If asked to identify the strength of the team coming into the season, most people would have said the starting rotation. But here in early July, the strength of the squad for nearly the last month has been the bullpen. The relievers got off to a poor start but the Mets shuffled through some of the dead weight and since June 9, the bullpen has been fantastic. What’s so special about June 9? June 8 was the last day the Mets used LOOGY Scott Rice.
How dramatic has been the turnaround? In April, the Mets’ bullpen had a 3.98 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. Since June 9, the seven relievers have combined to allow 17 ER in 76 IP. That’s a 2.01 ERA, nearly half of what it was in the beginning of the year.
Saturday night, lefty Josh Edgin recorded five outs, something that LOOGY Scott Rice did not accomplish once this year. In 32 outings, Rice pitched a full inning just twice. On the flip side, he pitched one-third of an inning or fewer 20 times. Despite being served the most-favorable matchups possible, Rice was not a competent reliever in 2014. And catering to him made everyone else on the staff worse.
Rice faced one or two batters in an appearance 24 times this season. Since his last appearance for the Mets, the team’s lefty relievers have pitched to one or two batters eight times in 19 appearances. So the Mets have gone from using the LOOGY approach 75% of the time with Rice to 42% of the time with Edgin and Dana Eveland.
That my friends is progress!
Edgin was used for just one batter in three of his first five appearances after Rice’s demotion. Since then, just twice in six appearances has he had a one or two-batter outing. Two of Eveland’s three LOOGY-like outings were ones where he got the final out of the game for the Mets.
Additionally, not one of the eight short-stint outings by Edgin and Eveland resulted in a “Scott Rice special,” where another pitcher had to come on and clean up the mess left behind by the lefty.
After suffering through three-and-a-half years of LOOGY madness, it’s so refreshing to see sensible bullpen deployment. Terry Collins still likes to go the matchup route, but at least now he does not bend over backwards to create ways to get a LOOGY into the game.
And because the Mets are not carrying a limited pitcher, they do not have an exhausted pen. The Mets have played four games in July and not one reliever comes into Sunday having pitched in back-to-back games or in three of the last four contests. While the Mets recently had a day off, that has been more than canceled out by the bullpen having to provide 8.2 innings in Friday’s contest.
Six of their seven relievers can easily pitch Sunday, with only Carlos Torres needing a day off after his big outing Friday.
Bullpen management becomes so much easier when you stop shooting yourself in the foot by carrying a guy who needs to be micro-managed. It’s not rocket science. Now we just have to hope that the Mets see how having a normal bullpen has led to productive, well-rested relievers.
Hopefully this is the year the Mets stop wasting time with guys like Tim Byrdak, Robert Carson, Rice and Scott Schoeneweis – guys who were only allowed on the roster because they threw with their left hand. The idea with a lefty reliever is to create the next Billy Wagner, not the next Randy Choate.
It’s nice to have a lefty to bring in to face Ryan Howard. But Freddie Freeman and Chase Utley hit lefties fine. You want your best relievers to face those guys, not the one who merely throws with his left hand. And if your righty relievers can’t get out the Roger Bernadinas of the world on a regular basis – then you have serious problems.
There simply are not enough good lefty hitters that can be neutralized by a lefty reliever that make carrying a pitcher who cannot get righties out a winning proposition. Perhaps if we traveled back in time when complete games were a regular occurrence, the equation would be different.
So by all means, look for a lefty reliever who can face Howard. Just make sure he can face Carlos Ruiz, too. And it would be nice if he didn’t soil his pants over the thought of Marlon Byrd coming to the plate.
Edgin can be that guy, if the Mets just let him. In his career in the majors, Edgin has 125 PA versus a RHB and he’s limited them to a .649 OPS. Compare that to his split versus LHB, which is .631 in 155 PA. There’s absolutely nothing there that screams out – “Save me from ever having to face a righty!”
We don’t know if it’s Collins or Sandy Alderson that has the LOOGY fetish. What we do know is that if nothing else, Alderson has given it his tacit approval by allowing it to go on for so long.
But for the first time in ages, we have hope that this sub-optimal way of life will go the way of the dinosaur. Let other teams carry a LOOGY or two if they desire. It may work for them and if so, great. The only thing that matters is that it hasn’t worked for the Mets. We saw the Angels this year with an all-righty pen. The Mets don’t need to be that drastic because Edgin and Eveland have both done a fine job.
This might be the best of both worlds. Collins gets two lefties to do his matchup thing with yet they are real pitchers who don’t have to be micro-managed to the detriment of every other reliever in the pen. He can use a lefty to get Howard out in a two-out situation or he can use a lefty to go an inning or more at a time because he’s not incompetent against righty batters.
It’s brilliant in its simplicity.
Now, if we could only do something about carrying six outfielders and no backup shortstop. As much as I want to see Jacob deGrom enter the game to play short, this is no way to run a roster. The game is hard enough; there’s no reason to deploy such senseless tactics. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of another senseless tactic — the LOOGY. For the Alderson-Collins Mets, that has been a dismal failure the entire time. Long live Edgin and relievers who get outs regardless of which way a batter hits.