Have you ever wanted something so bad that you could taste it? And the longer you go without the item, its appeal only increases exponentially? Sometimes when you get that item, it becomes a watershed day in your life. Like when you got your first bike or your first car or your first big promotion. And other times when you get what you longed for, it only turns into a bitter disappointment because the item couldn’t possibly match the expectations you built up for it in your mind.
I would like to think that Terry Collins is experiencing that second sensation right now. See, for the entire time that he has been here, Collins has gone on and on and on about wanting a second lefty in the bullpen. Recently he got that second lefty when Jeremy Hefner went on the paternity list (sounds like he got busted on one of those daytime TV shows where they try to determine who the father is) and the Mets promoted Robert Carson to take his place.
Now, the point of this post is not to belittle Carson, who one day might grow up to become the next Arthur Rhodes. It’s just that he happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Carson is the lefty they called up and Carson is the lefty who got in the game last night and gave up another run – making him basically like every other lefty reliever the team has employed this season. Let’s take a look at the 2012 lefty relievers for the Mets.
Now, generally I try to look for the positives but looking at this list there’s only one thought that can legitimately come to mind: It’s an entire collection of suck.
Collins had some success last year with Tim Byrdak, as the veteran lefty posted a 3.82 ERA and a 1.407 WHIP. Whatever success Byrdak did enjoy was a direct result of Collins getting him to face a LHB 65% of the time. Most lefty relievers will face an equal number of lefty and righty batters, so Byrdak facing a righty only 35 percent of the time was quite a feat. Byrdak allowed an .857 OPS to RHB last year, so Collins was wise to limit his exposure to righties. But the end result was the Mets carried a pitcher on their roster for the entire season who pitched 37.2 innings.
Fast forward to this year and we saw that Byrdak’s best period of success was when Collins used him to face just one batter and he retired the lefty. He was so good at this that Collins used him 12 times in 17 days in this role. In somewhat related news – the rest of the bullpen fell apart in this time period and Byrdak eventually wound up on the disabled list, perhaps with a career-ending injury.
A lot of people like to romanticize the past in baseball, saying how the game was so much better XX number of years ago. Generally that’s a big pile of, well, the performance of the Mets bullpen lefties in 2012.
But one thing that is unquestionably worse today is bullpen management, where guys like Collins manage to optimize the performance of their situational lefty. Who cares if your LOOGY is great in 40 IP if it causes the rest of your relievers to be placed in sub-optimal roles over longer appearances? It’s like having beautiful cuff links on a flannel shirt that you purchased in 1987, which is full of holes and is two sizes too small now.
It doesn’t make sense.
So, if managing for one situational lefty can ruin a bullpen, imagine what fun it could be to have two of them on your roster at the same time! Especially since the second lefty is quite likely a worse pitcher than the first guy. And this will also be the one that you try to use in low leverage situations who ends up throwing gasoline on the already raging fire because he has to face RHB in that situation.
If I could say one thing to Terry Collins it would be – fire Dan Warthen. But if I could say a second thing, it would be to stop chasing the platoon advantage with your relievers and instead field a bullpen with the seven best guys you possibly can and if none of them are lefties, then so be it.
I have hopes that Edgin will be one of those seven guys in 2013. My dream is that he turns into a closer or a 2010-2011 vintage Jonny Venters. But right now I would settle for him turning into Bob Myrick or Kevin Kobel or Ed Glynn – a lefty reliever who could go 1 or 2 IP per time, regardless of who was coming to the plate in a particular inning and still post an ERA+ over 100.
If 1979 me found out that 2012 me was hoping that my team could turn out someone like Glynn or Myrick I have no doubt that 1979 me would be horrified. And 1979 me had watched a lot of awful baseball that season and wasn’t easily horrified.
The Colorado Rockies are trying to buck convention by going to a four-man pitching rotation. No one has been overwhelmed by the results so far. Still, the Rockies have turned out lousy pitching staffs for 20 years now, despite spending top draft picks on pitchers year after year after year. Their ballpark puts them behind the 8-ball in their attempts to develop a quality staff. But if you try the same thing for 20 years and it never works – by all means try something else!
The way the Mets are running their bullpen in 2012 doesn’t work and adding a second lefty is not going to help things. So take a cue from the Rockies and try something different. In my mind the two biggest usage problems are managing for the platoon advantage and asking pitches to go longer outings on a regular basis.
I would like to see the Mets demand their relievers to go a full inning each outing. And furthermore I would not have them pitch a second inning unless the game was a blowout in either direction. If the Mets are down by eight runs, by all means have Manny Acosta pitch a second inning. If the Mets are up eight runs, there’s no reason Ramon Ramirez can’t pitch both the eighth and ninth.
This also means if Jon Rauch retires the first two batters, you don’t take him out because a lefty is coming to the plate. And for the love of everything good in this world, it doesn’t mean that because Roger Bernadina strides to the plate that you jump through hoops to get a lefty reliever into the game.
Managing to optimize the performance of their LOOGY has led the Mets to have a bullpen ERA of 4.33 last year and 4.98 this year. Compare that to the 3.80 ERA of 1978 and the 3.40 ERA of 1979. And it’s not like those teams were loaded in the bullpen or that the run-scoring environment was tremendously different back then. Shoot, the NL in 1979 averaged 4.22 runs per game compared to the 4.25 here in 2012.
It’s just that the 2012 bullpen usage has been deplorable and it’s time for a change.