While Sandy Alderson and the front office continue to scour the market for bullpen help via free agency and through trades, the Mets feel confident in their closer heading into 2017.
No, not Jeurys Familia, who will likely be suspended to begin the 2017 season due to his arrest for his role in a domestic violence dispute on Halloween in Fort Lee, NJ. Instead, the Mets intend to slide setup man Addison Reed into the closer’s role, one he’s familiar with from his time with the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Reed, 28 on December 27, had a brilliant 2016 season as the Mets’ setup man, posting career highs in games pitched (80), ERA (1.97), IP (77.2), strikeouts (91), WHIP (0.94), and OPS against (.536). His 2.6 fWAR was tied for fifth among all relievers in ’16, with only names like Jansen, Miller, Betances, and Chapman ahead of him.
Before the trade that sent Reed to the Mets in late August of 2015 for minor league pitchers Matt Koch and Miller Diaz, Reed was the closer for both the White Sox and Diamondbacks, compiling 101 saves from 2012-14, posting a 4.22 ERA with 9.5 SO/9 during that period. While the 101 saves was good for ninth among relievers, his ERA was the 16th worst among qualifying arms. Although, his FIP was 3.58, indicating that he might’ve been subjected to some bad luck and/or poor fielding or defensive alignments.
So why did it take so long for Reed to blossom into the dominating force he’s been for the Mets? Taking a closer look at Reed’s velocity and pitch selection, per Brooks Baseball, Reed’s four-seam fastball velocity in 2011-12 was over 95 MPH. Over the next four seasons, Reed watched his velocity dip to 93.22 MPH this year, however, Reed’s whiff percentage has risen since 2015, registering 9.09 followed by a 10.75 this past season, the highest it’s been since 2014. Reed’s also seen his slugging percentage against shrink over the past three years, from .423 in 2014, to .421 in ’15, to a career low .319 in ’16.
Reed’s slider has also been a useful weapon for the right-hander, as he’s using it more as a put away pitch than he has in years past. In 2014, Reed went to the slider 236 times, then saw a huge hike in ’15 with 321 times, followed by 329 in ’16. In 2012 and ’13, Reed’s whiff percentage on his slider was at 12.88 and 18.81 respectively, in ’16, Reed had a 20.97 whiff percentage on the slider, another career best. His .185 batting average against on his slider was also a career best for Reed in ’16, resulting in a 60.78 ground ball percentage.
Another important aspect to Reed’s success with the Mets is the mechanical adjustments he’s made on his leg kick, or should I say, lack thereof. As early as mid 2015, Reed pitched with a pronounced leg kick, bringing his knee up to his belt before delivering to the plate. But while Reed was stationed in Triple A Reno in 2015, as the Diamondbacks demoted their closer due to inconsistencies in the majors and watched as his ERA ballooned to 7.20 by mid May, Reed and the Diamondbacks’ staff made a compromise.
“We kind of met in the middle,” Reed said. “Not the high leg kick, not the slide step but lifting it quick and just going. That kind of got me a little bit more going into my delivery and going as opposed to the slide step, you’re just falling forward. This kind of got me to gather everything on my back leg and then shoot toward home plate.” (Beyond the Boxscore)
The change in Reed’s mechanics allow him to gather momentum on his back leg and fire towards home plate. The change in mechanics have also given Reed better control, as he posted a 1.51 BB/9, the lowest it’s been since his brief cup of coffee with the White Sox in 2011. Reed posted his best first pitch strike percentage in ’16, at 70.1%, according to FanGraphs.
Mechanics, pitch selection, and change of scenery have all helped Reed regain his form and be a dominating reliever in baseball. Because of this, the Mets should enter 2017 with peace of mind in the ninth, as his turnaround over the last year and change signals that the Mets have rolled the dice and won in their low risk/high reward gamble with Reed. Terry Collins spoke to MLB Network this past Tuesday and offered similar sentiments when it comes to Reed in the ninth, saying he was confident Reed can handle the ninth and get the job done.
Of course, the off-season is far from over, as the team needs to add additional relievers along with looking to re-sign Jerry Blevins. Adding a trusted arm to take Reed’s spot setting up is still a priority for the club, and it will only strengthen the team as Familia comes back from his likely suspension, giving the Mets a potentially dynamic back end of the pen.