Like it always seems to be, the New York Mets entered the offseason with the need to rebuild their bullpen. As the Mets entered Spring Training without Seth Lugo, there seemed to be a renewed emphasis on the need to add more relievers to the bullpen. However, when you break it down, the Mets may not need to actually add another arm.
Typically speaking, we will see the Mets carry a 12 man pitching staff which means seven relievers. Right off the bat, the Mets are set at closer with Edwin Diaz. He will certainly be joined in the bullpen by recent signees Trevor May and Aaron Loup. That trio right there takes care of the Mets closer, the eighth inning, and their LOOGY.
That leaves them having to figure out the other four relievers in the bullpen. Based upon the moves of Brodie Van Wagenen, three of those spots are occupied by Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro, and Jeurys Familia. This trio could very well become the core of what might be an excellent bullpen.
As previously detailed, Betances induced very weak contact last season, and he would miss a lot of bats. Looking at Baseball Savant, there was also a lot of promise with Jeurys Familia‘s season as he also induced a lot of weak contact, and he had terrific velocity. What really hampered each of their seasons was a mixture of walks and plain old bad defense.
Betances had a 1.56 GB/FB last year, but despite the weak contact, he yielded a .353 BABIP. Familia didn’t have the same issues with ground balls turning into outs as Betances, but he did see a career worst walk rate come back to bite him. Keep in mind, in only two of the 10 appearances where he didn’t walk a batter did the opposition score off of him.
Both relievers will be helped by the improved infield defense we should see with Francisco Lindor at short. Also, while we may see J.D. Davis start at third, in all likelihood, he should be removed late in games for Luis Guillorme thereby making the Mets defense elite for these groundball pitchers who induce weak contact.
Keep in mind, while Betances and Familia have typically had higher walk numbers, neither had really posted numbers that poor in their careers. Part of that could easily be explained by them trying to regain their prior form in a disjointed offseason. Really, both pitchers needed to hone a number of things, and the pandemic really cost them the opportunity to work with Jeremy Hefner like they needed.
Given a normal offseason and Spring Training, it is reasonable to assume both could be reasonably relied upon to at least easily handle the middle innings. Perhaps, they could eventually be reasonably be able to be relied upon for the seventh and eighth. In fact, we should be able to see them close a game or two here and there.
In terms of Castro, no one throws it harder. Really, that makes him a bit of a wild card not too dissimilar to what Hansel Robles used to be for the Mets. If you can harness him, you have an elite reliever. If you don’t you have an interesting mop up reliever. Either which way, he is out of options, and he is going to get every chance for the Mets to be the team to finally unlock his abilities.
When you add Lugo to these relievers, this bullpen could be the envy of every team in the majors. The question for the Mets is what to do in his absence. In terms of that, the Mets have plenty of options.
Joey Lucchesi profiles as a potential elite reliever. We have seen Robert Gsellman be elite out of the bullpen for stretches. If nothing else, we know he can absorb innings. The same could also be true for Jordan Yamamoto. The Mets also have a number of interesting young relievers to throw at the problem with Jacob Barnes, Yennsy Diaz, Sam McWilliams, Sean Reid-Foley, Drew Smith, Stephen Tarpley, and Daniel Zamora. Of course, there is also Mets fan favorite Jerry Blevins here on a minor league deal.
The moral of the story is the Mets have the talent in the bullpen. The real challenge is going to be for Hefner to work with them to get the most out of them. Then, perhaps the even bigger challenge is for Luis Rojas to deploy them properly. Overall, if Hefner and Rojas are successful, the Mets will get the most out of what is an extremely talented group, and we will begin to wonder why exactly we were so overly concerned about adding a big name reliever in the offseason.
I had the privilege of appearing on the Simply Amazin’ podcast with the great Tim Ryder. During the podcast, names discussed include but are not limited to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, Rick Porcello, Francisco Lindor, J.D. Davis, Carlos Beltran, Bobby Valentine, David Wright, Bobby Thompson, Ralph Branca, Alex Cora, Luis Guillorme, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Jonathan Villar, James McCann, J.T. Realmuto, James Paxton, Trevor Rosenthal, Aaron Loup, Mike Piazza, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Jose Martinez, Alex Gonzalez, James Loney, Moises Alou, John Olerud, Davey Johnson, Pete Alonso, Wilson Ramos, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, Corey Oswalt, Luis Rojas, Jeremy Hefner, Jim Eisenreich, Alex Fernandez, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Darryl Strawberry, Albert Almora, and more
Please take a listen.
