Starting pitcher Jenrry Mejia was absolutely lit up in Colorado last night in the Mets’ 11-10 loss to the Rockies. All of the damage against Mejia occurred in a horrid fifth inning in which he gave up eight runs, capped by a grand slam by Nolan Arenado. It was a rough outing to say the least, but it caused a familiar question to once again rear its ugly head: should the Mets move Mejia to the bullpen?
ESPN’s Adam Rubin was quick to reignite the Mejia-to-the-bullpen talk shortly after the game ended:
“Opposing batters are now hitting .438 (14-for-32) with five walks and a hit by pitch the third time Mejia faces them in a game this season. And that makes you wonder if ultimately Mejia is better served pitching in relief, with Daisuke Matsuzaka or one of the Triple-A arms stepping into the rotation.”
That .438 batting average against Mejia sure is ugly. The OPS of 1.183 (!) that opponents are putting up against him the third time through the lineup is even worse. Those are some pretty outrageous numbers. Maybe the talk of Mejia to the bullpen isn’t so crazy after all. Well, that is until you consider how some of the other Mets starting pitchers have fared their third time through the lineup.
Granted, Gee’s slash line above looks fine. Even so, opponents are still putting up an OBP and slugging almost 100 points higher his third time through the order. Why aren’t we talking about moving all of these guys to the bullpen? It’s ridiculous, that’s why.
Mejia most certainly has to improve on his middle innings performance if he wants to thrive as a starting pitcher, there’s no denying that. But with the overall performance of the rotation in the middle innings as a whole, maybe we should start looking at pitch selection along with execution when trying to determine the reasons behind the poor performances. The table below illustrates the percentage of Mejia’s pitch types used per inning so far in 2014.
What stands out here? The jump in the use of his curve in the fourth and fifth innings is interesting, as is the fact that there’s a significant drop in the use of his change in the fifth. The point is that the team needs to identify and fix whatever is ailing their staff in the middle innings. Simply throwing Mejia in the bullpen is a shortsighted solution and a road we’ve unsuccessfully walked down before.