Much of the talk of the off-season had to do with whether the Mets had a strong enough bullpen to back up their dynamite starting pitching.
Fans were happy for the most part with the two-year deal GM Sandy Alderso n handed out to LHP Antonio Bastardo, and re-signing LHP Jerry Blevins to a one-year deal. The minor league deal Alderson gave to reclamation project Jim Henderson has looked like a bargain to date as well.
One move fans were unsure about was with RHP Addison Reed.
Reed, 27, was in his second year of arbitration, and was not guaranteed to be tendered a contract with the Mets. He was traded to the Mets in late August from the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league pitchers Matt Koch and Miller Diaz to help bolster the Mets bullpen heading into the September stretch.
Reed was the closer for the Diamondbacks heading into the 2015 season, but lost the job early on. Reed was demoted to Triple-A Reno on June 22nd, where he appeared in 11 games for the Aces, posting a 1.74 ERA, earning five saves in six chances, and holding opponents to an even .200 batting average.
The Diamondbacks reactivated Reed on July 29th, and upon his return to the big club pitched well, appearing in 13 games allowing only three earned runs, walking three, and striking out 14 batters. He lowered his season ERA from 5.81 on July 29th, down to 4.20 on August 27th, the last game he’d appear in as a Diamondback.
His resurgence in late July and August was a big part of why Alderson took a chance on Reed. Alderson brought in Clippard and had a lock down closer in Familia, so bringing in Reed who had saved 101 games from 2012-2014 seemed like a shrewd move to make.
Reed stepped up big for the Mets in September, having gone 15 appearances without giving up an earned run. His official stat line with the Mets was 1-1 with a minuscule 1.17 ERA in 15.1 innings. He allowed only two earned runs, walked five and struck out 17 heading into October baseball.
Based off those numbers, it would’ve been a no-brainer for the Mets to retain the righty, however, his postseason numbers were nowhere near as formidable, appearing in three games, one in each round of the playoffs.
Many will remember his ugly stat line in Game 5 of the World Series, where he is listed as the losing pitcher of record. He came on in the 12th inning, lasting only 1/3 of an inning, giving up three hits, five runs, four of them earned.
The Mets would end up tendering contracts to all eight of their arbitration-eligible players, including Reed. Reed and the Mets agreed to a $5.3 million deal, a bargain of sorts if Reed can come close to replicating the late season surge he saw when he arrived to Queens.
And so far so good for the 27-year-old. As of Wednesday morning, Reed’s appeared in 19 games with a 2.65 ERA. In 17 innings of work, Reed has allowed five runs, allowed one home run, and struck out 24 batters. He picked up his 8th hold of the season last night against the Nationals, pitching a perfect frame and striking out two.
He’s really only had three bad performances to date on the early season. The first was the April 15th game against Cleveland, where he pitched 1.2 innings giving up three hits and two earned runs. Then on April 30th against San Francisco where he pitched 1/3 of an inning giving up one hit and two earned runs, and then his most recent outing on May 8th against San Diego, where he gave up two straight singles without recording an out.
Terry Collins has stuck by his word for the most part about having Reed set-up for Familia. Twelve out of the 18 games he’s appeared have been in the 8th inning, while also appearing in the ninth inning four times, earning one save.
Collins made the proclamation in late February about Reed, citing his experience in late-inning situations as a big reason for claiming that he’d be the set-up man heading into the 2016 season.
“Right now, as I’m sitting here at this particular moment, he’s got to be that eighth-inning guy,” Collins said Wednesday. “He’s got the experience doing it. He’s a veteran guy. The way he pitched for us after we got him, he’s the guy.”
Reed has held up his end of the bargain early on this season. His peripherals also look very strong, having one of his strongest K/9 (12.38) in his Major League career, and having the best FIP (1.91) of his career not including his brief call up with the White Sox in 2011.
What’s interesting to note is that Reed is going to his fastball more than he ever has in his entire career. To date, Reed has thrown his fastball 78.2% of the time according to Fangraphs, and it’s been successful so far, registering at a 2.6 on the wFB pitch value scale on Fangraphs. If he continues to find success with his fastball, he should eclipse his career high which was 9.3 wFB in 2013 with the White Sox.
While his fastball velocity is down since his rookie days with Chicago, he’s still averaging 92.94 mph on his four-seam fastball. What’s been helping him is his location and getting first pitch strikes. On the year, Reed has a 73.9% rate on first pitch strikes, good for 3rd among qualifying relievers. That number is a career high for Reed, whose previous high was 66% back in 2012.
Why is this important you might ask? If you look at his numbers when he’s ahead in the count, batters are hitting .258/.258/.258 for a .516 OPS along with 15 strikeouts. When Reed’s behind in the count, hitters are slashing .500/.667/.500, for a 1.167 OPS.
Reed’s also getting batters to chase pitches out of the strike zone, and having them make much less contact than in recent years. So far on the season, Reed’s O-Contact% is at 53.9%, which is one of the lowest marks of his career. His O-Swing%, or the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone, backs this up as well. He’s currently registered at 33.9% of the time, again one of his best career marks to date.
Reed’s been a solid piece to this bullpen so far, as the Mets bullpen has been one of the best in baseball thus far. Before Tuesday’s match-up with the Nationals, they ranked 2nd in team bullpen ERA at 2.44, 12th in strikeouts with 120, and 1st in OPS against at .602.
Collins’ plan has worked so far with Reed in the 8th, however, it’s worth noting that Reed has appeared in roughly 48% of the games so far, something to keep an eye on in case of any potential overuse. His career high in games appeared came in 2013 with Chicago at 68.
For now, fans can feel pretty comfortable with the Mets pen, and relish in the fact that the Mets seem like they’re once again heading for a special season, and have a strong bullpen to anchor their electric starting rotation.