An MMO Fan Shot by Jeremy Stein
The Mets bullpen was a mess last year. For a point of reference, their bullpen ERA in 2017 was 4.82, which was second worst in the majors, behind just the Detroit Tigers (5.63).
Not only did they lose Jeurys Familia for a good chunk of the season, but a majority of the bullpen also under performed or were sidelined with injury. Some of that may have been the pitchers’ fault and some may simply have been improper use by Terry Collins.
Before I go further on that subject, let me say that Terry Collins did some good things as a manager but handling the bullpen was historically not one of them. His best trait as a manager was that he made the team play hard every day for the majority of his tenure and cared about his team, although he did reportedly lose some players at the end of his last season.
But there were also a lot of questionable decisions he made and quite a few of them concerned the bullpen. As Dilip Sridhar pointed out in his recent article about Paul Sewald, Terry Collins frequently put relief pitchers in situations that did not play to their strengths. Sewald was death to right-handers but was frequently asked to face lefties.
A lot of times, righties or lefties would have reverse splits and yet Collins did not seem to have any knowledge of the metrics and would continually send them out against the same handed batters even though the metrics suggested they would best be used against opposite handed hitters.
Jerry Blevins is one of the better LOOGYs in all of baseball. However, righties lit him up like a Christmas tree, hitting to a .288/.447/.545 clip against him in 85 plate appearances. Lefties hit just .197/.250/.205 in 132 at-bats.
In addition, Collins would stick with a pitcher even after it became obvious that he did not have his best stuff that day. I can’t tell you how many times I screamed at the screen while watching the game and yelled at Collins, “can’t you see he doesn’t have good stuff today. Get him out of there!”
But invariably he would leave the pitcher in there until several runs would be given up and then remove him.
We are all hoping that Mickey Callaway will do a much better job with the bullpen. So far he has been saying all the right things. He talked about not having starters go a third time through the lineup which is a trend throughout baseball. Of course in order to do that, you need a strong bullpen.
On paper, the back end of the rotation looks like it could be one of the Mets strong suits. Familia, Blevins, AJ Ramos and the recently acquired Anthony Swarzak make for a solid core, however, bringing in another strong arm could make them formidable.
Maybe Mickey will be able to bring out the best in players like Sewald, Hansel Robles and others also. He has talked about not only using metrics but using the eye test to see how a pitcher is throwing. That alone is encouraging. If we have a better bullpen not only will the team be better, but the starting pitchers will do better knowing that when they turn the ball over to the bullpen with a lead, the correct pitchers will be brought in to face the proper hitters.
At the end of the day, the management of the ‘pen will be the real key. You can have talented arms, but the last thing you want to do is bully them or use them in situations where they won’t thrive. Here’s to hopeful new beginnings.
* * * * * * * *
This Fan Shot was written and contributed to MMO by reader and die-hard Mets fan Jeremy Stein. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Send your article to GetMetsmerized@aol.com or use this Contact Form. Ask us about becoming a regular contributor.