— Simply Amazin' (@SimplyAmazinPod) February 15, 2021
Perhaps, the New York Mets just heard the worst possible news they could’ve heard. Seth Lugo needed elbow surgery, and he may not be able to pitch again until May, which is probably the optimistic view .
Guys ……… it's at least six weeks until Lugo can *throw*. And then probably six or so weeks of "spring" training. That puts him at mid-May. That's a quarter of the season. That is a big chunk of the season.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) February 13, 2021
Make no mistake here. The Mets need Lugo back as soon as he can get back to being Lugo. That Lugo is the best and most versatile reliever in baseball. That reliever was desperately needed to stabilize this Mets bullpen.
Edwin Diaz is coming off a tremendous bounce-back year. That said, it was still just 26 appearances, and he still managed to blow 40% of his save opportunities. Moreover, he’s developed an every other year pattern with 2021 projected to be the down year.
Jeurys Familia has not been good since returning to the Mets, and based on his FIP, it’ll be difficult to imagine him turning it around in 2021.
Miguel Castro may have a live arm, but he’s yet to harness it. He’s got a very poor career 4.7 BB/9, and even with the strikeout numbers, he only has a 1.59 K/BB, and batters hit .244 against him.
Aaron Loup has traditionally pitched well against left-handed batters, but he’s historically struggled against right-handed batters.
When you break it all down, the only pitcher you can truly have confidence in the Mets bullpen is Trevor May. Part and parcel of that is how the aforementioned relievers will be deployed has now been altered by Lugo’s injury.
Now, this is an opportunity for another pitcher, but they have to grab it.
Drew Smith has tremendous velocity and spin. The same holds true for Yennsy Diaz and Sean Reid-Foley. None of these three have been able to establish themselves yet with the later two having significant control issues. This also applies to Franklyn Kilome.
Robert Gsellman could return to the form we saw of him when he first landed in the bullpen. One of Joey Lucchesi or Jordan Yamamoto could find themselves there pending the results of the fifth starter spot.
There’s also the free agent and trade market as well. Even at this point in the offseason, there are still quality options remaining.
No matter where the Mets look, they’re not finding anyone nearly as good as Lugo. If they can’t, it throws the entire bullpen and pitching staff in disarray. As we’ve seen in years past, bad bullpens can ruin good teams.
These Mets are a good team. They might be a great team. However, with the loss of Lugo, their chances of hitting that ceiling took a massive hit. At the end of the day, there’s just no replacing the best reliever in baseball.
Instead, the Mets have to just hope they have enough quality depth. They need to hope 1-2 pitchers really step up. Mostly, they just need to hope Lugo is able to be Lugo at some point in 2021.
When you look at David Peterson‘s Rollie season, there is plenty of reason to be excited for 2021. The 24 year old rookie posted a 123 ERA+ in nine starts and one relief appearance, and he finished the season very strong.
Over his final three starts, he was 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA while striking out 16 batters. Over that stretch, you understand why Marcus Stroman said Peterson “is going to be one of the best in the league for years to come.”
Despite all that, Peterson should begin the season playing for Triple-A Syracuse instead of looking to build off his impressive rookie campaign.
First and foremost is Peterson could benefit from additional time to develop. Remember, prior to pitching in this haywire 2020 season, he had never pitched above Double-A.
As a result, while we saw he had talent, we also saw he was still raw. When looking at his Baseball Savant page, you see some real issues with his performance.
Peterson had a very poor walk rate and low spin on most of his pitches. He also had low fastball velocity and didn’t generate many swings and misses.
Again, we saw glimpses of what Peterson could be like when he struck out 10 Braves over six innings. Of course, he also had 2+ walks in all but two appearances.
His 10.2 HR/FB% was below average. There should also be expectation for a significant regression from his .233 BABIP against. All told, he may be much closer to his 4.52 FIP than his 123 ERA+.
That 4.52 FIP is quite poor and is really indicative of a pitcher who should really be moving to the bullpen. However, that doesn’t really apply to Peterson who is still a developing pitcher with a lot of promise.
It’s better to let Peterson learn from 2020 and continue working to improve as a pitcher in the minors in 2021.
Aside from the need to permit Peterson to continue his development, there’s another and perhaps more important reason for him to start the season in the minors.
