Why a struggling Valverde still makes the Mets win

Jose ValverdeImportant caveat, 15 games is a good hitting streak, not a good base to establish trends.

Warning aside, something interesting is happening with the 2014 New York Mets. A seemingly terrible omen in the form of an opening series sweep at the hands of the Washington Nationals has been settled for now with an 8-7 season record.

In those first three games the starting pitching had a combined ERA just under 5, Mets batters hit just .179/.243/.337 and the bullpen’s 13.33 ERA made it one of the league’s worst. But when the stitching on the jerseys in the away dugout gave up that curly W for the big C, the switch flipped. Since then, the team has a collective 3.72 ERA and an on-base percentage that’s more than 50 points higher.

It’s still too early to say what exactly caused their luck to shift or if it’ll even continue, but one change does stand out in New York – the back end of their bullpen. Projected closer Bobby Parnell threw just 1 inning on Opening Day before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Bullpens are a crapshoot to begin with and suddenly Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson were missing one of the few dependables.

Enter Jose Valverde. Also known as Papa Grande, Valverde appeared as the setup man for that 9-7 loss to the Nationals. He was dominant, striking out 3 and allowing no base runners in 1.1 innings. He assumed the closer role by default four days later, picking up his first save against the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 on April 4. He wasn’t perfect, allowing a hit and walk, but no runners crossed the plate on his watch.

Meanwhile, Alderson called up fellow veteran Kyle Farnsworth from Triple-A Las Vegas on April 1. His first pitch of the 2014 season came the following day when he allowed a run to score in the Mets 5-1 loss to Washington. But just two days later on April 4, Farnsworth threw a scoreless eighth inning against the Reds to earn his first hold.

Both pitchers have seen 7.1 innings of work in the early goings of 2014, and Farnsworth has faired better for now. The hard-throwing righty sports a 1.23 ERA, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks and 3 holds. The veteran closer has a 6.14 ERA, 9 strikeouts, 2 saves and a blown save.

But ever since Farnsworth and Valverde commandeered the end of games, the rest of the bullpen has shaped up nicely. After giving up 12 runs in three losses to Washington, New York relievers have yielded 14 runs in 12 subsequent games. That even includes the 7 runs and 15.75 ERA of demoted pitcher John Lannan. There are no obvious trends among guys like Carlos Torres, Gonzalez Germen and Jeurys Familia who have pitched in and seen varying levels of success at different parts of the game.

It’s still hard to believe a trend can occur in such a short stretch, but whether the other relievers find comfort in having two veterans to fall back on or the cosmos simply will it , the Mets record suggests they’re better with than without them. Valverde’s speed and command deteriorated from a 35-save 2012 campaign for Detroit to his 9 saves of 2013 with the Tigers. His career home runs per game average sits at 1, but it spike from 0.4 to 2.8 between 2012 and 2013, and currently sits at a career high 3.7 home runs per nine innings. His 1.500 WHIP is also the worst in his career, confirming some control issues. If he can’t figure his game out, Collins will hard-pressed to get his new closer off the bench, but can his nine years of experience keep the rest of the bullpen stabilized?

8 comments for “Why a struggling Valverde still makes the Mets win

  1. Metsense
    April 18, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Valverde and Farnsworth should be considered temporary place holders, nothing more. TC should give the set up spot to German and if succeeds ease him into closer. The next best young arm then slides into the set up spot, be it Familia, Black, Montero or deGrom and see who steps forward. Valverde and Farnsworth should not impede the young arms and any opportunity to diminish their roles (like giving up 3 homeruns while German pitches well) should be seized. Unfortunately, TC will probably stick with the veterans.

    • Jerry Grote
      April 18, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Give up the set up spot to this guy?

      It was a nice 10 innings of work for German. Let’s not jump just yet.

      • Jerry Grote
        April 19, 2014 at 9:38 am

        LOL. Right on time, one game later you have German with an ERA at 4.00+.

        Ten good innings.

  2. April 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    That defeats the purpose of my whole article. The reason they are(it’s only been 15 games)succeeding could be having two veterans in the back to take that pressure off the younger guys’ shoulders. If you just slide them into the eighth and ninth role, they could implode.

  3. April 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Making a determination on this after ~10 games and saying a pitcher with 6.14 ERA is helping is absurd.

    Torres and Germen are great pitchers. They were going to be great either way. This is silly.

    • April 18, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      It may very well be foolish, but the timing is spot on. I’d be curious to hear what the relievers would say.

      I’d also wait to call Torres and Germen great. Germen is still wet around the ears and Torres underimpressed with both the White Sox and Rockies before he a solid 2013 campaign. Despite having just one season of double-digit saves, Parnell is a much more established pitcher than either.

  4. Patrick Albanesius
    April 18, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    The veterans are helping right now, and that’s all we can ask of them. When they falter, it will be time to test the young guys.

    • Jerseymet
      April 18, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      Agreed. Play whoever is doing well right now. The relievers in Las Vegas are getting better after a dreadful start. Miguel Socolovich is putting up some good numbers. He may be worth a try.

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