The New York Mets are committing to a misguided rule with closer Edwin Diaz and how they plan to utilize him.
The New York Mets are off to a crisp start. The lineup is exceeding early expectations with ridiculous production coming from Pete Alonso in the two-hole. The starting pitching isn’t performing to expectations, but the talent in the rotation means they shouldn’t struggle for long.
The biggest concern for the Metropolitans is the bullpen. To their credit, first-year general manager Brodie Van Wagenen addressed the bullpen in the offseason by trading for flamethrowing closer Edwin Diaz.
Combined with Jeurys Familia‘s return to Flushing, Diaz was supposed to solidify the backend of the bullpen. Fortunately, he’s done that. Diaz has six saves in six opportunities and his 1.35 ERA is a welcome sight.
Unfortunately, the Mets are taking a bizarre approach with how they plan to use Diaz this year. Furthermore, the hamhanded rollout of this plan raised more questions than answers.
With two outs, the bases loaded, and a one-run lead in the eighth inning, Diaz remained idle in the pen. The well-rested 25-year old was the best option at manager Mickey Callaway‘s disposal. Yet, Callaway turned to Robert Gsellman who walked in the tying run and doomed the Mets for extra innings.
Although Diaz eventually came in to notch his sixth save, the question on everyone’s mind was obvious: Why not bring in Diaz in the eighth?
Mickey Callaway says the Mets won't be using Edwin Diaz for more than three outs until the postseason pic.twitter.com/Lba1HxkrTs
— SNY (@SNYtv) April 16, 2019
“Diaz is gonna get three outs on any given night and hopefully it’s for a save,” Callaway told reporters in the postgame.
Callaway assured reporters that he would unleash Diaz when the postseason rolls around. Already talking October, huh?
Furthermore, the manager contended that Diaz won’t enter any tie games on the road. Ask Buck Showalter how that strategy worked in the 2016 AL Wild Card Game. While the rest of baseball is honing in on high leverage situations, the Mets are painting their best reliever into a corner.
However dubious these rules may be, Diaz is handling it the right way. When asked about the coaching decision, he said all the right things.
“I will be ready every time and in any situation to pitch,” Diaz said. “They are the coaches so I have to be ready when they need me.”
It’s quite normal for beat reporters to ask questions regarding in-game strategy to managers and players. It’s not normal for a general manager to field postgame questions regarding bullpen use. But that’s exactly what Van Wagenen did on Monday.
“Our goal is to put all the players in the best position to succeed,” Van Wagenen told reporters. “Diaz showed last year that when pitching in that role and pitching with that type of workload, he had tremendous success. It’s part of our win-now and win-in-the-future model…As we manage his workload early in the year, that’s gonna be how we put all of us in a position to succeed.”
First off, let’s give credit to the Mets for trying to put forth a plan to keep Diaz healthy and fresh. That being said, it’s strange to watch the Mets box themselves in.
These steadfast rules lack any nuance and flexibility. Unfortunately, the Mets don’t have the horses in the bullpen to afford to hold their best guy in reserve. Despite his status as the closer, the Mets need to be flexible enough to break the glass in case of emergency by calling on Diaz in a variety of situations.
The very best bullpens in the game can create specific situations for each guy. However, the Mets don’t have the luxury of a deep bullpen.
Of course, this isn’t to say that the Mets should completely change how they deploy the stud closer. But Callaway should have the flexibility to bring in his best reliever against their most dangerous rival in the NL East race.
Callaway is already talking about how he might use Diaz in October, but there’s no guarantee the Mets reach the postseason. If they want to beat out the rest of the NL East, they’ll need to steal a few games with Diaz rather than whatever they plan to do with him now.