Mets bullpen goes from weakness to strength

Aside from injuries, the biggest culprit for the Mets fourth place finish in 2018 was a leaky, undependable bullpen. New Mets General Manager has addressed this shortcoming head on, first with the earth shaking trade that brought us lights out closer Edwin Diaz, and this past week, with the signing of former Met closer Jeurys Familia. Having a hard throwing, strikeout pitcher with a lot of closing experience as your setup man is a nice luxury, and one of the weapons that distinguishes contenders from pretenders.

After trading Familia at the deadline last season, the Mets mostly used Robert Gsellman as their closer. The starter, turned middle reliever, turned closer, earned 13 saves in 20 opportunities for a horrific, untenable 65% save rate. His seven blown saves led the Mets bullpen which coughed up a total of 18 blown saves. Surprisingly, that number was better than league average last year. The San Francisco Giants bullpen blew a whopping 30 saves, so they too had more to blame for their putrid season than just injuries. The Giants finished the season with a pathetic 54.5% save rate, where as the Rangers, Mariners, Nationals, Yankees, A’s, Cubs, Indians and Rays all finished above 70%. Not surprisingly, seven of those eight teams finished with a record over .500.

Save rate or save percentage is actually a more telling stat than blown saves, simply because not all teams have the same number of save opportunities. The league average was 63 with the Mariners leading the way with 81 and the cellar dwelling Orioles having just 46. The Mets bullpen saved 41 out of 59 games for a 69.5% save rate, a bit above average last season.

With Diaz (57 saves, 1.96 ERA, 0.79 WHIP) and Familia (18 saves, 3.13 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) at the back end, and Seth Lugo (54 appearances, 3 saves, 11 holds) and Robert Gsellman (68 appearances, 13 saves, 15 holds) playing key supporting roles, we suddenly have the makings of a very good bullpen.

As it stands right now, the caravan of young righty relievers we’ve compiled through Sandy Alderson trades will compete for two spots. These competing candidates include Tyler Bashlor, Drew Gagnon, Eric Hanhold, Franklyn Kilome, Jacob Rhame, Drew Smith and Bobby Wahl. Lone lefty Daniel Zamora showed a lot of promise in some high leverage spots last season. If Van Wagenen can add one more reliable piece to this pen, preferably a lefty, the Mets bullpen will not only stand to improve dramatically, but could very well go from being a team weakness to a strength. Couple that with a strong rotation and the Mets have a playoff caliber pitching staff.

12 comments for “Mets bullpen goes from weakness to strength

  1. Chris F
    December 14, 2018 at 8:58 am

    So let me get this straight, everything stays the same but we add Diaz and all the sudden things have changed remarkably?

    I love the Diaz pick up. I hope we are just seeing the tip of his dominance. I’m not sure that’s enough tho. And I’ve never been sold on how amazing Familia is. He was a second tier closer in his finest moment.

    The pen situation looked particularly horrific because of several other things I feel need to be mentioned every time:

    1. The offense was abysmal. This naturally places all pitchers on high alert, making their tough job tougher.

    2. The defense was as bad as the offense. Endless errors catching and throwing and limited range all over the field hurt the team.

    3. A team based on starting pitching needs to get 20 outs or more every day. 100 pitches through 5 1/3 is not acceptable. During the early 11-1 start that happened regularly and by May the pen was already taxed. Syndergaard is a particular culprit from my recollection. A number “1a” guy needs to chuck 7 innings IMO.

    • MattyMets
      December 14, 2018 at 9:26 am

      Chris F, second half bullpen did not include Familia but did include 7 Gsellman blown saves. Familia May not be a top 10 closer, but move him to the 8th inning and he could be one of the best set up men. Think back to how darn good Addison Redd was for us. This could be like that. We went from having Gsellman blowing saves to having two 50 save closers in our pen.

      • Chris F
        December 14, 2018 at 3:47 pm

        Addison Reed has nothing to do with this that Im aware of. I think what Im saying is that Familia is not such a slam dunk of a reliever to think “problem solved”. Through time he is on a trend to have more incidences of simply losing the plate. 8 straight balls and a hit…stuff like that. Some days he looks great for sure. But the days it goes bad it goes real bad, I dont care what inning it is.

