For most the season, the Mets have been cycling through relievers trying to find the right fit for the last spot in the bullpen. Their inability to find the right fit has cost them a few games in what has been a very critical stretch of the season.
Chris Mazza couldn’t hold down a lead in San Francisco. Tyler Bashlor put a winnable game out of reach in Pittsburgh. That’s just two recent games, and there are countless others. As a result of different relievers failing, the Mets continue to cycle through them trying to find the right fit. Part of this process is the Mets having traded away Wilmer Font and releasing Hector Santiago. The team has also designated five different relievers for assignment. Still, there are some interesting options available.
Chris Flexen has made the transition to the bullpen this year after having struggled as a starter. In his brief five game stint as a pure reliever in the Mets bullpen, Flexen allowed two runs on four hits in 6.1 innings pitched. After one poor outing against the Braves, he was sent back down to Triple-A.
Since being sent down to Syracuse, Flexen has had a 6.94 ERA in 11 appearances, but six of those appearances were scoreless. Perhaps more important that the results is Flexen’s control. The pitcher who has always had issues with control threw 68 percent of his pitches for strikes resulting in his striking out struck out 12 (9.2 K/9) with just one walk in 11.2 inning pitched. If Flexen is able to sustain this level of control, he could be a real improvement in the bullpen.
Looking deeper at the 40 man roster, Eric Hanhold has had a 1.47 ERA since June 20. Over that stretch, he is 2-0 with two saves, and he is holding opposing batters to a .203/.282/.313 batting line. This recent run led to his being promoted again to Triple-A Syracuse. His second stint in Syracuse is going better than his first with him allowing just one earned over 4.0 innings.
In terms of his stuff, Matt Eddy of Baseball America said Hanhold “has a potent power fastball-slider mix that could play in a high-leverage role.” For Hanhold, he doesn’t need to be that yet. Rather, the Mets just need another reliable arm, and he certainly has the stuff to fulfill that role.
Like Flexen and Hanhold, Brooks Pounders has had success for the Mets at the Major League level. In his seven appearances for the Mets in June, he was 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and a 6.1 K/9. Looking deeper into those appearances, Pounders had six scoreless appearances.
His lone blow-up was his June 24 appearance against the Phillies. Notably, four of the five runs he allowed was in his second inning of work. Part of the focus on that appearance should include his rebounding three days later against the same Phillies team with a scoreless appearance. Looking at that, you could make the argument he should be recalled now. The argument against that is his struggles in Syracuse once he was sent down. In 10 appearances since his demotion, he has a 7.82 ERA allowing batters to hit .310/.410/.528 off of him.
Looking beyond the 40 man roster, there are some choices, but each of those options has their own limitations. The Mets are also further hampered by the fact Ryley Gilliam is on the injured list since July 12.
Perhaps the top option from players not on the 40 man roster is Paul Sewald. Sewald was on the 40 man roster earlier this year, and he pitched well in his four appearances in the Majors this year. In his 38 appearances for Syracuse, Sewald is 3-3 with a 3.61 ERA, 1.437 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and an 8.7 K/9. Overall, in terms of Sewald, he is not the most exciting of choices. However, it should be noted he has shown a knack at the Major League level to be a good long man who can both eat up innings and keep the Mets in games. Given the other Mets relievers failures on that front, Sewald’s ability should not be discounted.
The other reliever not on the 40 man roster who stands out is Steve Villines. This year, Villines has dominated Double-A with a 1.11 ERA in 22 appearances. However, he has struggled in Triple-A Syracuse with a 6.75 ERA, 1.938 WHIP, and a 1.50 K/BB in 13 appearances.
Two things to keep in mind with Villines. First, the sidewinder has fared well against right-handed batters limiting them to a .245/.286/.309 batting line. However, he has struggled against left-handed batters with them hitting .253/.371/.437 batting line. With those splits, you could see the Mets benefiting from pairing him with Luis Avilan much like the 2006 Mets did with Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano.
The one caution the Mets should have with Villines is his walk rate has increased and strikeout rate has decreased as he has progressed to each level of the minors. With the aforementioned 1.50 K/BB in Syracuse, it should give the Mets pause before promoting him to the Majors in the middle of a chase for the Wild Card.
Overall, it would appear the Mets best options at the moment are Flexen or Hanhold. That is at least the case while Jacob Rhame is on the Injured List. In the end, it may just be the case the Mets need to actually pick a reliever and let them work closely with Mickey Callaway, Phil Regan, and Ricky Bones to figure things out at the Major League level to permit them an opportunity improve and contribute at the Major League level.
