The one area of the New York Mets that needs help, the bullpen, can be instantly solidified if Noah Syndergaard gets the appropriate call.
By Robby Sabo
Rewind the clock back to 2006. A much simpler time when the New York Mets were actually expected to get to the World Series. A time which saw Endy Chavez bringing down Shea Stadium with home run saving catches.
2006, the time the Mets came one hit away from being crowned NL champions.
None other than Adam Wainwright, the guy who burst onto the scene late in that season as closer of the Cardinals.
Shortly thereafter he became one of the more dominant starting pitchers in the league. His three MLB All-Star appearances and continual place in NL Cy Young contention is evidence of just that.
The point is, if the Cardinals (hands down the model organization in baseball) can do it, so can the Mets.
They’ll need to move Noah Syndergaard to the bullpen for October.
In this day of pitch counts, extreme pitching metrics, and constant babying of golden arms, using pitchers in the right spots oftentimes doesn’t occur. Teams would rather actually give up on a season (see Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals when shutting down Stephen Strasburg) than go for it all.
That genius move from Rizzo wasted not only their best shot at the World Series, but Strasburg coincidentally hasn’t been the stud we all expected.
New York’s offense has plated 55 runs in their last five games. David Wright is back, Yoenis Cespedes is smashing bombs into the night, and the lineup is as dangerous as it’s been since those 2006-2008 days. They have finally matched the production output of the starting pitching.
One area of weakness that remains is the bullpen.
Currently sixth in all of baseball with a bullpen ERA of 3.08, the Mets pen on paper is actually getting the job done. For all the wickedness we believe the Yankees have in the late innings, their combined pen ERA is 3.34, not even close to matching the Mets number.
Still, this doesn’t tell the entire story.
Jeurys Familia is a bonafide closer. He did suffer a few hiccups post all-star break, but everybody not named Mariano Rivera does. Tyler Clippard is a solid eighth-inning man, though he hasn’t lit the world on fire since coming over from Oakland.
After those two guys there is very little.
Hansel Robles shows flashes. Not nearly enough to walk into October feeling confident though.
The natural and most obvious move is to transition Syndergaard, and/or even perhaps Steven Matz into the bullpen for October.
Syndergaard, especially, has the top notch stuff which translates into one-inning success. Yes, oftentimes he does get into trouble in the first-inning of starts, but coming out of the pen is an entirely different mindset.
He possesses a two-seamer with ridiculous movement topping out at 97 mph and a four-seamer that would most likely touch 100 mph coming out of the pen.
Using Syndergaard in late inning games would give Collins a weapon that has translated into fall success as of late.
How did Ned Yost and the Kansas City Royals do what they did in 2014? Sweeping away the AL in eight games en route to the World Series wasn’t just due to their timely hitting and extremely potent defense. Success came from the foundation of a lights out bullpen featuring three guys (Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera) who were downright filthy. They were so dominant that it overshadowed how lackluster a starting staff they rolled out each night.
The other move would be to move the lefty (Matz) to the pen and keep Syndergaard in the rotation. Either way, the Mets will need just four starters in just a little over a month.
Both Chamberlain and Hughes were pitching studs coming through the Yankees organization. Both were disappointments in relation to their potential.
Many believe the back and forth from starting to bullpen played a role in their shortcomings. Joba burst onto the scene in 2007 with a ridiculous 34 strikeouts and 0.38 in 19 appearances. He was then yinged-and-yanged from starter to pen the rest of his Yankees career.
What most people don’t understand is that Joba wasn’t as good as his potential. Maybe he didn’t work hard enough. Or maybe he should have been left in the pen for the rest of his career (as he profiled more as an intimidating reliever).
The biggest factor as it pertains to Joba and Huges is this: The Yankees toyed around too much with these guys. They did it in the regular season over long periods of time.
With Syndergaard and perhaps Matz, the Mets would only be doing it in October, for the games that actually matter. The games that could grant the city a ticker-tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes.
If there’s one thing we know about World Series championships, it’s that chances to win it come few and far between. This is the case even if your core is so young and talented that you profile to be hanging around for the next five seasons.
With the baseball gods laying out the foundation for a possible party in New York this fall, Alderson must make the right move and shift Thor or Matz to the pen in late September. The object of baseball is to win a championship, not set yourself up pretty the next season.
Then, when the smoke clears next spring, Syndergaard (or Matz) is welcomed back with open arms to the rotation.
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