Ramblings on the 2016 Mets’ pen

Bullpen MemeRight now it’s great to be a Mets fan.

The team has won 10 of its last 12 games and after a tough start to the year, finds itself only one game out of the NL East lead and with the third-best record in the National League. The starting pitching has been very good, the home runs have been flying and the bullpen has been superb.

Huh, what’s that last one again?

The average National League bullpen has a 4.26 ERA and a 1.363 WHIP. The Mets’ pen checks in with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.225 WHIP. That’s the second-best ERA and the fourth-best WHIP. For a unit that came into the season as a question mark behind Jeurys Familia, those are some great numbers.

Outside of Rafael Montero and another failed attempt in making him a reliever, each member of the bullpen has either been good or great. The Mets have used nine different relievers and seven of them have an ERA under 3.00 so far. And no one should complain about Jerry Blevins’ 3.18 ERA and 0.529 WHIP.

Overall, the pen has allowed 18 ER in 63.2 IP. Flash back to last year and in April alone, Buddy Carlyle, Montero, Hansel Robles and Carlos Torres all sported ERAs of 4.50 or greater and allowed 13 ER in 21 IP.

The only thing wrong with the bullpen is that it’s been used too much. Last year in April, Mets relievers threw 58 innings in 23 games. Right now it’s been used for 63.2 IP in 20 games. But that’s on the starters. The expectation is that the starters will begin to have deeper outings and that every game won’t come down to a save opportunity.

But it’s hard not to view what’s gone on here in April and not get nostalgic for the way bullpens used to be run, when skippers didn’t manage to bolster the save totals for one individual and players who threw the fewest amount of innings didn’t get the most preferential treatment.

Those things are simply not going to change under the current administration. Perhaps one thing that could be different is the ratio of games where relievers throw an inning-plus compared to the games where they throw less than one inning. To date, there have been 11 outings by a reliever of an inning or more and 21 where the reliever got fewer than three outs.

There are always going to be partial-inning outings. But there should be at least as many multiple-inning outings and that’s just not close to what we are seeing. Sure, maybe you don’t want to have Jim Henderson throwing that much. But why has Robles had five short outings compared to just one long one? The guy was a starting pitcher as recently as 2014.

Of course you have to consider the makeup of your bullpen. Do you have guys who can go more than an inning on a regular basis? If so, how much rest do they need? Is it better for their arms to pitch two innings twice a week or one inning four times a week? I’m not a doctor, I didn’t even stay in a magical hotel so the answer isn’t obvious to me.

But here’s what I do know: The relievers on the Mets that have gotten seriously hurt are the ones who’ve been used for more, shorter appearances. Tim Byrdak had 128 appearances over the 2011-12 seasons and 98 of them were less than an inning. Hurt and missed a year. Josh Edgin had 47 outings and 37 of them were short ones in 2014. Hurt and been out for over a year. Pedro Feliciano had 92 appearances and 52 of them were short ones in 2010. Hurt and missed two-plus years.

Pitchers get hurt, it’s the nature of the beast. But we need to ask if there’s something about having the majority of your appearances be short outings that makes injury more likely to happen. Three pitchers isn’t a trend and on the recent Mets, we don’t have relievers who consistently pitched an inning-plus to compare and see if the results are any better.

Robles and Logan Verrett certainly should be able to handle longer outings. Antonio Bastardo and Addison Reed should be able to provide this occasionally, too. My preference would be to treat Henderson with kid gloves here. And Blevins should be focused on fewer partial innings, rather than multiple innings. In his last season before joining the Mets, Blevins had 64 appearances with 24 short ones.

But to do this, you have to get away from the idea that you need to have rigid non-closer roles. Is Reed clearly better than a rested Bastardo or Henderson or Verrett? Maybe, but it seems far from a sure thing. So why should Reed pitch in the 8th whenever possible?

Things have evolved that way to shift all responsibility from the manager to the player. How can it be the manager’s fault? He used his eighth inning guy! And if it works, the manager pushed all of the right buttons.

Tuesday night, Terry Collins had a good game. He removed a struggling starting pitcher, despite a pitch count that suggested he could go another inning. He got two innings out of Verrett, who wasn’t as sharp as he’s been previously. It must have been tempting to try to get a third inning out of him, knowing he wasn’t going to pitch Wednesday, anyway, and an off day was coming Thursday. But he removed him and ended up with four scoreless innings from his pen.

