Joey Lucchesi May Be Better Sean Gilmartin Or Lefty Seth Lugo
Sean Gilmartin is looked upon much differently for many different reasons, but back in 2015, he was an important piece of the Mets bullpen. That was not necessarily expected.
Gilmartin was a Rule 5 pick from the Atlanta Braves. While the converted minor league starter was first expected to be a left-handed reliever, he turned out to be a key long reliever in the bullpen.
During that 2015 season, he was 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, and an 8.5 K/9 in 49 relief appearances and one start. In 14 of those appearances, he went multi-innings. With that, he was an important piece of the bullpen who ate innings for what was a shallow bullpen for most of the year.
That long man role has been oft overlooked, but it is of vital importance. We’ve seen it through Mets history. The 1999 Mets had Pat Mahomes. The 2006 Mets had Darren Oliver. As noted, the 2015 Mets had Gilmartin.
The 2021 Mets could have Joey Lucchesi.
Lucchesi has pitched in parts of the last three seasons with the San Diego Padres, and he has not quite distinguished himself. Overall, he’s made 58 starts and one relief appearance going 18-20 with a 4.21 ERA, 1.280 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, and a 9.3 K/9.
With a 96 ERA+ and a 4.21 FIP, it’s not quite fair to claim he’s a bad starter. However, looking at him, he’s really in a three way battle for that fifth spot when Noah Syndergaard returns.
Looking deeper, the question is how to best utilize the Mets roster this year. Yes, depth is important, and there is the option to put Lucchesi and David Peterson in Triple-A. While that may work for Peterson who needs more time to develop, it may not be what’s best for Lucchesi.
Looking at Lucchesi’s career numbers, opposing batters hit .233/.293/.397 the first time through the order. They hit .233/.288/.406 the second time. The third? Well, it is an ugly .312/.395/.548.
That’s a large reason why he’s averaged just five innings per start in his career. In the modern game, that’s not bad at all, especially from your fifth starter.
Still, like with Seth Lugo with his increased velocity and ability to fully use his curveball as a weapon, there is the question of whether Lucchesi would work better in the bullpen.
Going to Baseball Savant, Lucchesi’s unique churve is a lethal weapon getting a 38.6 Whiff% in 2019 and 47.4 in 2020.
While a phenomenal weapon, Lucchesi really doesn’t have a third pitch to pair with it and what is really a mediocre fastball. At 27, there’s a real question if he could ever develop one to be a truly viable starter in the long term.
However, in the bullpen, Lucchesi and his churve could become elite. He could be a left-handed version of Lugo. Pairing the two together gives the Mets the ability to mix and match them and not leave them struggling to figure things out on those days Lugo is understandably unavailable.
Overall, the Mets need to gauge how to best utilize all of their pitchers and build depth. That depth is both for the bullpen and rotation. It’s not remotely an easy decision, but Lucchesi in the bullpen is one the Mets should very strongly consider.