There have been a few times in the Mets history where they have surprised or even shocked the World in making their run to the postseason. The biggest example is 1969, which occurred 50 years ago. The Mets would make their Miracle run in 1973, and they would emerge in 1999, 2006, and 2015.
When you look at those rosters, there are players who are comparable to the players on this year’s Mets roster. Here’s a look at how it breaks down:
Wilson Ramos (Paul Lo Duca) – Ramos may not have been the catcher the Mets may have originally expected to bring in during the offseason, but like Lo Duca, he could be the perfect fit for this team and surprisingly be a very important piece to this club.
Juan Lagares (Endy Chavez) – Chavez was the defensive oriented player who was pressed into more action than anticipated, and his play on the field was a big reason the 2006 Mets came withing a game of the World Series.
Corey Oswalt (Logan Verrett) – The Mets need a low round drafted prospect to put together a string of great starts to help put this team over the top. With his increased velocity, this could be Oswalt.
And finally, there is Mickey Callaway, who we are hoping will be able to accomplish what Willie Randolph accomplished by proving himself a good manager in his second year and by leading the Mets to being the best team in the National League.
One of the themes of this offseason has been Sandy Alderson going out and bringing back some players to help this current team try to win a World Series. We have seen these efforts work in the past with the Mets bringing back Bobby Bonilla in 1999 and Endy Chavez and Pedro Feliciano in 2006. We have also seen these efforts fail miserably like when the Mets brought back Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz in 2002.
Where this season falls on the spectrum is still to be determined. Those results will largely depend on those players the Mets have brought back to the team. Can you name them? Good luck!
Watching the game yesterday, we all got to see both Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed meltdown. Since both players were acquired by the Mets, both pitchers have been as dominant as you could expect. This was a day after Hansel Robles, who has arguably been the Mets best reliever this season, completely melted down. If you have been watching the Mets so far this season, you expected this to happen sooner or later.
With the loss of Noah Syndergaard and the rest of the starting pitching staff under-performing, Terry Collins has had to go to the bullpen far too frequently early this season. In fact, Jacob deGrom is the only starting pitcher who is averaging at least six innings this season. Essentially, the bullpen is needed for about 40% of the innings pitched in any game. The four extra inning games doesn’t help much either.
What also doesn’t help is how Collins has chosen to deploy his bullpen. Lately, we have seen Collins using multiple relievers to get through just one inning. What is bizarre about that approach is the score doesn’t matter. Collins is as prone to do this in a one run game as he is in a five run game. When you go to the well too often with the same guys time and again, you are going to tire your bullpen arms out. It’s now the middle of May, and the Mets are about one-fifth through their schedule. Here is the current pace for each of the Mets relievers:
No one has made more than 90 appearances in a season since Pedro Feliciano made 92 appearances for the 2010 Mets. The Mets currently have three relievers on pace to make 90 appearances. The last time there were multiple pitchers in baseball who made 90 appearances in a season was 1979. By the way, this is the only time it has happened in major league history. The last time there were five relievers who have made 80 plus appearances in all of baseball. On their own, the Mets are on pace to do that.
But it’s not just those relievers. Jeurys Familia was eligible to pitch in just 18 games between his suspension and subsequent surgery. Familia pitched in 11 of those games. At that usage rate, Familia was on a pace to appear in 99 games. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise as Familia has led the major leagues in appearances since the 2014 season.
Josh Smoker was demoted on May 9th due to his pitching to a 7.88 ERA and a 1.750 WHIP. When he was demoted, Smoker had appeared in 15 of the Mets 32 games. At the rate he was used, Smoker was on pace to appear in 76 games. That number usually leads most teams. That number was the sixth most on the Mets.
Since Paul Sewald has been recalled on May 1st, he is pitching on a pace to appear in 68 games this season. This makes him the reliever who has been pitching with a manageable workload. He is also one of the best relievers in the Mets bullpen right now.
Overall, this bullpen is being used at an unprecedented rate. As we saw in Milwaukee, this bullpen is starting to crack. That’s troubling when you consider the Mets have carried an extra reliever for much of the season. The blame for this goes on the starters for not going deep into games. It also goes on Collins for him not being judicious in how he deploys his bullpen arms. Whatever the case, what was once a strength for the Mets is now becoming a liability. Something has to change and fast.
One of the ongoing jokes during yesterday’s rain out was that despite the rain out, Terry Collins had Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas warming up in the bullpen in case the game started on time. As with most jokes, this one did have a twinge of truth to it.
