Are We Better In 2014: The Bullpen

latroy hawkins

In the final part of the “Are We Better?” series, we’ll focus on the bullpen.

On the outside looking in, the 2013 Mets pitching staff seemed like a strength of the organization.  Our rotation finished with the 8th best ERA amongst all teams, and the bullpen seemed to be average, with good seasons from Bobby Parnell, LaTroy Hawkins and Carlos Torres, as well as decent showings from guys like Josh Edgin, Scott Rice, Vic Black and Gonzalez German.

The reality of it is that even though our starting pitching had a good collective ERA on paper, we were actually 7th of 15 teams in the NL.  One thing to remember when comparing team staffs is that the NL pitchers get to face the opposing pitcher in the batters box twice per game on average. The bullpen, on the other hand, is more comparable between leagues because the pitchers spot in the lineup is usually a pinch hitter late in NL games.  Either way, it is much more accurate to compare a team vs same league opponents than it is across all teams in baseball, as a whole.

That being said, the 2013 Mets bullpen finished with a -0.1 fWAR, which was good for 27th among the 30 teams last season. Another thing to keep in mind, is that even though it seems like games are won and lost with the bullpen, it has much less impact on the outcome of games when you take everything into account.  Individually, a good reliever pitches between 60-80 innings per season with no at-bats.  In comparison, a starting position player plays in the field for nine innings and has 4+ ABs per game, and a good starting pitcher can throw 200 IP or more and be in the batter’s box a couple of times a game, in the NL anyway.

2013 Opening Day: B. Parnell, L. Hawkins, S. Atchison, B. Lyon, J. Edgin, S. Rice, G. Burke, J. Familia

2014 Projected: B. Parnell, V. Black, J. Familia, G. German, J. Edgin, S. Rice, R. Reid, C. Torres

Bobby Parnell was outstanding last season.  He made his last appearance for the 2013 Mets on July 30th, and is recovering from neck surgery.  Parnell should be ready for opening day, and is currently throwing, and preparing for the 2014 season.

2013: 5-5, 2.16 ERA, 22 Saves, 50 IP, .211 BAA, 1.00 WHIP

Parnell was worth 1.2 fWAR & 0.7 rWAR in 2013. He may not be quite as dominating as he was last year, but if he pitches 60 IP and is close to as effective as he was last season, then he should be worth about 1.0.  Even

Vic - Black, RHP

There is definitely some buzz and excitement amongst fans about the August 2013 trade that brought Vic Black into the organization.  He has a big arm, killer instinct, and a pretty cool late inning reliever name.  There is no question that Vic has the “stuff” and the arm to be successful in a late inning role at the major league level.  The only question with Black is “Will he throw enough quality strikes?”.  He has struggled with command at times, and he does have enough on his fastball to get away with the occasional mistake, but he will have to refine his command.

Black reminds me of Bobby Parnell from a few years ago.  Big arm, oozing potential, with plenty of room for improvement.  If he can locate on the corners consistently, he can close games at the big league level.  We have to come up with a nasty nickname for Vic.  Obviously, if he would’ve remained with the Pirates, “Black Beard” was the no brainer, there.  Anyway, he was worth 0.1 fWAR & rWAR in 13 IP for the Mets last year.

2013: 3-0, 3.46 ERA, 1 Save, .224 BAA, 1.15 WHIP

I feel like Black will cover the 13 innings he pitched with the Mets last season, and at least cover the 34 IP that Brandon Lyon was responsible for even if he doesn’t refine his command at all.  Lyon was worth -0.4 WAR in 2013.  That would put Black pitching right around 50 innings in 2014.  If he is 0.1 or 0.2, which I think is a very realistic and reasonable. +0.5 wins

