The Mets bullpen got off to a great start and quickly staked its claim as the best in the National League after an off-season overhaul.
But as the season wore on, and the bullpen innings continued to mount, we began to see some cracks as May came to an end.
Jerry Manuel was quick to take the blame for his ineffective bullpen lately, but there’s more to it than that.
“What I need to do is really refresh the bullpen,” Manuel said. “I probably, to a fault, use them too much. I have to do all I can to refresh them and that will help. “What I have to do is trust the other people I have down there.”
I can hardly blame Jerry Manuel for his reluctance to use Takahashi and Switzer. I can hardly blame Jerry Manuel for his starting pitchers failing to give him the innings he desperately needs. Blaming Manuel for the state of the bullpen is a bit short-sighted as the problems lie much deeper than Manuel.
To begin, we lost J.J. Putz for a long stretch thanks to a bone spur that Omar was aware of when he made the trade. We also survived a big scare when severe muscle cramps sent A-Rod to the ground crying in pain. Luckily, Rodriguez came out of it intact and was back on the mound days later.
Once Putz was put on the DL, Bobby Parnell was expected to take over as the setup man. It seemed like a well deserved promotion at the time for the young right hander who had been performing well as the first line of defense in the seventh inning. However, things started to unravel almost immediately. Parnell’s ERA by month tells the story: April 1.74, May 2.46, June 15.88.
Parnell has appeared in 36 games so far this season, and that ranks him 2nd in the National League. Lefthanded hitters have tagged him for a .357 average and an .884 OPS. His numbers against righthanded hitters are only slightly better at .338/.815. This train looks like it has left the station. Some say that it’s a case of overuse, but I think the lack of effective secondary pitches have more to do with it. When you throw mostly fastballs, eventually hitters will just wait for one, and that’s exactly what they are now doing.
Pedro Feliciano has gone from untouchable to very hittable, and he leads the league in appearances after leading the league last season. Feliciano is clearly a case of overuse, and the Mets must find a way to reduce the workload before he goes completely into the tank like he did last season. Feliciano has become too valuable to be treated so carelessly. He has pitched in 40 games and is on pace to make over 100 appearances. His ERA jumped from 1.40 in May to 3.60 so far in June. In his last six appearances he has an 8.15 ERA and that doesn’t even include inherited runners scored.
Sean Green has gone from bad to terrific to bad again after last nights performance. The real Sean Green lies somewhere in between which still would make him an important cog in our bullpen. Again, yesterday’s poor outing might also be a case of overuse. He allowed three hits and two earned runs, and wasn’t able to register an out. It was his second consecutive poor performance, but before that he had not allowed a run in 15 straight appearance. Green is probably the most valuable piece we have to show for that J.J. Putz trade, and if used effectively he has proven just how valuable he could be to this team.
Ken Takahashi and Jon Switzer are so bad and so ineffective, they are not even worth mentioning. Both of their spots will probably be taken up once John Maine and Oliver Perez are activated from the DL.
I believe the Mets have someone very serviceable languishing in the minors in righthander Elmer Dessens. The 38-year old veteran has put together a solid season in Class-AAA Buffalo and I was very surprised when the Mets tapped Jon Switzer for a promotion and bypassed Dessens ten days ago.
Dessens has pitched 35 innings and allowed just 29 hits and 6 walks for a 1.00 WHIP. His strikeout to walk ratio of 28/6 is rather impressive even if it was compiled in AAA. He has racked up 11 saves and owns a 2.40 ERA. He seems to be a crossover type pitcher as lefthanders are hitting just .160 against him.
The Mets bullpen is in dire need of some fresh arms. They must find away to get their starters to go longer into the game, but that continues to be a big problem for the rotation. Until they get that figured out, they need to get Jerry Manuel some arms he can trust.
Clearly, Manuel has over relied on Parnell, Feliciano and Green. He avoids Stokes, Takahashi and Switzer like they have the plague, although his reluctance to use Stokes is puzzling.
Dessens may give Manuel another option he can trust. He is a veteran reliever who has been around the league and knows the ropes. Dessens is by no means a savior, but he can be a serviceable arm right now, and with no days off until July 6th, the Mets would be smart to give him a callup.