The New York Mets completed one of their best April’s in team history, going 15-7 for a .682 winning percentage. As Adam Rubin noted, the Mets twice had more wins in April in 2006 (16-8) and 2002 (16-10) but those were in more games played.
A number of factors led to such an impressive month, as the Mets offense woke up halfway through April, the starting pitching was impressive despite early issues from Matt Harvey and Steven Matz, and the bullpen has done a formidable job holding leads, much better than many early predictions favored them to be.
Before Monday night’s home game with the Atlanta Braves, the Mets pen ranked 9th in baseball in ERA at 2.84, 9th in OPS at .630, and 3rd in K/9 at 10.48. The Mets bullpen is also in the bottom third of the amount of extra base hits surrendered, only giving up 17 extra base hits to date.
A key contributor has been LHP Jerry Blevins, who’s been fantastic thus far for the Mets in his short New York career.
I say short because Blevins, 32, was involved in not one, but two different broken arm injuries in 2015. The first occurred on April 19th when Blevins was pitching in the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins. With one out and runners on the corners, recently suspended Dee Gordon hit a 0-1 off-speed pitch right back at Blevins, fracturing his forearm. Blevins would go on to try and rehab it without surgery, until he next incident occurred four months later.
While rehabbing his way back for late season action, Blevins re-injured his left arm in August, when he slipped while stepping off a curb retrieving his iPhone from his car in Florida. He re-fractured his distal radius bone in his left forearm, the same one he had initially injured in April against the Marlins.
Blevins had surgery after the incident in Florida, requiring a plate and six screws. Blevins rehabbed in the offseason and was ready for another opportunity with a clean bill of health for 2016. Blevins knew that he had to adjust after having surgery, and needed to test his arm out as soon as he was cleared to do so. He talked in spring about facing the new challenge.
“Something is new. I’ve got metal latched to bone in my arm. So there was definitely a bit of apprehension. But there’s only one way to find out how it’s going to be. And that’s to start throwing. Knock on wood, it’s been great so far. I haven’t had any issues. It feels really good now.”
Blevins is healthy and back in action for the Mets this year, after resigning with the club in December for $4 million plus incentives to be one of their their lefty specialists.
In Spring Training, Blevins talked about how the incidents from 2015 have had an impact on his life, and are a constant reminder of the wacky season he had. At least he has a sense of humor about it!
“Every time somebody tweets about me, all the comments are: ‘Watch out for a curb. Wrap him in bubble wrap,’” Blevins said. “So it’s something I’m prepared for.”
He’s off to a great start in 2016, as he’s 1-0 on the year, with a 3.38 ERA in 12 appearances. Blevins has struck out seven, and has not issued a walk in eight innings of work before Monday night’s game.
His secondary stats are excellent as well, as he owns a 0.50 WHIP, and a .148 batting average against. Blevins has inherited 12 runners, and only one has come around to score. And his FIP also reveals that Blevins has done better than what his ERA indicates, as he’s currently at 2.94.
Blevins’ splits are phenomenal against left-handed hitters, as he owns a 1.59 ERA in 5 2/3 innings, allowing only three hits, one extra-base-hit, and one earned run.
He’s essentially a three-pitch pitcher, throwing his sinker 45% of the time, followed by a curveball 31.7%, and a slider at 19.2%. He also features a changeup that he’s only employed 4.2% of the time thus far. Despite not featuring overpowering “stuff”, Blevins has been successful in his career by pitching on the first base side of the rubber, and throwing at more of a three quarter delivery, giving the opposition a more difficult task of trying to pick up the ball at an altered angle.
Blevins is going to play an important role for the Mets in the pen, especially when facing the tough left-handed hitters in the National League East. Here’s Blevins’ career numbers against some of the tougher competition in the NL East, Bryce Harper (0-1), Daniel Murphy (0-3), Freddie Freeman (3-8 with 2 strikeouts), Dee Gordon (1-7), and Ryan Howard (0-3 with 2 strikeouts), and Odubel Herrera (0-2).
The Mets bullpen has been a collective success so far, and more help is on the way in LHP Josh Edgin, and the return of Zack Wheeler in July, which would push Bartolo Colon to the pen and for some spot starts. In order for the Mets to make another run at the World Series this year, they’re relying on their pen of veterans and young arms to carry the load and turn the ball over to Jeurys Familia. Blevins and his lefty arm will be a big part of that for the Mets in 2106, but maybe keep the bubble wrap handy when he’s walking near curbs.