Gonzalez German showed flashes of potential last season, but he faded a bit down the stretch.  Was it because he was tired, overused, or the league figured out his arsenal a bit?  That remains to be seen, but I do like German in the 2014 bullpen, as he has uses a change up at his 2nd pitch which isn’t very common for RP in today’s game.  I think it will complement the other members of the pen well, since most are fastball-sliders types.  “Gonzo” managed 34.1 IP in his first taste of major league action.  He was worth 0.5 fWAR & 0.0 rWAR.  He can cover that in 2014.  Even

scott rice 2

Scott Rice was a really great story in 2013 as he made the team out of spring training after spending well over a decade in the minor leagues.  He made 73 appearances before having season ending surgery for a sports hernia.  Someone is gonna have to sit beside Collins in the dugout, and just flat out tell him “Rice isn’t available tonight, Terry”.  It seemed like Rice pitched every game, and earned the nickname “Everyday Rice” last season.  He will be more effective if he doesn’t have to warm up in the bullpen every night to face one batter in the actual game.  I realize he is a loogy, but we have to find a RH reliever that can be effective against both RH & LH hitters to take some of the stress off of Rice.  A healthy season of Josh Edgin should help to remedy that as well.  2013 Rice fWAR 0.3 rWAR 0.2.  Even

Speaking of Edgin, I don’t know exactly what to expect from him in 2014.  He started out his 2013 season about as bad as he could, sporting a 9.64 ERA, 1.82 WHIP and opponents were hitting a robust .325 BAA as the calendar turned to May.  He was sent to the minor leagues to work out his “confidence” problems, although he wasn’t throwing the 95 MPH fastball he showed in 2012.  Whatever he focused on during his demotion worked, as he sported an ERA of 0.93, a 1.09 WHIP and a .224 BAA in June & July before his season ended early due to a stress fracture.  He was basically worth 0.0 in 2013 over 28 IP.  I think Edgin can cover his 28 IP from last season + the 19 IP that Feliciano, Byrdak, and Sean Henn completed in 2013 at -0.2  If he’s anywhere close to the Edgin that came back in June & July, +0.5 Wins should be no problem.

Jeurys Familia is a guy that’s been as high as #2 on our top prospect list as he dominated AA as a SP in 2011.  He has struggled with his command, but there is little doubt he has the pure stuff to dominate in the back end of any bullpen.  He had surgery last season to remove bone chips from his elbow, and should be ready for a breakout 2014 and secure a role in the Mets pen for the next several years.  I’m going to temper expectations until I see him throw enough strikes and call him a 0.0, but he should easily cover his 10 IP from last season and the -0.5 that Atchison gave us over 45.1 innings. +0.5 Wins

carlos torres

Carlos Torres was an unbelievable, out of nowhere, complete head-turner in 2013.  He really saved our staff last season and after making his first appearance on June 16th, he ended up pitching 86.0 innings between the rotation and the bullpen.  Overall, he fared far better out of the bullpen than he did as a starter, but other than two horrid starts against the Nationals in which he gave up 14 ER over 7 IP, he was really good as a starter too.

2013 Reliever: 1-1, 1.47 ERA, .203  BAA, 0.87 WHIP, 36.2 IP

2013 Starter: 3-5, 4.89  ERA, .269 BAA, 1.29 WHIP, 49.2 IP

If you remove those 2 starts vs the Nationals 3-3,  2.74  ERA

He was actually really good in whatever role in which he was used last season.  Nonetheless, I feel like we have enough SP depth in 2014 that Torres won’t be relied on to make nearly as many starts.  He might make a spot start or two, but for the most part I think the Mets are counting on him to be a big part of the 2014 bullpen.  I’m not going to compare Torres to himself last season because I think the majority of his innings will come out of the bullpen.  I think Torres will replace the 70 IP that Latroy Hawkins gave us at 0.7, roughly.  -0.5 Wins

Ryan Reid was recently added to the 40 man roster after being claimed by the Pirates.  Reid put up a 1.64 ERA over 11 IP with the Pirates in 2013, and pitched very well in a relief role in their AAA affiliate.  He could be really good, or he could be nothing special, but we’ll predict he gets roughly 36.2 IP that Torres threw out of the Mets bullpen last year that was worth +0.5.  -0.5 Wins

