In his last 10 games Tim Byrdak has faced 11 batters. He has done an outstanding job, retiring 10 of the 11 batters and the only one to reach base drew a walk. Byrdak is a lefty specialist and manager Terry Collins is maximizing his use in that very role. Last year Collins did an outstanding job getting Byrdak to face a LHB in 65% of his PA. This year he is on a similar pace, facing a lefty 62 percent of the time.
Byrdak’s recent stretch illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of carrying a LOOGY. The great news is that he’s done his job very well. On the flip side, Byrdak is so limited in what he can do, and the rest of the bullpen is so in need of help, one could make the argument that the 2012 Mets would be better served by carrying a real pitcher instead of a lefty specialist.
Right now Byrdak is on pace to appear in 93 games. Earlier, Collins joked,
”In our case at this particular moment, Byrdak would be dead by July.”
Collins knows that he can’t keep using Byrdak nearly every day. He also knows that he has limited use versus RHB, so what is he to do? Overall in 2012 Byrdak has appeared in 23 games and has 11.1 IP. Here is the complete list of pitchers in baseball history with 50 appearances to have twice as many games as innings:
Obviously, these were all southpaws. Three of these teams finished under .500 and the other two won over 90 games thanks to a strong bullpen anchored by a dominant closer combined with above-average, innings-eating set-up men. Orosco’s 2002 Dodgers team won 92 games, thanks to Jonathan Broxton’s 52 saves and 167.2 IP from Paul Quantrill (141 ERA+) and Giovanni Carrara (116 ERA+).
Meanwhile the 2012 Mets have Frank Francisco, who no one considers a dominant closer, someone unlikely to throw 75 IP in 63 games like 2006 Rivera did. Bobby Parnell currently has a 184 ERA+ (the only reliever to throw significant innings to be over 100) but he is only on pace for 73 IP.
If the Mets are going to keep maximizing Byrdak by limiting his exposure to one batter a game, they absolutely have to get much better performances from the rest of their relievers to make the strategy work.
Ramon Ramirez and Manny Acosta are capable of much better than they have produced in 2012. The Mets are going to need them to turn things around ASAP and pitch like they did in 2010 and 2011 if they have any hopes of competing while carrying a guy with Byrdak’s workload. And while his performances recently have been quite good, Byrdak has a 117 ERA+, worse than four of the five players on the above list.