An Organizational Flaw

As I watched the Subway Series this weekend, I couldn’t help but feel disgust for the Mets bullpen. I know I’m not alone here.

In terms of Rauch, Francisco and Ramirez, I felt that the “back of their baseball card,” was enough to make me feel okay about their acquisitions. I still think they are better than they are pitching, but it simply isn’t looking good right now.

I wonder if the Mets didn’t acquire them, what were better options and how do we know they are or were better options?

As I watched yesterday’s game, I shot a text to my friend “Has all the makings of a Francisco blown save,” little did I know Parnell & Rauch would beat him to it.

As we receive word that Mejia is being pushed to the bullpen in Buffalo, it reminds me of a thought I’ve had recently.

This organization is absolutely terrible at developing bullpen arms.

Everybody here knows (or at least should know), that a bullpen is the biggest role of the dice on a roster. Pitchers who throw limited innings can have such rollercoaster like careers. Look at J.J. Putz as an example: 3.88 ERA before he came to the Mets, then a 5.22 ERA with the Mets, then 2.83 in Chicago to 2.17 in Arizona and now he has a 5.40 ERA.

So I decided to take a look at the Mets bullpen arms since 1994. I chose 1994 for a few reasons.

#1: The new division alignment with the Marlins. This way I can compare the Mets as a franchise to their current division rivals.

#2: Since 1994, there have been 5 Mets General Managers. Joe McIlvaine, Steve Phillips, Jim Duquette, Omar Minaya, and now Sandy Alderson. I felt this was a fair way to judge, especially so nobody accuses anybody of being pro or against certain GMs.

So here’s the criteria I decided to put in place:

I looked at every bullpen pitcher from 2011 down to 1994 with the Mets.

  1. They must have DEBUTED with the Mets.
  2. They must have a minimum 30 appearances
  3. They must have a maximum 4.99 ERA.

So here is who we have:

Pedro Beato: 24 years old in 2011, he appeared in 60 games with a 4.30 ERA. Beato was a Rule 5 Draft selection.

Ryota Igarashi: 32 years old in 2011, he appeared in 45 games with a 4.66 ERA. He also appeared in 34 games in 2010 with an ERA over 7. He was signed as a free agent in 2009.

Jenrry Mejia: 20 years old in 2010, he appeared in 33 games with a 4.62 ERA. He was signed by the Mets in 2007.

Bobby Parnell: He was 25 years old in 2010, when he appeared in 41 games with a 2.83 ERA. He also appeared in 68 games in 2009, but had an ERA of 5.30. Since Opening Day 2010, Parnell has appeared in 132 games with a 3.42 ERA. He was drafted in 2005.

Pedro Feliciano: 29 years old in 2006, when he appeared in 64 games with a 2.09 ERA. Prior to 2006 he did appear in 51 games from 2002-2004 with a combined ERA of 4.21. From 2006-2010, Feliciano appeared in 408 Games with a 3.09 ERA. He was signed as a free agent (after being waived by Mets then released by Detroit).

Raul Valdes: 32 years old in 2010, appeared in 38 games with a 4.91 ERA. He was signed as a free agent in 2006.

Hisanori Takahashi: 35 years old in 2010, appeared in 53 games with a 3.61 ERA. He was signed as international free agent.

Aaron Heilman: 26 years old in 2005, appeared in 53 games with a 3.17 ERA. Then in 2006 he appeared in 74 games with a 3.62 ERA, followed by 81 appearances in 2007 with a 3.03 ERA. He was drafted in 2001, and was also a part of the J.J. Putz deal following a poor 2008 season.

Joe Smith: 23 years old in 2007. He appeared in 54 games with a 3.45 ERA. Then also in 2008, he had 82 appearances with a 3.55 ERA. Smith was drafted in 2006. He was traded in the J.J. Putz deal in 2008.

Dae-Sung Koo: 35 years old in 2005, appeared in 33 games with a 3.91 ERA. He was signed as a free agent.

Grant Roberts: 24 years old in 2002, appeared in 34 games with a 2.20 ERA. Also appeared in 16 games in 2001, and 18 games in 2003. He was drafted in 1995.

Jerrod Riggan: 27 years old in 2001, appeared in 35 games with a 3.40 ERA. Signed as a free agent in 1998.

Cory Lidle: 25 years old in 1997, appeared in 54 games with a 3.53 ERA. Acquired via trade in 1996 for Kelly Stinnett.

Takashi Kashiwada: 26 years old in 1997, appeared in 35 games with a 4.31 ERA. Purchased from Yomiura Giants.

Paul Byrd: 25 years old in 1996, 38 appearances with a 4.24 ERA. Byrd also appeared in 17 games in 1995 with a 2.05 ERA. He was acquired in 1994 trade that sent Jeromy Burnitz to Cleveland.

