The New York Mets possess one of the league’s worst bullpens. Despite success in 2016, regression was clearly inevitable.The dumpster fire known as the 2017 New York Mets has issues everywhere. From numerous stints on the disabled list to an underwhelming starting rotation, a team with World Series aspirations has fallen firmly on their faces through June’s first week. Of all the units that have disappointed, the bullpen has arguably been the biggest issue.
Yes, the starters have taken an enormous step backward. However, that has largely been in part to injury, and players coming off major operations. The 2017 bullpen nearly mirrors last year’s bunch while yielding significantly different results. Despite last season’s success, regression was imminent.
Look, Jeurys Familia‘s major injury obviously took a toll on the ‘pen but they’ve had their fair share of problems with or without him this season. Even if Familia had stayed healthy, the bridge to the ninth inning was shaky at best. The starters failing to pitch deep into games has contributed to higher workloads, but underperformance has undermined a unit that had the sixth best ERA in 2016 with most of the same bodies.
Addison Reed‘s 1.97 ERA in 2016 was easily a career best but it was also a near lock not to be anywhere close to repeatable. His previous season low was 3.38 and his career average currently stands at 3.49. While his 2.93 ERA is very respectable in 2017, it’s nearly a run higher than last season and much more in line with his career averages. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
The Mets thought they scored Fernando Salas on a cheap one-year deal worth $3 million, but was it worth it? Salas, now 32, is carrying a career-worst 5.13 ERA. While he has been overworked, it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s struggled this season.
His small sample size (17.1 innings) from last season’s 2.08 ERA was an outlier compared to the rest of his career. His lifetime 3.73 ERA would suggest that he was due to regress to a much more mediocre pitcher than his short but successful stint in Queens from last year.
One of the more unfortunate stories from the bullpen has been the demotion of Hansel Robles. While he hasn’t been dominant over the past two years, he’s turned in two solid campaigns with sub-four ERAs. However, most Mets fans that watch Robles on a nightly basis know he can be streaky. Robles has been excellent then disastrous for stretches and is certainly hitting a rough patch as of now. We’ll likely see him back in the bigs before the season is over, though it’s hard to predict how successful he’ll be given his inconsistencies.
Rafael’s Montero’s struggles are well documented both as a starter and a reliever. Trusting him to be a key part of the ‘pen wasn’t wise for a team that expects to make it to October. Yes, Montero had a great Spring, but he’s also been wildly successful in the minor leagues. The takeaway: he has proven to get outs strictly against lesser competition in lower leverage situations.
Players like Reed and Salas aren’t going to overpower you and velocity is the name of the game in the later innings. Robles and Montero lack experience in big games which doesn’t bode well for team with serious expectations of contending. The formula is not one of a championship roster, especially when the precedence on maintaining a good bullpen is as high as it’s ever been.
Giving credit where’s it due does to go to Jerry Blevins who has been excellent for the past two years. Outside of him, and a nice start to 2017 from Josh Edgin, the Mets bullpen has produced the fifth worst ERA in baseball (4.80).
Back in early April, we noted that the bullpen’s early season struggles could become a long term issue. We’re one week into June and not much has improved.
The Mets passed on high priced relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon during the offseason. Avoiding big money contracts for players who will want to close was fine, but ignoring upgrades in the middle innings was far from prudent.
Last season’s bullpen, which was amongst the league’s ten best, posted numbers that simply were not repeatable. Whether it be too much trust in one’s own players or pure frugality in free agency, the club’s decision making has burned them.
When the winter of 2018 breaks the horizon, Sandy Alderson will surely be looking to make some changes–if not sooner.