Matt Harvey exceeded his doctor-recommended limit of 185 innings pitched two weeks ago, and with Saturday’s 7 2/3-innings start, he is up to 202 innings this season (including the postseason).
It is the fifth-most innings by a pitcher in the season of his return from Tommy John surgery.
Looking at how those other four pitchers have performed, it appears that pitchers can attain the level of performance they reached before the surgery even after a heavy workload immediately upon their return.
From John’s second year after surgery (1977) to 1980, he was a three-time All-Star and finished in the top five in American League Cy Young Award voting three times.
He had a 3.12 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP in those four seasons, logging 12 shutouts in 133 games started. He won 20 games three of those four seasons and averaged 20 wins a year in the time span.
John’s career lasted until 1989, when he was 46, so the relatively heavy use immediately after his return from surgery didn’t seem to curtail his longevity. He had a 3.66 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in the 14 seasons after his surgery. In the 12 seasons before his surgery, he had a 2.97 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP.
Age seemed to take a toll, however: John’s ERA was at least 4.40 four of his final six seasons. But he was durable enough to pitch 234 2/3 innings in 1983, when he was 40.
Before undergoing his Tommy John surgery, Westbrook had three 200-plus-inning seasons with the Cleveland Indians. The 202 2/3 innings he pitched in 2010 was the fourth highest of his career.
In his nine seasons before surgery, Westbrook had a 4.31 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. In the four seasons after surgery, there wasn’t much difference in his stats: 4.34 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. In the regular season, he averaged 28 starts and 169 innings per year after surgery.
Discounting his injury-shortened 2015 season, Wainwright has been as much of a workhorse after his Tommy John surgery – and after his busy 2011 season – as he was beforehand.
He finished in the top three in National League Cy Young Award voting in 2009 and 2010, as he did in 2012 and 2013. In the four seasons before his surgery, he had a 2.93 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, averaging 199 innings per season. From 2012 to 2014, Wainwright had a 3.05 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP on an average of 222 innings per season. (Statistics limited to the regular season.)
If the Mets advance and Harvey continues to pitch, he will have a chance to exceed the 215 1/3 innings pitched by Lackey in 2013.
In his first nine seasons as a full-time major-leaguer, Lackey averaged 196 regular-season innings with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. He struck out 7.1 batters per nine innings.
In the three seasons since Tommy John surgery, Lackey’s workload is up slightly (to 202 innings per year during the regular season). His ERA and WHIP are down, to 3.35 and 1.22. He’s striking out 7.4 per nine innings.