Mets Now & Then: Greg Burke and Terry Leach

The Mets signed Greg Burke on 11/7/12.  He is a 30 year old righthander with only one season of MLB experience to his credit – 48 games for the 2009 San Diego Padres.

Ho-hum.

But wait…He’s a sidearmer!  He pitched at AA/AAA for the Baltimore Orioles last year and saved 17 games.  He posted a 1.53 ERA.  He demonstrated excellent command with a 2.09 BB/9.

Who does that sound like?   Terry Leach.

Leach had only amassed 42 major league innings pitched by the age of 30.  Leach didn’t really become a full-time major leaguer until 1987 when at age 33 he went 11-1 in 44 games for the Mets.

Both Leach and Burke had to reinvent their pitching motions: Leach because of injuries and Burke because he wasn’t effective enough using a regular motion.

Burke is now on the Mets’ 40-man roster.  He is maintaining his dependability.  After 15 innings in Winter Ball (the Mexican Pacific League) he is at a 1.15 ERA with 15 Ks and 0 BB.

Can Burke replicate Leach’s 1987 career-season?  Well that’s a tall order.  In 1987, the Mets were coming off the World Series Championship and still fielded the majority of those championship players.  In 1987, Leach threw over 131 innings in relief and as a spot starter.

Heading into 2013, the Mets aren’t expected to match the offensive production of that 1987 squad and their starting pitching opens with its fair share of question marks.  As of right now, the starting five are: Santana, Marcum, Gee, Niese, and Wheeler.   Except for Wheeler, all these players have had health questions and Wheeler was shut down in September due to the organization’s inning limit.  Will there be some chances for spot starts?  If there is, then that’s where Burke could be the new Leach.  At age 30, the Mets will not be restricting his pitch counts.

Let’s compare the 1985 MLB performance of Leach (when he was 31) against Burke’s 2012 minor (AA/AAA) pitching performance (when he turned 30 and had decided to become a sidearmer full time):

1985 was Leach’s third season pitching at the MLB season.  In 1985, he appeared in 22 games; had a 2.91 ERA, threw 55.2 innings, had a 2:14 K/BB ratio (30:14), a WHIP of 1.114, logged four starts and finished four games. He ended up with a 3-4 record.

Last year, Burke (split between AA/AAA) appeared in 44 games; had a 1.53 ERA, threw 64.2 innings, had a 3.33 K/BB ratio (50:15), a WHIP of  0.943, and  finished 28 games.  He ended up with 3-1 record.

Conclusion: Heading into 2013, the Mets have question marks in their starting rotation and are working to improve their bullpen.  Burke (like Leach) can bolster the bullpen and provide the Mets with a viable candidate to spot start.    If he performs like Leach did in 1985, we might have a hidden gem as the Mets’ future take shape.

6 comments for “Mets Now & Then: Greg Burke and Terry Leach

  1. Name
    January 31, 2013 at 12:11 am

    Viable candidate to spot start? Looks like he hasn’t made a start since 08, and hasn’t made more than 5 since 07.
    I’d be happy if he just performed well in a bullpen role. We have other candidates who deserve/can fill in a spot start.

    • JimO
      January 31, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      Thanks for the feedback. I’m thinking Burke is going to be a nice cog in the 2013 Mets wheel. I’ll be happy if he only pitches out of the bullpen. I think Mets’ Management wants enough options/depth available so that they don’t have to use a rookie or call up one of the young arms to fill in for an injury.

      • Name
        February 1, 2013 at 12:59 am

        We still have Hefner who can easily fill that role. Meija/McHugh also deserve looks if needed as well.
        It would be unrealistic to expect this guy to make a spot start, unless you are talking about a bullpen day where he gets “the start”. But those days are highly unlikely unless it is September.

  2. January 31, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Umm, you may have forgotten about a guy named Matt Harvey. He’s pretty good.

    • JimO
      January 31, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      Again thanks for the feedback. I think Matt Harvey is going to stay in the rotation and not have to handle any spot starts or relief appearances.

    • January 31, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      I may have heard of him in passing once…

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