As an organization, the Mets are severely lacking in pitching depth at the upper levels of their organization. As a result, they’re going to have to manufacture starting pitching depth.
Arguably, we saw the first move in that direction when the Mets tendered Robert Gsellman a contract. Starting Peterson in the minors would be a second very strong move in that direction.
Right now, Gsellman and Franklyn Kilome is the extent of their MLB ready pitching depth. Given their performances last year, that’s not quality depth. They need to do better, but that’s extraordinarily difficult to do in free agency.
With Steven Matz, the Mets only need to sign two more mid-tier starters. The Mets can afford to do that now with Steve Cohen in charge.
If you have no faith in Matz, it’s understandable. However, if he falters, you can go to Peterson. If Peterson opens the season in the rotation and falters, the Mets are picking between Gsellman or Kilome which is a much steeper drop-off.
Fact is, whether it’s the ineffectiveness of one starter or an injury, the Mets are going to have to dip into the minors for a number of starts. If they’re reaching back for Peterson, they’re giving their team a good opportunity to win. If it’s another option, they’re just rolling the dice.
Ultimately, if you want to build depth to help fix what Brodie Van Wagenen destroyed, the Mets need to put themselves in a position to have Peterson start the year in the minors. It’ll help them over the course of the 162 game season, and it will also help Peterson be an even better pitcher when he is needed to start again.
It was a mild surprise the Mets tendered Robert Gsellman a contract. The expectation was after his having a horrendous 2020, the Mets would part ways with the pitcher.
In 2020, Gsellman was injured again. When he did pitch, he had a 9.64 ERA in four starts and two relief appearances. That was good for a 45 ERA+ and 7.55 FIP.
That was the low point for Gsellman’s career. That said, he hasn’t been a very good pitcher. Since his electric MLB debut in 2016, he has been well below average. In fact, from 2017 – 2019, he had a 84 ERA+ and a 4.42 FIP.
While this isn’t all that good, it should be noted this was mostly when Gsellman was a reliever. As a starter, he showed more promise. Seeing if Gsellman can be a full time starter is good reason to keep him.
That goes double when you realize the Mets farm system is bereft of MLB ready starters in their farm system.
Corey Oswalt was arguably that, but he’s out of options. Franklyn Kilome completely failed in his audition, and in all likelihood, he didn’t project to stick as a starter anyway. As such, the Mets were really stuck trying to find Triple-A starters to give the team real depth.
With Gsellman having two options remaining, he is perfectly suited to provide that to the team.
Gsellman can be Syracuse’s Opening Day starter, and he can show the Mets how he may be better suited to the rotation. If he does prove that, he can be called up to make some starts when the Mets inevitably need a starter next year.
If he falters, he is still capable bullpen depth for the Mets. With his being stretched out, he could prove to be a long man in the pen at some point.
What Gsellman provides is depth and options. This front office was smart to see it, and at a price around $1.5 million, it’s a no brainer.
Keeping Gsellman is one of those moves that is unheralded. However, it is one of those moves which can truly make a difference over the course of a season. Make no mistake, any pitcher the Mets would sign to take Gsellman’s current role would likely not have anywhere near the success Gsellman can have.
That can help save the pitching staff here or there, and it can help the Mets pick up a win or two. These things matter, and to that end, Gsellman can still provide an important role next year and make a real difference.
The Mets were blown out by the Orioles 11-2. It happens. The way this happened is not always how these things happen, and someone probably should be fired for this game.
Michael Wacha was terrible again. After allowing four earned over 4.0 innings. That raised his season ERA to 7.50.
This is just the latest example of how bad the Mets rotation is. Including Wacha’s ERA, the Mets starting rotation is now 5.21.
That’s impossibly bad. It’s even worse when you consider Jacob deGrom has been great again with a 1.69 ERA. Despite deGrom’s greatness, the Mets are on pace to have their worst ever starter ERA.
Through 43 games this season, the Mets’ starting ERA is 5.21. That is more than two runs higher than it was during their second-half surge last season, and it would be the highest full-season rotation ERA in club history, sneaking past the 5.18 mark of the ‘62 Mets.
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) September 9, 2020
Remember, this is the same rotation Van Wagenen said was the deepest in baseball. What they’re deep in is anyone’s guess.
To make hatters worse, Robert Gsellman was bad. He was then forced to wear it until he broke.
