On July 23rd, Pedro Beato gave up 4 ER in 0.1 IP as the Mets dropped their second straight extra-inning game. From the 10th inning on in those games, the Mets were outscored, 11-0, and the bullpen looked like it has pretty much all season – in shambles. The following day the Mets demoted Beato and called up Manny Acosta, which had the feeling of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
However, in six games since Acosta has been back in the pen, the team’s relievers have a 3.06 ERA in 17.2 IP. In that span they have allowed just 10 H and 1 HR. They have surrendered a few more walks than you would prefer (9) but have compensated by striking out 21 batters for a 10.7 K/9. It adds up to a 3.14 FIP, right in line with their actual results.
Acosta is tied for the lead among relievers in innings since his recall and he has not allowed a run. Here is the breakdown for the bullpen in the last six games:
Given how heavily the bullpen had been used prior to this stretch – and how many innings needed in the last six games – this is a nice innings pitched breakdown. Additionally, no one has been used in more than back-to-back games and the Mets head to San Francisco with no one unavailable out of the pen.
Terry Collins has come under scrutiny for his bullpen deployment but perhaps now he finally has a group he can somewhat trust. Elvin Ramirez is the weak link and undoubtedly will be sent down if/when Frank Francisco is ready to return. When the Mets get their closer back, they can move Byrdak back to his one-or-two batter per game role. It is clearly the most effective usage for him and they might actually have the depth to pull it off now.
Even with his horrific game against the Dodgers (1.2 IP, 5 ER), Ramon Ramirez has a 3.38 ERA in 12 games since returning from the DL. I do not agree with how Collins is using him but he has for the most part done a good job soaking up innings and along with Edgin gives the manager two options for guys who can go multiple innings when a starter gets knocked out early.
Acosta is third in line for the multi-inning outing, which is better than counting on him as the primary long reliever. While he was very good in Triple-A and unscored upon in his first three outings back in the majors, Acosta needs to work his way back to higher-leverage innings. Still, he can provide value keeping things close in the middle of the game and it would be a boon to the pen if he could come back and be the pitcher with a 3.22 ERA, like he had for the Mets in 2010-11, rather than the guy who had an 11.86 ERA before he was mercifully sent out of town earlier this season.
If Francisco can come back and be the closer he was earlier – 1.26 ERA in his last 14 games before hitting the DL – then the Mets could finally have a normal pen. Collins will likely use some combination of Byrdak/Rauch/Parnell to cover the 7th-8th innings to get to Francisco. It’s not exactly Mariano Rivera–John Wetteland but it could work.
Ideally, Collins works Acosta, Edgin and Ramon Ramirez into more valuable roles the rest of the season. It is easy to see Edgin evolving into the primary 8th-inning man – perhaps not this year – and he might become a closer in 2014. My goal would be to have the other two be the ones vying for work in the seventh inning along with Parnell. However, it does cause a problem for Collins as Rauch is not capable of being a multiple-inning reliever and Byrdak is stretched to go a full inning.
Perhaps Collins could use Byrdak/Rauch in close and late situations through the end of August. Then once rosters expand the Mets can add a couple of relievers to use in multi-inning roles. This frees up Edgin and Ramirez to be slotted into higher leverage spots in place of Byrdak/Rauch without requiring either of the demoted relievers to go more innings than they are capable of providing.
Then in 2013 the Mets could have Francisco, Edgin and Parnell as their primary relievers. Acosta and Ramon Ramirez should be brought back if their performance dictates it and the price is right. If both return, then they would only need to get a LOOGY and a long man to fill out their pen. That’s a far cry from last offseason, when the Mets added a closer and two guys who figured to battle it out for the 8th-inning role.