After last year’s debacle, there’s a lot of concern about the 2013 bullpen. It seem like the Mets have signed 20 relievers with an NRI, hoping to get lucky with one or two of them. Since relievers are so volatile from year to year, this approach has at least as much chance of success as did last year’s attempt to field a good pen by throwing lots of money at “proven veterans.”
However, one thing not mentioned too often is how the success of the bullpen is tied to the success of the starting pitchers. Three of the five pitchers who the Mets hoped would make the bulk of their starts in 2012 wound up on the disabled list. Given that information, it’s not a huge surprise that the bullpen was poor last year.
If you have your doubts about the interdependency of the two groups, consider this: In the last five years, Mets SP who made 25 starts or more were about half as likely to have a bullpen-crushing start as were pitchers who made fewer than 25 starts. In this case, a bullpen-crushing start is defined as one in which the starter did not go far enough to qualify for the win.
Since 2008, the Mets have received 25 starts or more by a pitcher 17 times. That group has combined to make 511 starts and only 58 times have they failed to complete five innings. That averages out to an 11.4% bullpen-crushing start ratio.
In that same time frame, the Mets have had 299 starts made by pitchers who finished the year with fewer than 25 starts. That group has failed to complete five innings in a game 68 times, or 22.7% of the time.
In 2012, only R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese made at least 25 starts for the Mets. Those two combined for 63 starts and only three were of the bullpen-crushing variety. In the remaining 99 starts, 21 ended up being bullpen-crushers. Take away Matt Harvey and the remaining non-25 start guys ended up with 21 bullpen-crushers in 89 starts or 23.6% of the time.
Because of the injury problems that hit the expected starting rotation, the Mets’ bullpen was being asked to do too much on a regular basis. Only outstanding efforts from Dickey and Niese prevented it from being a complete disaster. How good were their efforts? Here’s a chart of the pitchers to post 25 or more starts since 2008 for the Mets and their bullpen-crushing outings.
Dickey was simply amazing in this regard. In his three years with the Mets he made 91 starts and failed to complete five innings just four times. He will be missed.
Hopefully, the Mets can get 25+ starts out of Gee, Harvey, Niese and Santana. While individually none of these pitchers are likely to make up for Dickey, hopefully as a group they can outperform what the Mets got from their starters a year ago. While Dickey was fantastic, Miguel Batista, Collin McHugh, Santana, Chris Schwinden and Chris Young combined for 16 bullpen-crushers in 52 starts, a 30.8% ratio.
In 2012 and 2009, the Mets got 25 or more starts from just two pitchers in both years. Their combined bullpen ERA in those years was 4.25. In 2011 and 2010, the Mets got 25 or more starts from nine pitchers and the combined bullpen ERA was 3.96, even with Terry Collins managing the bullpen into the ground in 2011.
You might notice that we went back to 2008 originally yet the last paragraph excluded that year. In 2008, the bullpen posted a 4.27 ERA despite having four pitchers make 25 or more starts. You might recall that was the year the Mets failed to make the playoffs because the bullpen was so putrid. Sometimes it really is the bullpen’s fault.