Never before has there been so much talk and concern over the amount of innings a pitcher throws in a season.
Both teams are firm in their stances in limiting the innings their pitchers throw in order to protect them and preserve their futures, but the decisions made by the Nationals and Mets hold different consequences.
First, take Matt Harvey.
After making his seventh start in the majors Wednesday, Harvey now has reached 152.1 innings total on the season. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has stated before that Harvey's limit would be somewhere around 170 innings.
Mets manager Terry Collins danced around that perceived notion saying: “Somewhere in there. There’s not a number, but it’s in that area.” (h/t New York Daily News)
Fresh off a win over the Philadelphia Phillies, which pushed his record to 3-3 with a 2.76 ERA, Harvey is easily the best story the Mets have had in the second half of the season.
After Harvey makes another couple of starts, the Mets will shut him down—and rightfully so. Why? Because the Mets have nothing to play for.
The Mets never envisioned in using Harvey so extensively this season at the major league level. After their second-half slide started and Dillon Gee went down for the year, the Mets were so cautious and protective about throwing Harvey out on the mound that they threatened to use Miguel Batista instead.
This was a blessing in disguise for the Mets. They got to see part of the future now, and Harvey showed he is capable of pitching at the big league level. Now protect that investment, and fight for another day.
The tune is a lot different in regards to the handling of Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg has been Cy Young worthy in his first full season following Tommy John surgery. He is 15-6 with a 3.05 ERA and leads the National League with 186 strikeouts in only 150.1 innings.
Strasburg also faces an innings limit of about 170-180 innings. The difference is that the Nationals are squarely in the hunt for a playoff spot and an National League East title to boot.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has done the research for pitchers following Tommy Johns. He has stood by this stance for quite some time. Strasburg will be shut down at some point before the regular season ends.
"We've got a plan in place," Rizzo said. "And we're adhering to it." (h/t Sports Illustrated)
No one is arguing that the health and well-being of a person should not be considered while making a decision like this.
The dilemma is the position the Nationals are currently sitting in when looking at the standings. This debate is creating a black cloud over the head of the team and putting it into a lose-lose situation.
If the Nationals do not make the playoffs or do not win the World Series, everyone will look at this decision and peg it as the reason that they did not get it done.
Strike while the iron is hot.
The Nationals cannot assume that they will be in a position to win every season. Why leave anything on the table and allow a possible regret to linger?
There is no reason to believe either team will change its stance on how it uses its respective phenom for the rest of the season. It makes no sense to make an about-face now.
Every decision holds a consequence. The Mets saw a part of the future this season and decided they want Matt Harvey to be part of that future for a many seasons to come.
Washington is doing the same thing with Stephen Strasburg, but at what cost?
It should be World Series or bust for the Nationals, because the opportunity to win now far exceeds any investment into an unknown future.