Jeff Walters was also added to the 40 man roster prior to the Rule V draft, and he set a Mets AA record at Binghamton last season with 38 Saves.  It’s been reported that he touched 96 MPH on the gun several times last year.  It’s pretty safe to say the velocity is plus.  If he can refine his breaking ball, and command his pitches, he could be another fire balling back end of the bullpen type that joins Familia & Black to secure the back end for years to come.  Its OK to get excited about it, but certainly not to count on it.  In any case, I think Walters will be a little better than the -0.5 Aardsma was worth over 40 IP. +0.5 Wins

Jack Leathersich is our top LH relief prospect, and he has posted eye popping K numbers throughout his minor league career.  He doesn’t throw that hard, but he has tremendous deception.  Between AA & AAA in 2013 “The Leather Rocket” struck out 102 batters in 58.1 IP.  WOW.  That’s ridiculous.  Almost 2.0 K/9.  He dominated AA, but he gave up 32 hits in 29 IP at Vegas and walked 29 for a WHIP 2.10.  He needs some serious work on his command to succeed at the big league level.  Surely, he can’t be worse than Robert Carson was last season (-1.0) in 20 IP. +0.5 Wins

The Mets signed Joel Carreno this offseason who got glowing reviews from Baseball America as a guy who should be able to provide solid innings in a major league bullpen. To be honest, I don’t know much about him, but I find it hard to believe he will be worse than Greg Burke was last year over roughly 30 IP.(-1.4 rWAR & 0.0 fWAR).  If we value him at -0.25 that would put us at: +0.5 Wins

Erik Goeddel, Cory Mazzoni, & Jacob deGrom are three arms that have been at least semi successful as SP in the minor leagues.  At some point we will have to start moving some of these guys to the bullpen or moving them for proven players, as the Mets will face a serious roster crunch next offseason when its time to protect players from the Rule V draft.

Goeddel was a closer at UCLA, but has been used exclusively as a starter so far.  I think this is the year he moves to the bullpen.  He hit 95 MPH out of the pen at UCLA, but works in the low 90’s as a SP.  I think he can get that velocity back up with a move to the pen.  Cory Mazzoni & deGrom both have the stuff to pitch in the back end of a rotation, but again, we’re lucky enough to have Montero & Syndergaard poised to make their major league debut in the rotation this year along with Gee, Niese, Colon, Mejia and Dice-K.  Mazzoni is another guy that had more velocity in college and is projected to go from 91-93 MPH as a starter to 93-95 MPH as a RP.  He also has a splitter that could end up being at least an average pitch.

We have roughly 20 IP unaccounted for from 2013 from Laffey, Recker(Ha), Francisco, McHugh & Marcum that was worth -0.2  I don’t think Goeddel, Mazzoni or deGrom would do any worse in 20 IP, and they could be better by leaps and bounds. Even

Trying to predict how a major league bullpen performs over the course of a full season is next to impossible.  I was really excited about the Brandon Lyon signing last year, and he was awful.

I would love for the Mets to add Joel Hanrahan and gamble on a bounce back season after missing most of 2013.  It would be a pretty big gamble as Hanrahan had TJ surgery, and had bone chips removed from his elbow.  He may not be ready until the All-Star break.  It would have to be a low base, incentive laden deal.

Whether we add someone else or not, we have much more depth throughout the organization this year than we did at this time last year.  Relievers are a huge gamble either way as the variance from year to year is vast.  If guys like Black, Familia and German can build on their 2013 seasons, and Parnell, Edgin and Rice come back healthy, we could have a really strong bullpen in 2014.  If guys like Reid, Walters, Goeddel, deGrom & Leathersich can come up and be called upon to deliver solid innings, then we could have a dominant bullpen.  I’m not worried about the bullpen either way.  If we are in the race around the trade deadline, we can add a RP or two with relative ease via trade.  We should be a couple of wins better in the bullpen department in 2014.  It would be hard for us to be worse.

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