by Rob Joyce
For the past three seasons, Matt Harvey has been a savior of sorts for the Mets. An ace seemingly from the first time he stepped on the mound, New York has taken extra precaution to ensure the long-term health of their star, who underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2014. However, after Harvey scoffed at the thought of him skipping starts and the team using a six-man rotation all year, he and agent Scott Boras are suddenly worried about the 26-year-old reaching an innings limit. It has Mets fans (and the organization, for that matter) wondering how much they can rely upon the All-Star as they fight for the NL East division and head to the postseason.
Tommy John surgery isn’t anything new for pitchers, and while Harvey is concerned about his long-term health, not following a strict innings limit hasn’t slowed these notable All-Star pitchers down in the past:
In his age-32 season, with over 2000 innings on his arm, Hudson returned from surgery after just one year and tossed 42 innings for Atlanta in 2009. He came back in 2010 showing no ill-effects, as he won 17 games, had an earned run average under 3.00 and threw 228 innings – all his best numbers since his prime in his mid-20s with Oakland.
Now 40 years old, Hudson was an All-Star last year and is up over 3,100 career innings.
Wainwright had surgery in February 2011 as a 29-year-old and came back the same workhorse he was prior to the surgery. He tossed nearly 200 innings in 2012, then threw a league-high 241.2 innings in 2013 (plus another 35 in the postseason) as he finished second in Cy Young voting. He had another 200+ inning season in 2014 (where he finished third in Cy Young voting) before tearing his Achilles early on this year.
John Lackey: Lackey helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2013 after missing all of the prior year with Tommy John surgery. He came back to throw 189 innings in the regular season and 26 more in the postseason (including 14 innings in the World Series), all at the age of 34. He followed that up with 198 innings last year and – barring injury – will easily eclipse 200 this year as the Cards are primed for another postseason run.
Stephen Strasburg: Like Harvey, much was made of Strasburg’s innings limit when he returned full-time in 2012. A much-valued asset, the Nationals wanted him for the long-haul, so they placed him on a strict limit of 160 innings. He was shut down in September and watched from the dugout as Washington lost in a decisive fifth game to the Cardinals in the NLDS.
The limit was taken off him in 2013 as the Nats missed the , and he led the league in strikeouts last year. This year he has been slowed by arm troubles, notably an oblique strain.
Tommy John: The namesake himself, in 1974 John was undergoing an extremely risky procedure that no one assumed would extend his career. Instead, despite getting the surgery in his early-30s, John pitched for 14 more seasons – including going over 200 innings in his first year back with the Dodgers – and won another 164 games until retirement at age 46.