It’s Time To Give Justin Hampson A Shot In The Mets Bullpen
With the Mets obvious need for quality relief pitching, especially in pressure situations, what would you say if I told you there was a guy who could step in and step up, and do a fantastic job for the Mets right now? What if I told you he wouldn’t cost anything, not in salary or in players or compensation, but would merely have to be added to the 40-man ML roster?
What if I told you that he is a game-tested veteran with major league experience and success, and that he is left-handed as well? But what if I told you that despite his obvious ability to get lefties out regularly, that he also does well enough to get righties out as well, and so is not limited to the LOOGY role in the pen, but could be a functional crossover reliever from the port-side?
Is that a player you would be interested in for the Mets? Kind of a bookend reliever and additional lefty to go along with Byrdak? Someone who could get the Mets big outs, and still leave options open for TC to find adequate match-ups throughout the game? Someone who is already right under our noses?
Just ask Buffalo manager Wally Backman what he thinks of this guy who he has called upon to pitch more innings than any other reliever in his bullpen this season. For some reason the Mets have so far passed over this pitcher when it came time to promoting relievers from Buffalo this year. But that is about to change soon due to the fact that Buffalo reliever Justin Hampson is simply pitching his way to the big leagues these days.
After successful stints in the big leagues with San Diego in 2007 and 2008, in which he combined to go 4-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 74 games, he suffered a shoulder injury that caused him to miss most of 2009 and all of 2010. He resurfaced last season to log a full year for the Mets pitching at Buffalo, but did not get the call. In 2011 throwing for the Herd he went 3-3 with one save, and a 3.41 ERA in 58 innings. Now with a full, healthy season under his belt, Hampson is pitching with confidence and guile in 2012, and has been arguably Buffalo’s most consistent reliever. He is able to once again command his full arsenal of pitches and the results have been absolutely eye-popping.
This season in 25 games covering 38.2 innings, Hampson is 4-1 with two saves, a 1.86 ERA, and a 40/14 K/BB ratio. While right-handed batters are hitting just .245 against him, lefties are at a paltry .191 batting average, but the thing you notice when Hampson is pitching is not his blazing fastball. What strikes you is how the guy changes speeds, changes eye levels for the hitters, mixes locations and movement on his pitches. The result? Hitters can’t seem to square this guy up.
You see lot’s of frustrated opponents cursing or screaming in frustration as they transverse the field on their way back to the dugout after failing to hit the ball hard against Hampson. Many a bat gets pounded into the dirt after a hitter has been tantalized with a Hampson offering, only to come up empty. I have no doubt that this guy could be a valuable piece, and a first step towards the restructuring of the Mets putrid bullpen. C’mon Sandy lets not wait any longer, Hampson is not the type of player who needs to get more seasoning. He’s a seasoned veteran, and he’s ready to contribute, so let’s give him a shot.
Let’s Go Mets!
About the Author: Peter Shapiro
The first time I went to Shea was not for a Mets game, it was for the Beatles concert there in August of '66. My first Met game was '67, a guy named Salty Parker was the interim-manager then. My first pennant race was 1969. As a 12 year-old that summer and fall, I managed to get to the park for 3 games. The first was the beginning of the Miracle which actually started on Tuesday July 8, 1969 with a day game against the Cubs. I was there a lot in '73. I saw games 3 & 5 of the 1973 NL Playoffs against the "Big Red Machine", from the upper deck behind home plate. It was from there that I witnessed the fight between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose, and the mayhem that ensued. And that sweet victory in game 5! I saw a couple of WS games at Shea that year against that legendary Oakland A's club. I was there in 1985 for every single game Dr. K pitched including his two 16 strikeout performances, and the day he one-hit the Cubs on an infield single and the Mets won 1-0. I loved being a Met fan in those days. Hopefully we are once again preparing to emerge from the darkness.
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