        Im not saying or intimating hes a bad pitcher by the way. He is very serviceable. I just dont think he slots in as a upper middle tier reliever with all the issues that carries.

        • MattyMets
          December 15, 2018 at 12:03 am

          Chris F, like Familia, Reed was a good closer who struggled a bit and moved to the 8th inning role where he was really good, especially in 2016. Had the Mets brought back Familia to be the closer I’d share your reaction, but as an 8th inning bridge, I like it.

    • Metsense
      December 14, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      The Mets also added Cano and in 2019 he should put out at least a 800 OPS and surpass his 2.9 fwar he accumulated in 2018 half of a season.
      Yes, they improved the bullpen and made it a strength. You can’t ignore that the Mets also strengthened their offense also.

  2. Name
    December 14, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Who actually knows if it will be a strength? It was supposed to be a strength last year – considering the amount of money they were spending (over 30+ million paid to Familia/Ramos/Swarzak/Blevins), but due to the fickle nature of the bullpen arms it didn’t work out.

    Everyone thinks Diaz is the 2nd coming of the messiah, but he had major HR problems in 2017 which resulted in a 4.02 FIP. Who is to say he won’t have those problems again and turn into another Ramos?
    Gsellman is so overrated, he was bad for 4 of the 6 months last year with 4+ ERAs

    It pains me to see the Mets spending so many resources on assets that have wild volatility and uncertainty.

  3. TJ
    December 14, 2018 at 9:29 am

    Matt, Matt, Matt,
    Now, putting aside acquisition cost, I am quite pleased with Diaz as closer and Familia as primary set up. Despite Name’s volatility concerns, the consensus is that both are above average to dominant in their given roles. Lugo can also be considered above average. I do agree with Name on Gsellman, he can be considered average at best based on 2018 results. The rest? Perhaps some good pieces but they cannot be relied on in any way by a team trying to win in 2019. They have a minimum of 200 innings that need to be addressed, maybe 250, not two open spots. They need two proven additions to the big league roster. Then I can accept the pool of young arms as depth. This doesn’t require Miller or Robertson, but I hope BVWs comments are not a reflection of the same old penny pinching Mets.

  4. December 14, 2018 at 9:30 am

    The objections to The Familia signing don’t make sense to me….especially given that Diaz is already on the Roster. I don’t believe that any “On Paper” analysis of their “Pre Hot Stove Needs” versus the available players could have yielded a better Back End Combo. From a standpoint of Quality and Pedictability, I don’t see hopw they could have done better, short of Signing Kimbrel as an addition to Diaz.

    Robertson and Miller could be arguments…..Miller is a Lefty, but his age and flagging results in 2018 would be a worse bet to Me.

    • Dim
      December 14, 2018 at 10:45 am

      I totally agree
      Some media noted the signing as exhorbitant.
      Familia, made more than $7 mil last year. 10 mil AV is not much as a raise. He’s pitch here in NY
      Great to see him back

      • Metsense
        December 14, 2018 at 12:16 pm

        MLBTR predicted a 3/33 contract. I think the Mets gave Familia a fair contract and Familia gave the Mets a home discount.

  5. December 14, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    I Love the Familia Move—the Guy took the ball here! Good sign that they’re paying a guy for what He is.

  6. NYM6986
    December 15, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    Mets still need a lefty or two in the pen to match up in big spots against big lefty bats. Familia as a set up man is very strong. They also overused GMan last year so the blown saves make sense. If they score two more runs a game that will take care of a bunch of woes. Pen is shaping up but another proven righty bat will make an even bigger difference. I’d package Smith and Legares in a trade since one is overhyped and the other will get hurt again from another freak accident. I’d sign the free agent Dodger catcher and keep Rosario, Nimmo and Conforto. That’s quite a good strong future nucleas for this team. Two months till pitchers and catchers report!!

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