The evolution of the Mets’ bullpen from disaster to team strength has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2014 season. One of the big reasons has been the clearing out of older guys who either lost zip on their fastballs (Farnsworth, Valverde) or who never had it in the first place (Lannan, Rice). Now the Mets can throw waves of guys who throw 94 or higher and if the team reaches the seventh inning with a lead, fans don’t have to hold their breath, even if the manager still does.
But is there still room in the pen for guys on the wrong side of 30 who don’t light up the radar gun?
The Mets currently have four guys who fit this bill. In years past, these guys would have been welcomed back to the club – as long as their salary demands weren’t out of whack. Now, none of these four are guaranteed to be back in Queens next year. Alphabetically, they are Buddy Carlyle, Dana Eveland, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Carlos Torres.
Using just their work as relievers, this quartet has combined for 137.2 IP and 47 ER for a 3.07 ERA. Additionally, the group has a 1.228 WHIP.
Now, it may not seem right to include Torres in this group, as he has been on the team all year and has slightly more than half of the innings pitched for the group. Yet Torres fits in both age and velocity-wise and his second-half troubles leave into question whether his spot for next year is guaranteed. Did his heavy workload earlier in the year ruin what should have been a bullpen mainstay? Right now we can only guess. But the fact we can ask that question cements his inclusion in the group.
Let’s look at each of the relievers individually:
IP – 16.1
WHIP – 0.735
Notes: With a 90.3 average fastball velocity, Carlyle is the softest tosser of the bunch. He’s also been used in the lowest-leverage situations, with a gmLI of 0.59 – meaning he’s likely the last man in the pen. Carlyle has never had success like this before in the majors and probably has the least chance of the group to be on the Opening Day roster next year.
Notes: He throws a tick harder than Carlyle with a 90.6 average fastball velocity. But where Eveland has his big advantage is with throwing with his left hand. We all know how the organization loves its lefty relievers. Eveland has performed better versus lefties than righties but nothing to get excited about. What’s truly noteworthy is the manager’s willingness to let him face RHB on a regular basis. It feels like the Mets would want him back. But will another team offer him a guaranteed deal rather than an NRI?
Matsuzaka (all stats as reliever only)
WHIP: 1.301 WHIP
Notes: It may have seemed like a terrible idea to turn Matsuzaka into a reliever but he did a fine job pitching out of the pen. No doubt he still considers himself a starter and it seems unlikely that he’ll be back with the Mets next year as he’ll look to go to a place where he has a better chance of a rotation spot.
Notes: Terry Collins went to the whip early and often with Torres and now the results have been ugly. He pitched in 31 of the club’s first 59 games and had a 2.29 ERA with only 1 HR in 35.1 IP. Since then, he has a 5.09 ERA with 9 HR in 35.1 IP. Sure, some of this is just regression but he doesn’t resemble the guy from earlier this year. In this recent stretch, opposing batters have an .846 OPS with a .309 BABIP. It may all come down to service time whether Torres is back next year. Chris Walendin lists him as a “Potential Super 2” and if he continues to throw up beach balls, the club might be inclined to let him walk rather than go to arbitration if he qualifies.
The nature of the beast is for bullpens to have a fair amount of turnover from year to year. If another team comes in and offers these guys a guaranteed deal, the Mets should probably thank them for their time and wish them well in the future. If not Messers. Carlyle, Eveland, Matsuzaka and Torres, the Mets will bring other veterans to camp and odds are that more than one will end up throwing innings in the big leagues.
Neither Carlyle nor Eveland pitched in the majors last year. The fact that both of them were able to make positive contributions for the 2014 Mets was an unexpected surprise, one of those things that reminds you that we’ll never figure the game out. And if the Mets insist on carrying multiple lefty relievers, Eveland is so much better than the likes of Robert Carson and Scott Rice that we’ve been subjected to recently.