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How might innings limits affect the Mets starting rotation in 2015?

Seemingly overloaded with quality young pitching, just how many innings will the Mets need to get out of their rotation in 2015?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets officially shut rookie sensation Jacob deGrom down for the season on Tuesday, a move that forces the righty to miss his final start of the year. As disappointing as it may be to realize we won't see deGrom pitch again in 2014, the Mets' front office did so with the knowledge that the 26-year old has tossed a career high 178.2 innings between Triple-A Las Vegas and the major leagues this season. Whether we agree with them or not, pitch and innings counts are a part of the game and organizations abide by them in an effort to keep their pitchers healthy or at the least, cover their own backs.

With deGrom settled in at 178.2 innings and the 2014 season nearly complete, let's take a look at approximately where each Mets starting pitcher's innings limit is likely to be set in 2015 and then approximately how many innings the team will need from their starting rotation as a whole next year.

First, we'll look at each pitcher's projected innings limit for 2015 along with their previous career high. The Mets organization typically only lets their pitchers throw around 30 innings more than their previous high at most. For established big leaguers, that makes it easy to land around 200 innings but for the minor leaguers, especially those who have moved quickly through the farm system, it can become an issue that results in an eventual shutdown like deGrom's. Here's the list of the most likely candidates to start games for the 2015 Mets as of now:

Name Career High Innings Year (Level) Established Estimated 2015 Innings Cap
Matt Harvey 178.1 2013 (MLB) ~200
Zack Wheeler 185 2014 (MLB) ~215
Jacob deGrom 178.2 2014 (AAA/MLB) ~210
Jon Niese 190.1 2012 (MLB) ~220
Dillon Gee 199 2013 (MLB) ~230
Bartolo Colon
242 2003 (MLB) ~200
Noah Syndergaard 137 2014 (AAA) ~165
Rafael Montero
159.2 2013 (AA/AAA) ~190
Steven Matz 153 2014 (A+/AA) ~180

To be clear, these are just rough estimates. It's unrealistic to expect 220 innings from Jon Niese or 230 from Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon likely isn't approaching 240 innings at the age of 42, let alone surpassing it, which is why he's listed at around 200. But assuming health and performance, this is around where we'd reasonably expect each pitcher to last until a shutdown of some sort. The biggest question mark is Harvey, who fresh off of Tommy John surgery likely won't be pushed too hard. If the Mets find themselves in a race come September, however, they'll almost certainly have a hard time shutting him down.

Looking at a 162 game season of 9 inning games, we realize that there are 1,458 regulation innings altogether. Of course, we also realize that starting pitchers certainly aren't expected to throw 9 innings per game. In this day in age, starting pitchers typically average somewhere around 5-6 innings per start. Using the 6 inning number as a higher end estimate, that comes out to 972 innings, so let's round up to 1,000 innings needed from starting pitchers. All told, when we combine the 9 pitchers estimates above, we end up with 1,810 innings, well over that 1,000 mark. Here's where we'll note, however, that not all of the 1,810 innings will come at the big league level and furthermore, 1,810 innings doesn't account for missed starts due to injuries.

At this point, it's nearly impossible to determine how many starts the Mets will need from their depth starters, a group likely comprised of Montero, Syndergaard, and eventually Matz, who all should begin 2015 at Triple-A Las Vegas. At least one pitcher will likely be moved in a trade this winter and we don't know who will get hurt. It is nice to know, however, that the Mets have some quality options in the pipeline to serve as backup. And yet, those aren't even the only guys who could serve as depth. Righthanders Logan Verrett, Cory Mazzoni, and Matt Bowman should also see plenty of Triple-A time in 2015 and could be called on for spot starts if necessary. Further down, righties Tyler Pill and Gabriel Ynoa had success at Double-A Binghamton and could see Triple-A time at some point. And this doesn't factor in any veteran minor league depth signings that the organization may make to try to bolster the Las Vegas rotation.

What this demonstrates is that, barring unforeseen disaster, the Mets likely have the flexibility to trade away one or two of their starting pitchers in order to help acquire offense this offseason. Even if they did that, they still would appear to have enough upper level arms to reach the 1,000 inning level needed to make it all the way through the season and cover up for whatever injuries or innings limits shutdowns may occur throughout the year. Who the Mets trade away is certainly an open question but it appears inevitable that they'll end up dealing somebody from their stash of arms. The potential for quality depth behind the initial starting five is there and should serve to help out a great deal in 2015.