not alone in this epidemic. There is no question, the 2017 season saw the Mets suffer through a ludicrous amount of injuries when you take into account their injured position players. So it’s the “Mets mentality” to assume it’s something intrinsic about the Mets aura of failure is to blame for such a season. We look at promising pitching prospects like Jordan Humphreys and Thomas Szapucki go down with torn UCLs, and we go, “the Mets don’t know how to keep pitchers healthy”.
In reality, there has been no data presented that for a sustained period and sample size, the Mets organization has sustained a higher rate of injuries than the average MLB organization, even after adjusting for extenuating factors such as the use of the hard Warthen slider, or desire to build around certain pitcher molds.
So no, I’m not going to laugh off the idea that the Mets can enjoy some positive regression towards the mean this year in regards to health of the pitching staff. What goes around comes around in this game, where everything seems cyclic. If you can’t be optimistic now, with this group of talent, then when?