After a four run fifth, the Mets kept running him back out there. He was out there throwing 76 pitches which was nearly 20 more pitches than his season high. His pitch count would’ve gone higher, but he had to be helped off the field due to an injury.
Just when you thought the Mets couldn’t make things worse, they did. Over this season, Brad Brach has arguably been their best reliever, but he’s been somewhat limited due to the after effects of COVID19.
So, naturally, the Mets wasted him in what was then an 11-1 game. That’s just making a bad situation even worse. We shouldn’t be surprised by this because this is the Mets after all.
Anyway, the Mets were destroyed, and they got a player hurt in the process. Their starting pitching was again exposed. But hey, Jake Marisnick homered, so we’ll probably hear what a great job Van Wagenen has done from all the sycophants.
Game Notes: Jeff McNeil has now homered in three straight games. It’s the second time in his career he’s done that.
When Brodie Van Wagenen took over as GM, the Mets organization had an embarrassment of starting pitching depth. He was gifted a starting rotation which had Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz.
Now, the Mets rotation this week was literally posted as deGrom followed by a bunch of TBAs. The reason? The starting pitching depth is gone. Kaput!
For some reason, Van Wagenen thought the old adage you could never have enough pitching didn’t apply to him. For some reason, he actually thought he improved the Mets rotation and depth with Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.
Someone will undoubtedly argue the Mets pitching staff suffered a number of injuries, and Marcus Stroman opted out. But that completely misses the point. That’s exactly why you need quality depth. That quality depth is long gone.
Now, at the trade deadline, Van Wagenen could’ve looked at this and pursued another starter. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. What we do know is not only did he not obtain a starting pitcher, but he would also get rid of one.
Van Wagenen traded Kevin Smith for Baltimore Orioles reliever Miguel Castro. He traded a promising left-handed starting pitcher who continues to improve and defy scouting reports for a reliever with a career 4.94 FIP and 1.409 WHIP.
Yes, Castro is talented reliever for sure, but his skills have yet to translate to tangible Major League success. This is the guy you take a flier on in the offseason. He’s not the player you overpay to get as your big time late inning reliever to help get your over the hump. Castro has not been and is not that guy.
As for Smith, he’s the latest starting pitching prospect Van Wagenen needlessly traded away for pennies on the dollar. Van Wagenen explained it away like Smith was a future fifth starter. That’s not too different from how he was dismissive of Dunn’s and Kay’s abilities before being shown how embarrassingly wrong he was.
In what should hopefully be Van Wagenen’s last trade deadline, he traded away his fourth starting pitching prospect. You could form what would’ve been a good Major League rotation with what Van Wagenen traded.
Instead, the Mets will gave zero starting pitching depth and next to nothing in return for all of these trades.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 29, 2020
That homer got Robert Gsellman off the hook. It’s a good thing because Gsellman didn’t deserve to lose this one.
After allowing the second batter of the game, Luke Voit, to homer, he turned in his best work since returning to the rotation. After that homer, he allowed just three more hits while walking none and striking out four.
The plan was to have Steven Matz piggyback his start, but Matz left the game after one inning with a shoulder injury and may very well land on the IL.
That meant to the Mets bullpen needed to step up again. It really wasn’t quite up to the task.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 29, 2020
Ramos really had no chance to catch Betances’ wild pitch. With that wild pitch, the Mets wouldn’t have another big come from behind win. Instead, they’d be walk-off losers.
On the bright side, Steve Cohen agreed to buy the Mets . . . again. This time it’s for $200 million cheaper. That should allow him to fix all the mistakes Brodie Van Wagenen made which led to losses like this.
First and foremost, everyone’s sincerest hope is the player and coach who tested positive will be safe and healthy. At the moment, that is the most pressing concern. After that, we all continue to hope none of the other members of the Mets organization tests positive.
That said, Mets baseball returns today with the Mets having a real grind. They’re going to play nine games over the next six days and 34 games over the final 34 days of the regular season. Assuming Brodie Van Wagenen was honest saying the Mets would not be active at the trade deadline (no one should assume Van Wagenen is honest or won’t jump at the chance to trade prospects), what the Mets have now is what they’ll have to try to grab a postseason spot.
With that being the case, it’s good these Mets got some rest because it’s the last test they’ll see all season. With that rest came some opportunities for this team.
