The Mets and their hard-throwing righty reliever experiment

The Mets’ bullpen in 2017 was a disaster. From the Jeurys Familia suspension & injury to the Fernando Salas implosion from overuse to the homer happy ways of Hansel Robles there was a lot of disappointment from the team’s relievers. So, when the Mets traded away impending free agents in July and August, they prioritized hard-throwing righty relievers. Well, they prioritized getting cash and the righty relievers were the best they could get to go along with those dollars.

Here in 2018, the Mets’ pen started out great. But babying the starters along with a stretch of 18 games in 17 days and some curious managerial decisions has left the pen in tatters once again. But this time, the Mets had those righty relievers to fall back on, right? Let’s see how the collection of bullpen arms acquired in 2017 have performed this year. Two of them have seen time in the majors so we’ll start with those and then do the others in alphabetical order. The number in parenthesis is their current age.

Gerson Bautista (23) is probably the hardest thrower of the bunch, hitting triple digits on the radar gun. He’s appeared in five games in the majors and has allowed 6 ER in 4.1 IP for a 12.46 ERA. The concern about Bautista was his penchant for walks. However, he only allowed 3 BB in 14.1 IP after being acquired by the Mets last year. But he’s allowed 4 in 10.1 IP in Triple-A and 5 in 4.1 IP in the majors. It’s hard to give up on a guy who throws 100 mph. But maybe he should be in Double-A trying to work on these command/control issues.

Jacob Rhame (25) has appeared in 11 games with the Mets and has a 6.35 ERA in that span. It looked like maybe he was turning into a useful option but he’s given up 5 ER in his last three outings, covering 3.1 IP. That led him to being sent back to the minors. Rhame’s average fastball velocity has been 95.9 so far this year in the majors and he’s done okay when he throws his heater. But his offspeed pitches aren’t fooling anyone, a continuation of what he showed in his cup of coffee in the majors last year.

Jamie Callahan (23) was thought to be the most major league ready guy among the seven relievers that they acquired in these selloffs. He appeared in nine games last year and held his own, with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP. Callahan started this year in Triple-A, where in seven games he has a 9.72 ERA and a 2.160 WHIP. He’s been sidelined since April 21 with an undisclosed injury.

Eric Hanhold (24) was a starter until last year, when he was moved to the bullpen during his second season in Hi-A. He’s in Double-A this year and having a strong season, with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.184 WHIP. He’s got 32 Ks in 25.2 IP, thanks to an upper 90s fastball that he complements with a hard slider. With a 3.2 BB/9, you’d like to see fewer walks but he’s probably better suited to be in the majors right now than Bautista.

Stephen Nogosek (23) got hit hard after being acquired by the Mets last season, so he’s back for another stint in Hi-A. He’s doing quite well this year (2.61 ERA, 0.871 WHIP) and he can get the call to Binghamton when the Mets call up Hanhold. He doesn’t throw quite as hard as the others but he has a deeper repertoire and his slider is considered a good pitch. Walks are a concern here, too.

Ryder Ryan (23) is a converted infielder so he doesn’t have a ton of pitching experience. He started this year as Nogosek’s teammate in Hi-A but just got the call to Binghamton. Stop if you’ve heard this one before but Ryan throws 97 and also has a slider. He seems to have better control than guys who’ve been pitching much longer. He allowed an unearned run in his first appearance in Double-A.

Drew Smith (24) complements his heater with a curve. There are concerns about his 97 mph fastball not having enough movement so he’ll need to be consistent with the curve if he hopes to succeed in the majors. Smith is doing well in Triple-A, albeit with a 4.5 BB/9. His control has been better in most of his previous stops in the minors and given that the Mets are his third organization since he was drafted in 2015, he’s seen a few stops along the way.

Can any of these guys be useful options in the pen? And if so, can any of them be counted on this year with the Mets? Your guess is as good as mine but the two we’ve seen so far don’t inspire a ton of confidence. But let’s not pretend Buddy Baumann or Scott Copeland were wowing us, either. Tim Peterson has battled but with a 5.66 FIP, let’s not get our hopes up too high.

The best hope for the Mets’ bullpen this year is the return of Seth Lugo and Anthony Swarzak. Lugo had what appears to be a one-start shot in the rotation and Swarzak has missed most of the year with an oblique injury. But if those two combine with Familia and Robert Gsellman to give the club four solid relievers, the hope is the manager can figure out how to better use his entire staff going forward.

Post Script: Hanhold pitched for Las Vegas last night. He put up two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. He did not allow a run or a walk.

6 comments for “The Mets and their hard-throwing righty reliever experiment

  1. Pete from NJ
    June 3, 2018 at 10:26 am

    Hopefully Anthony Swarzak is the missing link. He was signed to be the setup man so maybe we’ll have one soon.

  2. Chris F
    June 3, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Ive een enough of this season to know that Swarzak cannot bail water fast enough on this sinking ship of a pen.

    First off, we have a decidedly active manager when it comes to pen use. He has no issue “dry humping” (his words) relievers, and has even more of a penchant for playing match ups, misguidedly I may add, than Collins. The pen is in tatters and that was a direct result of the first 2 weeks of coddling starters and having starters legitimately not good enough to throw 6 – 7 IP every game. End result over usage. We are sowing the seeds planted in April. Much like Collins, we see Callaway only worrying about the present moment and not planning for pen usage as far away as tomorrow. Cant do that.

    Secondly, Familia is not much to talk about. He has the 4th worst save percentage among closers, and a WHIP in the bottom half of relievers. He is tied with Felipe Vasquez for most blown saves this season. I dont know who Vasquez is, but I know he aint Craig Kimbrel.

    Third, Swarzak, Familia, Lugo, and Gsellman are not enough arms to get the job done because the starting pitchers, while showing some improvement, still are not giving enough innings.

    Fourth, Alderson is doing a terrible job in personnel decisions, whether that be constructing the pen or handling the 40 man roster. That is hamstringing (sorry for the unfortunate pun) Callaway, who needs all the help he can get.

    Anyway, the state of the situation is Code Red. Your fine assessment of who we have else to lean on may really make this Code En Fuego.

    • June 3, 2018 at 4:06 pm

      The 18 games in 17 day stretch is now over. With Sewald being the only reliever used today, when the Mets return to action Tuesday, everyone else will have had multiple days off and Lugo should be well rested with four days off since his spot start.

      Baumann and Bautista need to go.

  3. Pete In Iowa
    June 4, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    I’ll take a guy who knows and understands how to pitch over a hard thrower any day of the week.
    The only one of the relievers you listed who seems to understand pitching from what little of them I have seen is Tim Peterson. I’d like to see what he can do longer-term. He simply **has** to be a better option than Robles.

  4. MattyMets
    June 6, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    I’m very disappointed in Familia so far. He’s surprisingly hittable. Blevins even more so. And he and Ramos need to knock it off with the walks. Neither of them can be counted on. I’ve said Hansel Robles needs to go more times than I can count. I cannot believe he is still with this franchise. Lugo and Gsellman cannot do it alone. Hopefully Swarzak helps. But that’s not enough.

    If our bats wake up and we can get back to .500 by the end of June we need to add an arm or two in July via trade. If the season goes down the toilet, we should trade away Familia, Ramos and Blevins who are all pending FAs anyway and look to rebuild the pen the right way next offseason.

    • TexasGusCC
      June 7, 2018 at 2:04 am


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