So far this season, the Mets bullpen has been going on an unsustainable rate. Mike Marshall holds the single season record for appearances by a reliever with his making 106 appearances for the 1974 Dodgers. The Mets record for appearances is Pedro Feliciano with 92 appearances in 2010. This was the reason why Gary Cohen dubbed him Perpetual Pedro. Interesting enough, Felicano’s record is tied for fourth all-time with Marshall, who had 92 appearances for the 1973 Expos. Right now, the Mets bullpen is set to challenge these records at an alarming rate.
Blevins is on a pace to make 102 appearances this season. Hansel Robles is on pace to make 94 appearances this season. Addison Reed and Salas are on pace to make 85 appearances this season. Josh Smoker is on pace to make 77 appearances this season. Obviously, this would be career highs for each of these pitchers.
If they are to keep up this pace, Blevins would be second all-time for single season appearances by a reliever, and Robles’ 94 appearances would tie the now standing second place position. Looking over the record list, no one has made more than 74 appearances in a season over the last five years. The bullpen’s usage is unprecedented in terms of how many appearances these relievers are making. It is utterly amazing that the current pace of these relievers would put them at the top five appearances made by a reliever in single season over the past five seasons.
When you combine the appearances with the amount of times these pitchers warm up, they are going to be on fumes. Certainly, we have seen some diminishing returns already from Salas. The rest of the bullpen may not be too far behind him. This bullpen needs a rest and the subsequent rain out helped. However, they need more help.
They may receive some help now that Jeurys Familia has returned from his suspension. Certainly, he is the reliever Collins’ trusts most, and he will likely be the one Collins over uses next. More than Familia, the bullpen can use some length from their starting pitching.
Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom are the only relievers averaging at least six innings per start. Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman are averaging just over five innings per start. This means every night the bullpen needs to pick up at least 3-4 innings. With the Mets having already played four extra inning games to start the season, it has been much more than that.
The relative lack of length from the bullpen is understood. Harvey and deGrom are coming back from season ending surgeries last season. Wheeler has not pitched since 2014. Gsellman has not thrown more than 159.2 innings in a season. Really, you’re only workhorse right now is Syndergaard.
However, sooner or later something is going to have to give. The starters are going to have to give more length, or Collins is going to have to trust some of the other guys in the bullpen more. It’s understandable he hasn’t when Josh Edgin is a LOOGY with a 3.68 ERA, and his former long man, Rafael Montero, managed to get worse. The long story short here is someone has to step up. Otherwise, the bullpen may not last very long.
This postseason Terry Francona relied heavily on this three best relievers throughout the postseason. One reason why he did it was Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen were all terrific relievers. Another reason why is the Indians starting rotation was decimated by injuries. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were out of the rotation due to injury before the postseason, and Trevor Bauer lacerated his hand while fixing a drone. Francona was forced to do what he did in the postseason. It was not unlike Willie Randolph in 2006.
Like Francona, the Mets were running away with the division when disaster struck. Their ace, Pedro Martinez, was ruled out for the postseason due to an injured leg, and then all hope of his return for the postseason was abandoned when it was discovered he had a torn rotator cuff. While Steve Trachsel was purportedly healthy a year removed from a cervical discectomy, he wasn’t the same pitcher anymore finishing the year with a 4.97 ERA. On the eve of the NLDS, Orlando Hernandez (“El Duque”) suffered a torn calf muscle thereby putting John Maine in position to start Game 1.
The surprise starter Maine gave the Mets 4.1 strong innings. Still, with runners on first and second with one out, Randolph wasn’t taking any chances in a 2-1 game. He first went to Pedro Feliciano to get Kenny Lofton, and then he went to Chad Bradford to get Nomar Garciaparra. The bullpen pitched the final 4.2 innings to secure the victory. This would essentially be how Randolph would manage the rest of the 2006 postseason in non-Tom Glavine starts. Overall, here’s a look at when the Mets bullpen entered each game that postseason:
|NLDS Game 1||John Maine||4.1||Chad Bradford|
|NLDS Game 2||Tom Glavine||6.0||Pedro Feliciano|
|NLDS Game 3||Steve Trachsel||3.1||Darren Oliver|
|NLCS Game 1||Tom Glavine||7.0||Guillermo Mota|
|NLCS Game 2||John Maine||4.0||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 3||Steve Trachsel||1.0||Darren Oliver|
|NLCS Game 4||Oliver Perez||5.2||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 5||Tom Glavine||4.0||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 6||John Maine||5.1||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 7||Oliver Perez||6.0||Chad Bradford|
Overall, the Mets starters pitched 47.2 innings that entire postseason meaning they averaged 4.2 innings per start. This year, the Indians starters pitched the very same 4.2 innings per star those 2006 Mets did. Despite Francona and Randolph having the very same approaches to the postseason games, Francona was hailed as a visionary and a genius, whereas many blame Randolph for the Mets failures in the postseason. The difference?
