AJ Ramos goes from closer to LOOGY caddie

The bullpen has been excellent for the Mets, one of the main reasons the club has raced out to an 11-2 start. Praise has been handed out liberally to individual members of the pen but one guy who hasn’t seemed to get any at all is AJ Ramos, who after eight games has yet to allow a run and has limited opposing batters to a .283 OPS. But Ramos hasn’t been used anything remotely like what was expected and seems to be at best the fifth option in the pen.

It was a surprise when the Mets acquired Ramos last year. In the middle of selling off impending free agents, the Mets made a deal to acquire the Marlins’ closer, sending two prospects to Miami. Acquiring Ramos would allow the Mets to trade Addison Reed, which they later did, and in 2018 he could be a top setup man for Jeurys Familia.

Ramos struck out a lot of batters in 21 games for the Mets last year but otherwise did not perform particularly well. He had a 4.74 ERA and a 1.632 WHIP, as he allowed 12 BB in 19 IP. Still, the Mets brought him back, signing the arbitration-eligible reliever to a $9.23 million deal. Rumor was that new manager Mickey Callaway was going to spread the Save chances around. With Ramos’ history as a closer and his big salary, he seemed a likely candidate to close out games in the ninth.

Instead, Ramos has only pitched in the ninth two times this season. The first time was in a 5-1 loss to the Cardinals. And the second one was what could have been a Save situation but because Callaway opted to use Jerry Blevins to start the ninth inning and then brought on Ramos for the final two outs, he did not qualify for a Save in the Mets’ 4-1 victory.

That last game is indicative of how Ramos has been used for most of his appearances so far in 2018, as a tag-team partner with Blevins. Each reliever has eight appearances this year and seven times they’ve both been used in the same game. In the last four games, they’ve both been used in the same inning, a stretch where Blevins has notched 1 IP while Ramos has 2.1 IP.

As a critic of the blind fealty to the LOOGY strategy, it’s disappointing to see Blevins used exclusively in this role so far with a new manager. In his eight appearances, he’s yet to throw a complete inning and has recorded two outs just once. Five times he’s faced just one batter and in one appearance he didn’t even do that, as he picked off a runner for his only out.

While it’s disappointing to see Blevins used in a partial-inning role, it’s at least somewhat understandable. But the decision to use Ramos this way is a bit confusing. Historically, he’s handled LHB quite well, holding them to a .621 OPS in 717 PA. Even this year, lefties are just 1-6 against Ramos. However, of his last 12 batters faced, only two have been LHB, both of which he retired.

There’s been no public announcement about why Ramos has been demoted from a potential co-closer to ROOGY. And since the Mets are winning, it hasn’t been questioned. But it seems like a sub-optimal use of a resource and it’s certainly a giant waste of money. Why pay $9 million plus for a role that Paul Sewald or Jacob Rhame could have filled for minimum wage?

Ramos can’t be thrilled with it, either. He’s a free agent following this season and while it hurts not entering the market as an established closer, being a shutdown eighth inning guy with closing experience would have been okay. But it seems likely that a righty reliever with more games than innings is not the profile that would spark a bidding war.

No one rocks the boat when you’re 11-2. But you should always be on the lookout for potential problems and this could be one down the road. It will be interesting to see if this is just an April phenomenon or if this usage pattern holds all year. And it would be illuminating to hear why Callaway went in this direction with a high-paid veteran.

14 comments for “AJ Ramos goes from closer to LOOGY caddie

  1. b
    April 15, 2018 at 8:50 am

    season still young

  2. Metictated
    April 15, 2018 at 9:24 am

    It’s apparently a proving ground for how their current performance will dictate how they will be utilized during the rest of the season. I trust that Eiland and Callaway have a master plan that doesn’t depend on salary, nor history. Skillset and experience fitted into specific circumstances appears to be the methodology, even if it’s new and unusual compared to S.O.P….Good to see innovation

  3. TexasGusCC
    April 15, 2018 at 11:01 am

    A reporter at yesterday’s pre-game presser asked Callaway about the many relievers. His answer was a very potite “I don’t give a crap what anyone thinks”. He said that as long as pitchers are properly rested, and since they also have three guys that have options, this isn’t a problem and will continue. Meaning, the Vegas to NYC shuttle will be busy all year, and Vegas better not burn them out.

    If you want to see this 13 minute video, it’s on SNY’s site. I wonder why they posted it, maybe kind of FYI, but I’ve never seen them do it before…

    • TexasGusCC
      April 15, 2018 at 11:19 am

      Forgot:

      Callaway also says the situation will dictate usage. They have been in many close games and so more matchup changes were needed. Good point.

      In years passed, we have been used to closers pitching when down one to “keep it close” and burning innings there, and also when up four or five, still using three pitchers to get three outs (because the manager’s arm wasn’t the arm affected) to “make sure the game didn’t get away from us”.

      • April 15, 2018 at 3:58 pm

        Is a three-run lead with no one on base a close situation?

        • TexasGusCC
          April 15, 2018 at 5:47 pm

          They call it a save, so… I guess?

          Wasn’t a save given only if at least the on-deck hitter was the tying run? Why do I remember it that way from my younger years?

          • April 15, 2018 at 7:14 pm

            You get a Save if you pitch one full inning (or more) and enter with no more than a three-run lead
            Or you can get one if you enter the game with the tying run in the on-deck circle
            Or you can get one by pitching effectively for three innings or more

            Managing to accumulate Saves is one thing that every manager continues to do which is detrimental to the club. When I wrote this, it wasn’t because I wanted Ramos to get cheap Saves. If he’s got the stuff to get big outs, I want him to get the chance to get those high-leverage outs – whenever they may occur.

  4. MattyMets
    April 15, 2018 at 11:29 am

    I totally agree, Brian. I guess they have to justify the 8 man bullpen strategy.

  5. Eraff
    April 15, 2018 at 11:34 am

    I don’t believe you want Pitcher utilization driven by Pay Rate!…Flipping roles based on pay doesn’t save you a dime, and it’s even worse than “mindlessly” using Ramos and Blevins in just one way.

    Ramos—- He looks like a Junk Baller right now—I thought he was a 95 plus guy. Is the Gas gone?

    • studes
      April 15, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      Something has changed for Ramos this year. His fastball is down two MPH and he’s now throwing a cutter pretty often, which he didn’t used to do. I wonder what’s up?

      I agree that the wasted money argument isn’t a good one. Go with your best players.

    • April 15, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      It’s not utilization driven by pay rate. It’s a guy who’s retired virtually everyone he’s faced being limited to partial innings.

  6. b
    April 15, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    mickeys poor move

  7. Eraff
    April 16, 2018 at 8:23 am

    Given a choice, I’d have rather had Nido Hitting than Noah—and that is the actual decision as it played out.

    Callaway was hoping they’d be dumb enough to pitch to Jay???… as if they wouldn’t want to force him tyo either Hit CinderGod or pull him!!!???

    This is the second time he’s absulutely Fooked a PH decision…as this played out, Wilmer saved him from his consequence of lacking a bench weapon late in the game/extra innings.

    Callaway and his Bench Coach need to have a pot of coffee and a long talk.

  8. Eraff
    April 16, 2018 at 8:30 am

    Nimmo continues to impress, and he’s showing some considerable attack and power.

    Rosario is going to struggle and his game will be uneven…but he’s really flashing some talent that makes you believe in his long term success. I continue to root for his survival through the first 100-200 ab’s.

    Of all the Post-Piazza Mets Teams, this one has the nicest “personality”..granted, it’s easy to love them based on the start….and it’s easy for them to be likeable when things are going well.

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