It was intelligent managing, rather than paint-by-number managing.

This ability to be flexible, to think of something besides rigid roles and chasing the platoon advantage at all costs – is something that would be great to see more often.

It’s my belief that games with fewer pitching changes are more aesthetically pleasing. It’s my theory that a majority of short outings are bad for a pitcher’s health. And it’s my strong suspicion that an actively managed pen, rather than a paint-by-numbers one, will provide more dividends in the long run.

But right now the 2016 pen has been both a strength and a pleasant surprise. Here’s hoping it can keep the results strong the rest of the year.

21 comments for “Ramblings on the 2016 Mets’ pen

  1. James Preller
    April 28, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    They weren’t attempting to make Montero a reliever; the team needed help in the pen, someone who could provide length of necessary. It was a temporary need. And Montero was awful. He is back to starting at AAA, according to the plan.

    This season is going to come down to some huge ABs vs. Bryce Harper. I am glad the Mets have a couple of good LHP to face him.

    • April 28, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      If your theory is true, why not call up Gilmartin, who has actually had success in the majors as a reliever?

      • James Preller
        April 28, 2016 at 9:33 pm

        I actually think they were trying to encourage Montero, give him a boost, let him know he is still in their plans.

        Your theory is that they are stupidly trying to destroy his career. I think they are hoping to salvage it.

        • April 29, 2016 at 9:30 am

          “Thank you for explaining my feelings to me” – James Preller, April 7, 2016

          What I think is that the Mets are operating under what they consider is their best short-term interests. I have never once said they were “stupidly trying to destroy his career.” What I did say, quite clearly, was another failed attempt at making him a reliever. They made a decision in 2015 that the best way he was going to help the MLB club was out of the bullpen. He now has a bullpen ERA of 6.75 after at least three different stints. And a shoulder injury which *may* be the result of bouncing back and forth between the two roles

          “Another” is correct
          “Failed” is correct

          You are so over-the-top eager to rub my nose in Montero’s poor performance in the majors that you are now attributing words to me that I’ve never said. Which makes no sense to me. There are so many things that I actually did say that you could use against me that there’s absolutely no need to just make stuff up.

          I criticized the decision to choose Dillon Gee over Montero for the rotation leaving camp in 2015. I’ve never been a fan of using Montero as a reliever and bent over backwards to point out that Gary Cohen said he was a starting pitcher. I ridiculed the idea that Terry Collins going to Florida to yell at him was going to make his shoulder stop hurting. And if you have the desire, I’m sure you can go back through my writing in 2015 and find where I said that the Mets were not burying him but still giving him at least some chance to make it as a starter. Not once did I say they were trying to destroy his career.

          I think they’ve made some sub-optimal decisions regarding him. I think they were wrong, not evil.

          Edit: Corrected the date of quote

          • James Preller
            April 29, 2016 at 6:34 pm

            I’m sorry. My reaction to you on Montero is that every single time he struggles, you put in something blaming Mets management. That’s something that rubs me the wrong way. It’s not personal and I will refrain on the topic in the future.

  2. Eraff
    April 28, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Bullpen Arms are pretty much subject to distraction by fire. Reflecting on the long Yankee Run, Torre chewed up arms, with some exceptions for the back end guys

    Some of the Cillins Bullpen Abuse is myth. It just is not all that different than any other Manager playing to win

    • Eraff
      April 28, 2016 at 3:58 pm

      Destruction ….

    • April 28, 2016 at 4:25 pm

      But shouldn’t we try to do something different to see if we can help keep relievers besides closers healthy?

      • Eraff
        April 28, 2016 at 5:11 pm

        They top Injury Reduction Priority of every MLB team is to manage the Starters and their exposure to lost time and injury….pretty much everything else serves that goal.

        • April 28, 2016 at 5:43 pm

          OK but at no point was the idea to try something different in reliever usage tied to starter usage.

          To throw up our collective hands and say, “I’m protecting the starters, what else do you want?” doesn’t seem to be the way to go.

          • Eraff
            April 29, 2016 at 4:22 pm

            Brian…Given the choice, I’ll chew up relievers if I believe I’m protecting Starters…. most especially the top shelf young starters on the Mets.

