Fishing For Hope In A Resurgent Bullpen

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I was fishing up in northern MN a few years back and I caught a big large mouth bass along with a number of other keepers. It was a good 22 inches and four pounds. I had the damned thing on a stringer. I’d never worked with a stringer, always used a bucket catching porgies out by Greenpoint … So anyway I unlatched the stringer and reached over to grab my bucket (the irony!) and in that moment my toe came off the line and … whoosh, goodbye. My magnificent bass friend wasn’t about to give his life up to this amateur, he and the others were gone. In that moment, what I felt, I realize, is the closest I can get to how I feel about this Mets season. So many “could-a beens” so many babbling slapped to your senses moments … at the end of the day more often than not you are left with a tipped canoe and a tangled line and nothing to show for it.

There is no sense trying to explain how this Mets team could actually be competitive if only certain things were to happen. For years we struggle with non-existent bullpens and now, we finally get a decent pen, and the rest of the team forgets how to hit.

Bullpens play a huge role in today’s game. The good ones tend to keep their teams in contention, with a few exceptions, one being the Mets. The top ten ranked bullpens generally belong to contenders. The Mets currently rank 9th in bullpen ERA. Can you believe it? Can you dig it? It’s true man, the Mets can throw some serious heat at you in the late innings … and see, here’s the thing … wait for it … there is a positive correlation between organizational depth and bullpen effectiveness, highlighted almost perfectly in the farm fueled rise of our current relief corps as the Mets also have a consensus top ten farm system. The premise was discussed ad nauseam here, and it continues to be true today as the Astros top both lists (bullpen ERA ranking and many farm system rankings) … In fact, if you go by WAR, the correlation is even more pronounced with top Bullpen WAR rankings populated by a virtual who’s-who of top ten farm system ranking lists. It’s no big insight, the flexibility to add quality arms from the farm, especially down the stretch, is a huge advantage, research supporting this is akin to shooting the proverbial fish in it’s bucket, no pun intended.

Now you’d think, maybe, by assembling multiple lockdown end-game scenarios you might also have the presence to support it with a table scrap lineup that can put up a few runs here and there? Nope. What makes matters worse is that the one hope of a team such as ours is impeccable fundamentals, or “fundies” as Keith would say, at which we are anything but passable — the team continues to throw the ball around routinely giving the opposition extra outs. My friends, there are real questions with this team, but you still end up wondering how much better they could be. If only the Mets insisted on more production from both corners … if only I’d tied the stringer down!

Sadly the problem with a good bullpen on a team that can’t produce enough offense is you get into these grueling extra-innings marathons against other decent bullpens and you are burnt out by July 1st. fssst caput, dead.

It’s not rocket science, it’s basically the NL blueprint with Whitey Herzog and the bunting and the hit and run … doesn’t anyone with the Mets know how to play that game? We couldn’t find someone who knows a thing or two about NL style play? I believe our current manager thinks it has something to do with making a daily double switch…

The good news is we’ve fixed the bullpen (for now), but, like whack-a-mole every time you plug one hole, three other holes pop up. But heck either way the lack of fielding and fundamentals will always hamstring this team and is inexcusable from a planning aspect, that’s one for the reticent gray matter gurus in our front office. Solid defense up the middle is huge. Defense is not a secondary or “supporting” skill set. Not in the NL I remember, good fielding and solid pitching can put a strangle hold on many a 1-0 Tom Seaver victory… don’t they know this? Didn’t Sandy get the memo? No memo?

You want to feel good about the bullpen, and the improvement is huge no doubt, but, particularly with a pitching first approach, until the Mets can figure out how to put fundamentally sound ballplayers on their major league field we’re more likely in for that standing drenched on a pier having just lost your fish feeling.

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About Matt Balasis 151 Articles
A Met fan since August 1969 when the Red Cross placed my family on the 6th floor of a building in Willets Point because of a fire. I could see Shea from our balcony. I missed the fall of 86 because I was in Boot Camp and I've been serving penance ever since in Minnesota. I write about the Mets to share with a tradition that made much of my childhood worthwhile. Follow me on twitter: