In the last three years, the Mets’ bullpen has thrown 1,413.2 innings, an average of 471+ IP per season. It seems like a lot but it’s actually below-average. The average National League team over that three-year span has tossed 484.1 IP per year.
The 2013 Mets bullpen has to make up the innings that Manny Acosta, Tim Byrdak, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez threw last year. That quartet combined for 199.1 IP or 43 percent of the total bullpen innings. Here’s a list of the people that the Mets have signed for 2013 that might see some bullpen action:
You might notice that three of the four pitchers are lefties. Compounding the problem is that Byrdak is injured and will not be ready for Opening Day. Woops, I forgot another pitcher the Mets brought in – old friend Pedro Feliciano. The former Met has not thrown a pitch in the majors the past two seasons. And he’s a lefty, too.
Why the focus from me on lefties? It’s because they do not throw as many innings as righties, due to the LOOGYfication of every lefty reliever by the powers that be for the Mets, whether that decision comes from Terry Collins or Sandy Alderson. Last year, the most IP for a lefty reliever on the club was 30.2 IP and in 2011 it was 37.2 IP.
The Mets currently have three relievers who seem like locks for Opening Day – Frank Francisco, Bobby Parnell and Josh Edgin. Francisco and Parnell should be the late-inning guys for the club but Edgin’s role is not so defined.
My opinion is that Edgin should be groomed to be a dominating late inning reliever. My fear is that he will be utilized as the latest LOOGY project of the braintrust. In his last 22 games, Edgin threw 13.2 IP. Contrast that with his first 12 games, where he threw 12 IP. Oh and when he was pitching longer outings, Edgin had a 2.25 ERA and when they LOOGYfied him, his ERA shot up to 6.59.
Of course these are small samples and it’s easy to read too much into them. But given the history of the Alderson-Collins bullpen deployment, it shouldn’t be a surprise if they turn Edgin into the next Byrdak. Why would you want to develop the next Billy Wagner when you can cut his role in half and turn him into Byrdak?
With all of the lefties that the Mets will have vying for bullpen spots – it’s probably time that we mention southpaw Robert Carson is in the mix, too – it seems a strong possibility that the Mets will feature two LH relievers on their Opening Day roster. Collins has never been shy about voicing his preference to have two lefties in the pen.
We all have our preferences and it’s not like Collins is alone in this belief – there are plenty of fans who say the exact same thing. It’s just that if the Mets insist on carrying two lefty relievers, they either have to increase their workload or increase the workload of the other pitchers on the staff. Otherwise the math won’t work.
If they have two lefty relievers contributing a total of 80 IP, that leaves over 400 innings unaccounted for to have an NL-average pen. And with R.A. Dickey and his 232.2 IP in Toronto, it’s not like the starting rotation is likely to pick up a bunch of the slack.
Perhaps Jeurys Familia and Jeremy Hefner can soak up a lot of innings out of the pen. But no Mets reliever surpassed the 68.2 IP that Parnell threw last year. So how many can we actually predict that they will throw? Let’s do some calculations:
Francisco – 70 IP
Parnell – 70 IP
Hefner – 70 IP
Familia – 70 IP
Burke – 60 IP
Edgin – 40 IP
LHR – 40 IP
That’s 420 IP allowing more innings for four relievers than anyone threw out of the pen last year. The top four relievers combined for 236.1 IP in 2012, not 280. It’s also allowing 80 IP for the lefties, even though no lefty reliever has thrown 40 IP the past two years. And we’re still short 51 innings from last year’s below average relief innings total.
Obviously other relievers will contribute to the total. Last year Acosta spent considerable time in the minors yet still threw 47.1 IP.
It’s just an attempt to point out that innings have to come from somewhere and it doesn’t do any good to limit yourself to 80 IP out of two slots over the entire season. Either carry just one lefty reliever or do no treat your lefty relievers any different than your righty ones.