With the time off, the Mets now get to reset their rotation. That presumably means we see Jacob deGrom pitch today in one of the two games. When you get more deGrom, the Mets not only get more rest for what will be a tested bullpen, but also a better chance of winning.
On the starting pitching front, the extra time off buys the Mets time in getting David Peterson back from injury. It also gives Steven Matz some time to work on things. The came could potentially be said for Michael Wacha, but with his history of shoulder injuries, who knows with him?
Looking at the pitching, the bullpen needs the rest their getting because they’re going to be pushed to their limits. They’re going to be up and pitching 34 times in 34 days. They’re going to need the Mets to get as many healthy and viable arms in the rotation that this team could get.
Given the construct, this bullpen needs Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo back. The bullpen is going to need the quality innings they can provide. Honestly, the plan of stretching them out may no longer be a viable one as the Mets schedule doesn’t permit for it.
Looking at the offense, Jeff McNeil has been nicked up and struggling. Currently, he’s mired in a very un-McNeil like 2-for-18 slump. The time off should hopefully allow him to heal up a bit and get back to being McNeil.
That’s of increased importance because with the condensed schedule, the team is going to have to find games off for everyone. McNeil’s versatility is needed for the Mets to maximize their lineup and defense even with the days off.
In terms of days off, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are the only two Mets who have played in every game. This time off should help them recharge and allow them to play as many of the remaining 34 games as possible.
In terms of the rest, it is going to help this team. It’s allowing their best players to heal and recharge. It’s also allowing the Mets to reset their rotation. Overall, this time off has helped. Let’s just hope it’s enough to make the push the team needs to make over the final 34 games.
Time and again, we’ve seen Seth Lugo come up huge. That’s both in the starting rotation, where he wants to be, and the bullpen, where he has established himself as the best reliever in baseball.
When it comes to Lugo, it’s never really been a question of whether he could pitch in the rotation. The question is what is his best role on this Mets team.
As this Mets bullpen and pitching staff as a whole is constituted, they lean on Lugo’s ability to not just go multiple innings, but to also get the biggest outs in the game. With the current state of the rotation, you could argue Lugo’s ability to eat those innings in pressure spots makes him all the more needed in the bullpen.
With injuries and opt outs, Jacob deGrom is the only Mets starter guaranteed to give you at least five innings. That’s it. As a result, there’s an onus and strain on the bullpen.
The real value with Lugo is his versatility. He’s a one inning closer. He’s a long man. He’s there to bail you out of the inning. No one else can do what he does.
The aforementioned long men can give you innings, but they cannot be relied upon in a crucial spot. Right now, Justin Wilson and maybe Jared Hughes can be relied upon in a crucial spot, but they can’t give you more than three outs in a consistent fashion.
As we saw last night, the Mets bullpen is still very suspect in those late innings when Lugo is unavailable. Part of the reason is Dellin Betances, Edwin Diaz, and Jeurys Familia are occasionally prone to fits of wildness.
With respect to Diaz and Familia, they’ve made significant strides from their disastrous 2019 season. As previously explained, Diaz can likely be relied upon to close again. However, like most closers, he’s not as good or as reliable when being brought into a jam.
With respect to Betances, he’s not the same reliever he once was. His velocity is down, and he’s more hittable. As a result, he’s no longer the guy you can just plug into the seventh or eighth.
Now, you may want to argue Steven Matz may be able to be that guy. If that is the case, why remove him from the rotation and disrupt the status quo.
Taking Matz out of the rotation implicitly means the Mets don’t trust him. That goes double when the Mets won’t start him against a Martins team with the fifth wurst wRC+ in the National League.
Digging deeper, the Marlins are the worst offensive team the Mets face all year. This is the team you let Matz get right against. That is all the more the case when the Marlins have a 69 wRC+ against left-handed pitching.
All told, the Mets bullpen is already getting taxed. It’s going to get worse with every Gsellman and Oswalt start. Now, it’s going to get worse with each Lugo 2-3 inning start.
Removing Matz from the rotation now is a short-sighted panic move. The team simply doesn’t have the arms for three bullpen games through each turn through the rotation. They’re even less equipped without Lugo.
In the end, Lugo will be a good starter. It’s just that the entire team is not built to have Lugo in the rotation. The Mets should be aware of this, but as usual, Brodie Van Wagenen thinks he knows better than everyone. Each and every time he thinks that, the decision blows up in the Mets faces.
Chances are, this decision will too.