Don’t move Jenrry Mejia to the bullpen

Jenrry MejiaHere we go again.

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.

Zack Wheeler: .395/.425/.526
Jon Niese: .286/.316/.400
Bartolo Colon .340/.333/.460 (he’s even worse the second time through at .354/.407/.604)
Dillon Gee .225/.340/.375

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.

Inning Sinker Cutter Curve Slider Change
1 2.50 67.50 12.50 7.50 10.00
2 1.02 66.33 9.18 12.24 11.22
3 1.96 65.69 7.84 14.71 9.80
4 1.04 58.33 13.54 15.63 11.46
5 2.38 65.48 15.48 10.71 5.95
6 4.65 65.12 9.30 11.63 9.30
7 0.00 68.42 10.53 15.79 5.26

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.

6 comments for “Don’t move Jenrry Mejia to the bullpen

  1. May 4, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    I have mixed idea’s about this. One they want to keep a pitch count on him for the season. I would like to see him start. But his is two consecutive implosions has me concerned. Mets need BP constituency, With all the young talent maybe they should do what the Cardinals do, and use their young pitchers in the bullpen. Keeping Montero and DeGroom down in the minors is proving nothing, Both should be brought up.

  2. Name
    May 4, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    It’s pretty crazy after a couple of bad outings and we have outcrys of people wanting to send someone to the bullpen. It happened with Gee after his first 3 starts and after 2 starts(one of which was at freaking Coors field) it’s happening with Mejia.

    That 14-32 average is the epitome of small sample size. Shame on Adam Rubin for misusing it. It was 6-21 after the first 4 starts.

    It’s 1 bad start and 1 Coors field game.

  3. steevy
    May 4, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Does Warthen have something to do with it?

  4. Metsense
    May 4, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    If you start sending pitchers that have pitched well to the bullpen after two poor outings (which really were two bad innings)then how can you ever expect success? Give it time and work on the problem. Mejia may be a very special starting pitcher. Good analysis Rob.

  5. Jim OMalley
    May 4, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    A some point, some Mets’ starter will end up in the bullpen after the team brings it’s first AAA starter. Mejia could end up in the bullpen.

  6. Patrick Albanesius
    May 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Great article and break down of pitches per inning. I agree that Mejia should not be sent to the bullpen because of two bad starts, especially when one was in Colorado. He has to work through these problems in order to prove he’s a capable starter. Everyone does. Otherwise starters wouldn’t exist.

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