Jerry Blevins and closer by committee

Reports suggest that the Mets player drawing the most interest from teams as we approach the trade deadline is interim closer Addison Reed. This isn’t surprising, as contending teams seek to bolster their bullpens heading into the season’s final months. For his part, Reed is having another solid year, though not quite as impressive as his 2016. It’s more likely than not that Reed will be wearing a different jersey on August 1st, which leads to obvious questions regarding the Mets’ closer role while Jeurys Familia remains sidelined.

The most reasonable answer, based on the dearth of high-quality talent in the Mets’ bullpen, would be some form of closer by committee. Of course, reason and rationale haven’t necessarily been at the forefront of Mets personnel decision-making over the last few years. With that in mind, last night against the A’s we bore witness to what was very likely a preview of the Reed-less Mets: Jerry Blevins saving games.

That Blevins is one of Terry Collins‘ most trusted relievers is without question. Things get a bit murky when we consider that he’s deployed him more against left-handers generally, despite Blevins actually having okay (to be a tad kind) numbers against right-handed hitters over his career. Still, he’s not someone you’d expect to take on the role considering how he’s been used and his results this season. Sure, he’s been the third most valuable Mets reliever (by fWAR) behind Reed and Paul Sewald (who also merits consideration), but that value is mostly tied up in his performance against lefties. Consider his triple slash against left- and right-handed batters in 2017:

  • LHB – .180/.238/.192
  • RHB – .333/.489/.667

The three home runs he’s given up this season were to righties. His striking more than 10% fewer and walking almost 20% more of them. It’s not just the raw results that are damning here, either. Right-handers are hitting more line drives against him and making exceptionally harder contact against him as well (17% vs 44% hard-hit rate). The Mets’ poor defense has only played a limited role here, in case you were wondering. His xFIP against lefties in 2017 is 2.68 while it’s 6.82 against right-handers.

I like Blevins, and I’m sure I share that feeling with most fans. He’s immensely effective against southpaws and, in what may have been his first audition, looked good shutting down the A’s for a five-out save last night. He simply hasn’t shown that he can get right-handers out this season effectively enough to warrant handing him the closer’s mantle, though. The sad part is, beyond Reed, nobody else in the bullpen has shown much to warrant taking on the role either.

We may be a bit premature here. It may be that Blevins does not inherit the role if Reed is traded. It may be that the team actually does go to a closer by committee construct if he is ultimately sent packing. Of course, the counterargument would be a distrust in how Collins manages a bullpen as a whole, let alone selecting the appropriate closer on a game-by-game basis. Either way, if you thought late innings are stressful now…

7 comments for “Jerry Blevins and closer by committee

  1. Popeye
    July 22, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Things have a way of working out.

  2. Metsense
    July 22, 2017 at 9:28 am

    A good team should have three good relief pitchers that can pitch the 7th,8th and ninth innings to usually lock up a win. Blevins, by being a LOOGY with the results he accumulated, does not fit that description. The Mets would be better served with a better two way pitcher that can pitch a full inning in 2018. It would make bullpen management easier for the manager and less taxing on the relievers. If Blevins can bring value he should be traded. The Mets should attempt to extend Reed before they consider trading him.

  3. Jimmy P
    July 22, 2017 at 10:49 am

    I think they should trade both Reed and Blevins.

    The farm system is in a shambles and Mets desperately need an influx of talent. I think $7 million for Blevins next season is a lot of money — yes, the going rate, but — he’s been worked hard this season and he’s not young.

    I disagree with Metsense in that I believe a loogy is an important piece to a high-quality bullpen. Especially a playoff-caliber team. Used expertly, a quality lefty can neutralize the effectiveness of so many dangerous lefty batters in key situations. It’s a great weapon to have at your disposal, and there’s room for it in today’s 12/13-man pitching staffs.

    Of course, sure, a great two-way pitcher is the best. There aren’t many of those to go around, unfortunately. Sewald looks like a roogy to me, but I guess the hope is that he can maybe figure something out. He sure looks extremely effective against certain right-handed hitters. He would have killed David Wright.

  4. Pete from NJ
    July 22, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Jimmy’s last comment on David Wright I thought was hurtful then I closed my eyes and saw a pitch just off the outside plate with swing and miss especially in the days without line up protection.

    Blevins sure has a premium for his{option} contract for next year but as a replacement player’s contract will be very similar. I’m always amazed when Blevins come in, with SNY showing opposition L/R batting averages. Yet he seems to get the job done. He reminds me of Tug McGraw with his looping screw ball totally fooling even right handed hitters. Of course Tug had a velocity fastball to throw in there.

    And yes things have a way of working out with Robles-Sewald-Familia(?)finishing things up. Any thoughts about the (AA)starters coming up for some bullpen innings?

    • Jimmy P
      July 22, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      Love and respect DW, but he has a weakness for exactly the kind of pitch that Sewald throws, diving across and away from the outside corner of the plate. He had a hard time laying off that one.

  5. MattyMets
    July 22, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Timely post. Short term I’m not so concerned because Familia should be back in a few weeks. As for next year, I’m worried that the Mets are going to have so many bats to replace with all the pending FAs that they won’t make the bullpen a priority. I don’t agree that the pen needs a “complete overhaul” as Familia, Blevins, Sewald and Edgin can make up half of a solid pen. However, we’ll need to replace Reed/Salas/Robles with at least two really good trusted arms – not journeymen. At least one should have closer experience and both should be able to get out lefties and righties.

    • Jimmy P
      July 22, 2017 at 12:09 pm

      I still say Gsellman and Wheeler is a good place to start. Want to see it this season.

      With trades, SA should be able to bring in a few arms.

      With money, he can maybe get another.

      Sandy seems too complacent, too willing to keep coming back to guys in the system who have failed in the past, who have shown no great promise in the first place. He doesn’t look under every rock. He keeps looking under the same freaking rock. Then he naps.

      I do think a new manager/pitching coach might help in this area. Though, again, Terry’s way is “The Way” in almost all of MLB, if you don’t mind me getting Tao about it. Very likely the next manager, Tim Teufel?, will have same habits of thought. I don’t see Sandy hiring an iconoclast. Everybody is using 5 guys in the last 3 innings. It’s grinding the game down to a halt. Baseball has a huge, huge length of game problem and bullpen use is a big part of it.

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