Edwin Diaz Just Isn’t A Great Closer
The New York Mets are fighting for their postseason lives. Due to the lead they blew, they put themselves in a bad position, and they can’t afford to blow any games.
Enter Edwin Diaz.
For the second straight outing he blew the save in a game the Mets needed to have against a dreadful Washington Nationals team. Break it down any way you want, but it’s inexcusable.
This leaves Diaz’s stats to again be not ordinary but subpar. After these last two appearances, Diaz is 5-5 with a 3.93 ERA, 1.145 WHIP, and a 3.6 K/BB.
More importantly, he’s blown six out of his 34 save opportunities. It’s not a dreadful stat by any means, but it’s not great. It’s not indicative of being the “Elite Closer” people want to make him out to be.
Keep in mind, even when he’s elite, he’s still unreliable. Take last year for example. He had a 1.75 ERA while striking out a career high 17.5 batters per nine. He’d blow four of his 10 save opportunities.
With this latest blown save, he’s at an 82.3 save percentage. Over the course of his Mets career, Diaz has converted 77.9% of his save opportunities.
That’s just not good. It’s an indication of how unreliable Diaz is when the game is on the line.
Yes, saves are a contrived stat, and not every blown save is actually on the pitcher. Notably, until this season, the Mets defense has been putrid. Still, converting under 80% of your save chances is unacceptable.
Look at it this way. Mets fans reviled Armando Benitez. He was bad in the big spots late in the season and in the postseason. As a Met, he converted 86.5% of his save opportunities with the Mets.
John Franco, a closer with as many detractors as supporters, converted 81% of his save opportunities. In the seasons he was the full time closer, it was 82%.
Take someone who had no business closing like Braden Looper. He converted 81% of his chances, and again, he wasn’t good.
That’s the puzzling thing with Diaz. He’s really good, or at least, he ought to be. We can cite stats and metrics till we’re blue in the face, and yet, he’s not converting save opportunities at the level of Looper.
Sure, you could say the stat is skewed because of a terrible 2019. However, when he was great in 2020, he still wasn’t a lock down closer.
To be fair, he was that guy in Seattle. However, for whatever the reason, we haven’t seen the Seattle version of Diaz in Flushing.
Maybe part of the reason is this is a reliever with real limitations.
Diaz struggles pitch back to back days with a .708 OPS against on no rest. With RISP, he has a .703 OPS against. With the bases loaded, he has a .842 OPS against.
When he needs to go over 25 pitches, he allows a .932 OPS. This is indicative of his inability to pitch more than one inning.
As an aside, while he has been good against the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins, he has an 8.27 ERA against the Philadelphia Phillies and a 4.58 ERA against the Washington Nationals.
Now, Diaz has made strides with RISP and going back-to-back days. Also, his stuff is as dominant as there is from the reliever side. And yes, he’s at an 82% save percentage.
Looking at Diaz, sure, he can close games. He’s better than most relievers in the league. He goes through periods where you truly wonder how anyone can even attempt to try to hit him.
However, that’s only part of the story. He’s also a closer who is limited in the situations you can use him, he struggles against some of the Mets division rivals, and you never quite feel like you can trust him.
This is his second September with the Mets fighting for the postseason. He was lost in 2019, and he’s off to a poor start this month.
If you’re the Mets, you could have him close the rest of this year because that’s the position they’ve put themselves, and it’s highly unlikely they go to Jeurys Familia or a committee approach. That said, if the Mets really want to take the next step forward, they should be investigating better closing options to move Diaz towards being the elite set-up man he probably should be.