It started in Game 2 of the NLCS. Mota infamously shook off Paul Lo Duca, and Scott Spiezio hit a game tying triple. When Billy Wagner subsequently allowed a So Taguchi lead-off home run, it was a completely different NLCS. Then in Game 7, Aaron Heilman left a change-up up in the zone, and Yadier Molina hit a go-ahead two run home run. If not for those two mistakes, the Mets are in the World Series, and quite possibly, it is Randolph, not Francona that is seen as the visionary.
But the Mets lost because their pitchers did not execute in the two biggest moments of that series. As such, Francona is the genius because to the victor goes the spoils.
What is great about these pitchers is they can get both lefties and righties out. It eliminates the need to go to matchups late in the game. That’s important because you risk exposing a LOOGY to a right handed pinch hitter in a key spot in a game. Of course, I’m being optimistic here because I have no choice. However, this doesn’t address the need to get a lefty out in the fifth or sixth inning.
With the Dario Alvarez injury and the ineffectiveness of Eric O’Flaherty, the Mets are not going to have a LOOGY in the mold of Pedro Feliciano for the playoffs. In fact, that leaves the Mets with one effective lefty in the bullpen, Sean Gilmartin, who has reverse splits and is better suited as the long man. So where do the Mets go from here?
Let’s start with who’s not an option. We know Jerry Blevins is out for the season. I’ve also seen and heard rumblings from people for the Mets to look at Josh Smoker. There’s some problem with Smoker. First, he’s never pitched above AA. Second, his stats are deceiving. At 26, he’s old for that level thereby skewing his stats a bit. Lastly, he hasn’t pitched in over 10 days. His season is over, and I presume he shut it down. If so, he’s not ready.
So that leaves Hansel Robles to get the lefties out. Looking at his splits, he gets lefties out better than a LOOGY ever could. He is limiting them to .188/.250/.438. Sure, it seems odd using a RHP to get out a lefty, but I’m more interested in effectiveness than appearance. I wonder if Terry Collins will see it that way, or will he bring in Gilmartin to get a lefty out in a big spot?
Did you ever hear of the saying, the more things change the more they stay the same? The saying drives me absolutely nuts. Inherently, something that is static cannot also be idle at the same time. However, for the first time I am starting to understand this saying.
I believe this season is starting to resemble 2005. Sure there was some optimism before that season with the signings of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. This was also going to be the first full season David Wright and Jose Reyes were going to play together. That team also had some holes: Doug Mientkiewicz had a great glove but not the bat to play 1B, Kaz Matsui was being shifted to play 2B after he showed he couldn’t play SS the prior year, and let’s not forget the closer was Braden Looper in a largely ineffective bullpen. However, I don’t know of anyone that expected the Mets to realistically make the playoffs that year.
At that point, the Mets fans were suffering. In 2001, the Mets rallied around the city, but they fell short of making the playoffs in an otherwise disappointing season. In 2002, we watched Steve Phillips attempt to recreate the team as an offensive juggernaut with the likes of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeno. This lead to three years of just bad baseball. Now, the Mets fans were clamoring for a move to be made. We wanted to see Piazza go out on his last year with the Mets with a winner. At the Trading Deadline, the Mets found themselves only 4 games out of the Wild Card.
However, Omar Minaya stayed the course. The Mets made no trades. He kept his bullets for the offseason. If you recall, that was a magical offseason with the additions of Paul LoDuca, Carlos Delgado, Jose Valentin, Xavier Nady, Endy Chavez, Julio Franco, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, John Maine, Jorge Julio (was was then traded in season for El Duque), Darren Oliver, and Billy Wagner. Omar showing restraint permitted the Mets to build that great 2006 team the fans loved.
Now, Mets fans have been suffering longer than they were in 2005, and they are begging for just one bat (which I don’t think will do the trick). While Mets fans were disappointed in 2005, I don’t remember them being a distraught as they are now. I think the difference is trust. We trusted that ownership and Omar would spend the money to get the players that were needed. In fact, they just come off of a spending spree that netted Pedro and Beltran. Now, fans don’t trust that ownership will spend the money. I believe this is the trust gap that is the biggest sense of frustration with this team.
It’s a shame too because I remember 2005 being a fun season. So far, I think 2015 has been gut-wrenching with all the tight, low-scoring games. My only hope is that if the Mets don’t make a move now, they have a plan for what can be realistically accomplished this summer. There will be LF available who can really help the team in the short term, but the market is scarce on middle infielders. My fingers are crossed. I want to be able to go to a playoff game with my father and son.