Last season, on the eve of September, Sandy Alderson went out and obtained Addison Reed from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Up until that point in the season, Reed was having a poor year that included a demotion to AAA. In his 38 appearances with the Diamondbacks, he was 2-2 with a 4.20 ERA and a 1.500 WHIP while only striking out 7.5 batters per nine innings.
When Reed joined the Mets, he became a much different pitcher. In his 17 September appearances, he was 1-1 with a 1.17 ERA, a 1.043 WHIP, and a 10.0 K/9. With that, Reed locked down the seventh inning on a Mets team and bullpen that would go all the way to the World Series.
Fernando Salas could be this year’s version of Addison Reed.
Like Reed, Alderson went out and got Salas right before the waiver trade deadline. Similar to Reed, Alderson pounced on a reliever with a good track record, had some closing experience, and was having a down year.
In Salas’ 58 appearances with the Angels, he was 3-6 with a 4.47 ERA and a 1.260 WHIP. Now, he had been pitching better in August, but he still had a 3.48 ERA for the month. That’s a nice reliever to have, but that’s not the lockdown seventh inning reliever a team with World Series aspirations needs.
Well, like Reed the year before, Salas has become a better pitcher with the Mets. In his 14 appearances with the Mets, Salas has a sterling 1.88 ERA and a 0.628 WHIP. He has gone from striking out 7.2 batters per nine innings to striking out 9.4 batters per nine innings with the Mets. Salas is maintaining this high level with the Mets despite his throwing the fifth most innings in all of baseball in the month of September.
What is interesting about Salas’ turnaround is that his stuff hasn’t changed all that much from the Angels to the Mets. He is getting slightly more movement, but it’s not so appreciable that he would become a completely different pitcher. He still rarely uses his slider, and he uses his changeup as an out pitch. Looking at these numbers, you would expect a regression. However, there is something different Salas is doing that is not indicated here that gives you hope this tremendous stretch is for real. He’s throwing strikes.
Salas went from walking 3.0 batters per nine innings this year with the Angels to not walking anyone with the Mets. The reason is Salas is throwing more strikes. He’s getting into the games, establishing his fastball quickly, and he is pounding the zone.
A large part of this is Salas making a concerted effort to throw more strikes. Another part of the reason is the difference between the Mets catchers and the Angels catchers. Again, Travis d’Arnaud has shown himself to be one of the better pitch framers in all of baseball. Rene Rivera is also having a better season in that respect than he has had in year’s past.
As for the Angels catchers Carlos Perez and Jeff Bandy, they have not been good pitch framers at all this season. The difference between the two sets of catchers is a big one. It is the difference between falling behind early in the count allowing you to set up a batter for a strikeout to trying to get a pitch over so you don’t issue a free pass. It is the difference between a called strike three and a batter getting a free pass.
Overall, Salas has been the beneficiary of the Mets catchers exceptional pitch framing. The Mets have been the beneficiaries of Salas’ pitching. With him, the Mets have a pitcher that has allowed them to ease off the overworked Reed and Jeurys Familia down the stretch. With him, the Mets have a terrific 7-8-9 trio to close out important games.