It’s now apparent that the Mets do have what it takes to make a run for the division. We find ourselves in this position because it turns out the Mets were not as bad as many of the experts had projected, and the NL East in general had a lot more parity at the top than expected; Philadelphia was not the juggernaut everyone thought they were.
The Mets do have some questions as they enter the second half, and chief among them is the glaring lack of a true setup man to bridge the gap between the starter and their closer. To their credit, the Mets have gotten pretty far without a setup man, but I’m not so sure their luck will continue and I expect the law of averages to soon catch up.
Despite their poor showing in one-run games this season, and their MLB leading ten walk-off losses, the Mets have blown a late lead in 18 of their 40 losses. For those of you who like to bet on MLB, hopefully you had plenty of Rolaids on hand for those losses.
When you look at the overall stats for Mets relievers this season, the situation doesn’t look as dire as you would imagine. They rank 10th in the league with a 1.43 WHIP and 9th with a .251 BAA, putting them just slightly lower than the league average. The thing that has haunted the Mets bullpen for a few years now has been the overwhelming number of walks they give up. To date, they have allowed 131 bases on balls which puts them at third worst, but only two BB’s away from leading the majors. As Hall of Famer, Frankie Frisch would say, “Oh, those bases on balls.”
Jerry Manuel showed up at spring training this year, and when asked who he expected would win the setup job, without hesitation he said that Kelvim Escobar would probably be that guy. Two weeks into camp, those plans were dashed. With no other clear cut options, Manuel said he would play the hot hand and see who steps up to grab the role. We’ve seen Ryota Igarashi, Jenrry Mejia, Pedro Feliciano, Fernando Nieve, Elmer Dessens, and lately Bobby Parnell all take a turn at the helm, but neither of them were able to stay the course. The Mets setup man position remains adrift at sea.
While I don’t disagree that the Mets could use another starter in the rotation, you could make the argument that acquiring a setup reliever would make a bigger impact than any middle of the rotation starter. A top setup man could make an impact in 30-35 games in the second half, while a starting pitcher may be lucky to get 12-13 starts after the trade deadline.
According to MLBTR, Kerry Wood, David Aardsma, Jason Frasor, Scott Downs, Brandon Lyon, Will Ohman, Brandon League, Octavio Dotel and Matt Capps are among the late-inning relievers who could be traded before the July 31st deadline. There’s more than a few excellent options in that group.
The Mets could still play meaningful baseball in September and October without addressing this situation, but I would think that adding a solid arm to pitch in the eighth inning, would make the ride a lot less bumpy.