Robert Gsellman will likely pitch meaningful innings for the New York Mets in 2019 among inevitable injuries or slumps. With the season right around the corner, the Mets are looking forward to showcasing their revitalized bullpen which has become a necessity in a competitive division. They’ve assembled a formidable relief core this offseason, bringing in Edwin Diaz and Justin Wilson while reuniting with Jeurys Familia. But the team will still rely on the likes of their fourth through sixth relief options as Seth Lugo, Luis Avilan and Robert Gsellman make quality appearances.
Last year, Mets fans were treated to the strategic bullpen management of rookie manager Mickey Callaway, who was a refreshing change from the work of Terry Collins. For brief stints we saw relief pitchers deployed situationally, regardless of the inning. Familia was used against the opposing team’s best hitters late in games, which is against the traditional mold of closers and setup men. Gsellman is an interesting case as he was able to provide a level of bullpen versatility for the Mets, which is commonly seen among successful playoff teams.
Previously a starter for the club, 2018 was the first season where Gsellman worked strictly out of the bullpen. Although he experienced success after his late season call-up of 2016, where he posted an ERA of 2.63 over seven starts, his days as a starting pitcher were limited after a disappointing 2017 campaign.
Last year Gsellman led all Mets relievers in pitching 80 innings across 68 games while never making an appearance on the disabled list. The former starter handled both left-hand and right-hand batters with consistency, posting an OPS+ of 104 and 97 respectively. After injuries and trades of other Mets relievers, Gsellman found himself in a save situation in 38.1 innings where he posted an OPS against of .636 compared to .761 in non-save situations. However, he was unable to sustain consistency outside of April, August and June, which is something that he’ll look to improve on this season.
The flashes of high leverage success and ability to pitch well across multiple innings shows that Gsellman is an optimal complement to the other situational relief pitchers on the club. The Brewers, led by Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel had success with relievers who fit this profile, as did the Indians with Andrew Miller. Adam Ottavino, in a similar role, recently earned himself a 3 yr/$27m contact after posting a 2.74 FIP, 13.0 K/9 over 77.2 IP for the Rockies. While Gsellman is far removed from this level of wipeout stuff production, it will be interesting to see if he sees an improvement this year.
Gsellman showed poor splits against batters with runners in scoring position last season, which suggests that he may be better suited to start innings this year (although bailing the starter out of a bind is to be expected of your relievers so we hope to see improvement on this front). Through another year of bullpen management and pitch development with Callaway, Gsellman can take the next step of his growth; if he produces well as the fifth or sixth best option, occasionally slotting into high leverage spots, then the club will be able to boast a scary level of pitching dominance.
Back in 2016, the common stat was that if the Mets scored just four runs in the game then their chances of winning that game significantly improved. It’s being able to pitch competitively, across all levels of the roster that allows the team that level of comfort and advantage. Gsellman has an important role of being versatile among a depth of talent, something that will contribute to the Mets success.