That is a total of 15 Mets pitchers in 18 seasons.

NOTE: Heath Bell made his debut for the Mets, but in his only season with a minimum 30 appearances, his ERA was 5.59.

When I look at this list, I notice a few things. For starters, that J.J. Putz deal in which the Mets sent Joe Smith to Cleveland is looking pretty terrible these days. Since the Mets traded Smith, he has appeared in 188 games, thrown 166 innings, struck out 129, and has an ERA of 2.93.

Second, I reminisce of the days of Pedro Feliciano.

Third, if I had to create a bullpen of 6 guys out of that crew, it’d probably be pretty tough. You’d have to include Feliciano, Smith, Parnell, Heilman as a starting out point. After that, I’d probably throw in Takahashi and then the late Cory Lidle.

So I wanted to see how they stacked up against the division opponents.

If I start in 2011, how many years will it take me to get to 15 bullpen pitchers using the same criteria?

Washington: Drew Storen, Henry Rodriguez, Ryan Mattheus, Jason Bergmann, Joel Hanrahan, Saul Rivera, Luis Ayala, Steven Shell, Chad Cordero, Chris Schroder, Gary Majewski, T.J. Tucker, Joe Horgan, Scott Stewart, Scott Strickland, Ugueth Urbina. Note, this is also 16 pitchers because Urbina and Strickland were both on the same team.

That takes us to 2001, a total of 11 seasons.

If I had to take the 6 best guys here, it’d probably be Storen, Rodriguez, Hanrahan, Cordero, Strickland, and Urbina. I don’t know about you, but I’d take that over the Mets 6 easily.

That takes us to 2001, a total of 11 seasons.

Atlanta: Craig Kimbrel, Johnny Venters, Peter Moylan, Kris Medlan, Manny Acosta, Blaine Boyer, Macay McBride, John Foster, Kevin Gryboski, Trey Hodges, Kerry Lightenberg, Tim Spooneybarger, John Rocker, Jason Marquis, Kevin McGlinchy.

This takes us to 1999, 13 seasons.

(Note: I did not include John Smoltz’s bullpen stints in this. If you do, then the total would be 12 seasons.)

If I had to take the 6 best guys here, it’d be Kimbrel, Venters, Moylan, Medlan, Rocker and Marquis. I’d take those 6 over the Mets 6 for sure.

Miami: Burke Badenhop, Steve Cishek, Renyel Pinto, Matt Lindstrom, Logan Kensing, Taylor Tankersley. Nate Bump, Michael Tejera, Armando Almanza, Blaine Neal, Vic Darensbourg, Matt Mantei, Kirt Ojala, Jay Powell, Felix Heredia, Rob Stanifer in 15 seasons.

This takes us to 1997.

If I had to take 6 Marlins here, I’d go with Cishek, Lindstrom, Tankersley, Mantei, Powell and Heredia. I’d likely take the Mets best 6 over these guys.

One thing to note here, the Marlins ability to develop young bullpen pitchers from 1994-2000 was severely hamstrung by the fact they were only first in existence in 1994. Even with that caveat, they still got to 15 in less time.

Philadelphia: Ryan Madson, Kyle Kendrick, Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo, David Herndon, Geoff Geary, Brett Myers, Carlos Silva, Dave Coggin, Wayne Gomes, Eddie Oropesa, Steve Shrenk, Toby Borland, Mike Williams.

If I had to take 6 from Philadelphia, I’d take Madson, Kendrick, Bastardo, Herndon, Myers, and Silva. I’d probably take those 6 over the Mets 6.

With the Phillies, I could only get 14 players up to 1994. But, there is a catch. From Madson to Silva, that is 8 players in the last 9 years. You can clearly see an organizational shift beginning with Ed Wade taking over for Lee Thomas then being succeeded by Pat Gillick.

If you look at the NL East list, there have been 9 effective closers that debuted in the NL East. They are Madson, Myers, Mantei, Kimbrel, Rocker, Storen, Hanrahan, Cordero, and Urbina.

Every NL East has at least 1 representative on that list, except the Mets. (Note: This only goes as far back as it took each team to get to 15 pitchers.)

Every year it seems the Mets are hunting the free agent market for band-aids in the bullpen.

When you have money to spend, if you spend it on the biggest wildcard position on your roster, you decrease your chances of getting value for the money you spend.

When you throw in the injury/age factor, you severely decrease your odds even further.

Some people look at the current bullpen and scoff at Omar Minaya for forcing Alderson to go acquire 3-4 bullpen arms as a short term solution.

However, if you take a deeper look, it is clear that this has not been a Minaya problem; it’s been an organizational problem for the last 18+ years.

I’m starting to wonder why?

About Michael Branda 267 Articles
Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.