Originally, most of us assumed that Matt Harvey's innings limit would be similar to fellow Scott Boras client Stephen Strasburg, which would be in the neighborhood of 160-170 IP. Strasburg was infamously shut down after 160 innings in 2012 as a measure of precaution to preserve his arm for the rest of his career.
However, new speculation is coming out that indicates that this may not be the case. In an interview with SNY, Harvey indicated that he was surprised by how many innings the Mets are willing to let him throw in 2015.
Harvey: We've kind of gone over some ideas and nothing's really set right now, I think. You know, I think I was a little surprised with the number that they might let me go to.
Reporter Steve Gelbs: Surprised that it was high?
Harvey: Yeah...everything is perfect and happy. We'll see how it goes. We'll see with what we come up with. But nothing is set in stone right now. We don't have a specific number or idea when we're going to skip a start or move forward in that direction. All of that will be worked out.
The excellent Mets writer/broadcaster Toby Hyde, who writes at Metsminorleagueblog.com, had this exchange with Robert Brender on the Mostly Mets Podcast:
Robert Brender: Matt didn't tell us the exact innings limit, but it sounds like it's going to be a lot higher than most people think.
Toby Hyde: Yeah. So he was at 178 and a third innings 2 years ago. Generally, the Mets don't let their guys go up by more than 30 (IP) over a year on year basis. If they treated it the same, or treated him that way that 2013 was last year, that takes him all the way up to 210 innings.
I think the number is kind of in that neighborhood, 200-210, and I think that's why Matt was surprised. And again, that's not coming from (manager) Terry Collins, it's not coming from (pitching coach) Dan Warthen or (GM) Sandy Alderson, but that's my tea leaves talking.
Robert Brender: Do you think that it's that high not just because of the amount of innings he threw in 2013 and prior to that in other seasons, but also because he's so far removed, or a little bit extra time removed from the Tommy John?
Toby Hyde: Yeah, sure. That's kind of the value of not putting him back on the mound last year.
And the thing is, we just don't have a lot of science that says that limiting innings does a lot for increasing longevity or effectiveness. And this is a guy who was a top 5 pitcher in the world 2 years ago. And the Mets are going to need a lot of that to make the playoffs this year.
Robert Brender: It's a big question mark how they're going to use him...
Toby Hyde: Here's how they should use him. Assuming his elbow is right, he should start on opening day, he should start every 5th game after that, and maybe give him a week or two off in July when it gets hot and everyone could use a break. And then start him every 5th day for the rest of the season.
I don't think you set a limit on it. He should start, and he should pitch, and as long as he's healthy, I don't think you need extra special limits on him.
The situation you want to avoid is the situation with the Nationals 3 years ago where they shut down Strasburg before the World Series. Totally stupid. As Ted Berg said on this podcast 3 years ago when we were recording, it misses the point. The point is to win the World Series!
Again, like Toby said, this is not coming from the Mets, but it's his read on the situation. Toby is extremely smart and is plugged in with the Mets, so his opinion should be valued significantly.
Nothing has been officially put out there by the Mets, but Harvey may be throwing 200 innings this year. If that is the case, that gives him a substantial boost in the rankings, as this gives him another 4-5 starts to contribute.
In 2013, Harvey had the best Fielding Independent Pitching in baseball at 2.00, which was a third of a run better than the next best, Clayton Kershaw, who was at 2.39. Harvey may struggle with command at first, but once he gets his timing and rhythm back post surgery, I'm confident he'll soar back towards the top of the pitching list.