            “Rubber Armed Reliever” has always been a polite rebrand for “a guy we don’t give a shit about…if he tears up his arm…and he hasn’t blown out yet”—aka, Carlos Torres for several Years.

            Back-end relievers get more shade and feed…..other arms exist to Throw.

  3. Metsense
    April 28, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    The bullpen was rested going into the six game winning streak so it is a good time to analyse the bullpen usage and roles. Collins only used the LOOGY once. The other two times Blevins got into a game he pitched a full inning.Reed pitched in the 8th inning four times and Familia in the 9th four times during the streak. One time Familia pitched in a no save situation but that was because of Wright’s two out 8th inning home run and nobody could get ready fast enough. Those things happen. Blevins and Robles each pitched an 8th inning. The 7th inning was not “paint-by-number managing”as Bastardo pitched twice, Henderson twice,Verrett twice, and Blevins and Robles once. I have been posting most days during the streak of some bullpen usage issues but looking back it was a good job by TC in using all his resources. He obviously prefers Reed to Familia (which I also favor) but he is using a “blank canvas” to paint his bullpen picture and he is painting a winning picture.

    • James Preller
      April 28, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      You know, just a different wrinkle, but recently someone — maybe you, Metsense — criticized Collis use of Bastardo after Syndergaard, preferring instead that he use Henderson.

      Maybe you were right.

      But in a previous start, Henderson followed Syndergaard and I thought it was less than ideal. Think of the styles. After seeing Noah’s extreme heat, batter just aren’t going to be as daunted when Henderson comes in throwing slightly slower fastballs. You almost want to bring in a funky submariner instead.

      Just saying that there are complex factors that go into each usage, more than just the number of the inning. I’ve been happy with a variety of guys used in that role, rather than super-strict definitions at this point.

  4. James Preller
    April 28, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    As discussed previously: Today the Phillies went to a LOOGY in the 8th inning of a scoreless game, bases load, two outs, to face Bryce Harper.

    The game was on the line. Harper whiffed. Phils won in 9th, 3-0.

    To beat the Nats, you’ve got to go through the game’s best player. Yes, the Mets have some RHP who can do the job — but the LHP can surely help.

    • DED
      April 29, 2016 at 7:19 am

      Well, here, right now and for the next three weeks, the Mets play 17 games without a break, during which time they won’t be facing Harper. It might not be the worst idea to bring up Gilmartin for that stretch. Blevins would be the one to go, of course.

      As for the Nats, they’re an unstable team right now, and probably lucky to have done as well as they have to date. Something will change with the Nats; if Rendon and Zimmerman start to hit, and maybe they bring up Trea Turner to shore up the middle infield — or else I bet their recent troubles continue.

      Of course another way to consider it is that even without most of their team hitting the Nats have managed a first place record so far. Not as happy a thought.

  5. Matt Netter
    April 28, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    I especially love the depth of this pen. As soon as one of these guys inevitably winds up on the DL we still have Erik Goedell stashed in AAA and Josh Edgin coming back. And if Wheeler can rejoin the rotation in July, while Harvey, Thor, deGrom and Matz stay healthy (that’s a big if), Big Bart and his rubber arm can join the pen. I think he could make a terrific setup man.

  6. TexasGusCC
    April 29, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Story from tonight:

    A semi-regular customer comes into my work at a restaurant and he notices a poster we have up of a local sportscaster’s new book. We talk a bit, I told him that I was a baseball fan and he asks me what my team is. I told him the Mets, and asked him what his is. He says the Cubs. He continues, “You guys kicked our ass last year”. I told him to get used to it, and he says “Ha! But hope to do it again this year.” I told him we will.

    Just a couple of years ago, I watched games hoping they would win, but it seemed like my blindness as a fan kept me loyal. But now, I’m talking crap! LOL!

    • Chris F
      April 29, 2016 at 8:27 am

      Oh Gus, there are plenty of words to be said, none nice.

      • James Preller
        April 29, 2016 at 6:39 pm

        MLB cannot rest until they get Justin Turner.

        And after that, Arrieta is a good candidate.

        • Chris F
          April 29, 2016 at 6:44 pm

          Neil Walker?

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