It probably shouldn't be a surprise that we got to this point: Matt Harvey has pitched 166 1/3 innings and his agent, Scott Boras, isn't happy, preferring his client be shut down at a doctor-recommended 180 innings, which would prevent Harvey from pitching in the playoffs. The New York Mets have decided that Boras doesn't run their team and indicated they will stick to their plan and continue pitching their 26-year-old right-hander, team sources told ESPN.com's Adam Rubin. A source also told ESPN's Britt McHenry that Harvey will start Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.
"It should be a doctor's decision because this is about the well-being of the patient," Boras told MLB Network Radio on Friday afternoon when informed of the Mets' decision. "They are obviously putting the player in peril. That's their decision. That's what they chose to do."
Harvey is coming off Tommy John surgery. Back in 2012, the Nationals infamously shut down Stephen Strasburg in early September, losing their top starter for the playoffs, which ended with a five-game loss in the National League Division Series. Boras -- also Strasburg's agent -- told MLB Radio that he first reached out to the Mets when Harvey got to 140 innings. His belief is that the team should follow the medical advice and limit Harvey's innings. The Mets have indicated that the 180 innings is more of a soft cap than a hard limit.
I don't think there's a right decision here. Would shutting down Harvey now limit his risk of injury? Probably. But what percentage does that risk increase if the Mets continue to pitch him? The advice from the medical experts is an estimate. There is no magic total where the risk suddenly increases. As even Boras said during his MLB Radio interview, each pitcher is unique. "It really revolves around how the player is responding . . . and his performance on the mound as the season goes along," he said.
But Boras' interests don't align with the team's interests. The Mets are trying to win a World Series. Sure, they would prefer a healthy Matt Harvey for at least the next three seasons in which he's under team control, but how do the Nationals feel three years later about shutting down Strasburg? There is no guarantee the Mets will be in position again any time soon to compete for a World Series title.
At the same time, there is an ethical obligation to protect their pitcher as much as possible. It seems they've done that. He has made just nine starts all season on four days of rest. He's thrown as many as 110 pitches just once. He's 27th in the majors in innings but just 50th in total pitches thrown, so he has been fairly efficient. His "adjusted" innings total is actually less than 166 1/3 if you compare him to the average starter. As one comparison, Harvey has thrown 110 fewer pitches than Lance Lynn, but has 19 more innings pitched.
That's one reason the Mets probably feel confident using him moving forward. They already skipped one start and reportedly will skip one more later this month. That sets him for maybe four more starts in the regular season. Depending on where the Mets are in the standings, they can probably limit his innings those last couple of outings.
Say he pitches 25 innings in those four starts. That takes him up to 191 1/3. Then you get to the postseason. He could make as many as five starts, if the Mets go the World Series and he starts once in the Division Series and twice each in the NLCS and World Series. That could be another 30 to 35 innings if the Mets ride him hard. OK, that's 220 to 225 innings or so, a sizable difference above 180.
So there's certainly risk. But do you play the game to win or to make as much money as possible? That's not necessarily an easy question. Harvey has said he wants to pitch, and in the end, his voice is the one that matters most. It's easy to say this because I don't have $100 million or more in future earnings at stake, but when Harvey is an old man and looks back on his career and maybe looks down at the 2015 World Series ring he's wearing, I would like to believe he'd have no regrets about continuing to pitch.
No matter what happens next.