Pitching numbers add up to a very weird Mets season

With just 23 games left, the Mets season can wind up anywhere from a disappointing fourth place finish to a surprising wild card playoff berth and some October baseball. This has been a season we won’t soon forget, full of both incredible performances and heart-breaking losses. Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but a look at a few pitching stats illustrates a pretty clear picture as to how they Mets wound up at this crossroads. As usual, it all comes down to to the guys on the mound.

The rotation has been good, but not great

Before the season began, if you knew that not only would our big four stay healthy but that we’d swap out our #5 for a proven #2, you’d have bet the house on us making the playoffs, right? Well Jacob deGrom continues to pitch like an ace and even has a shot to be the first ever Met to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards, however the team still doesn’t seem to score when he’s on the mound. In his last 57 starts, deGrom has a pristine 2.13 ERA and a 16-17 record to show for it. Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard seem to have hit their stride after uneven first halves, while Zack Wheeler has been a bit of an enigma this season. Following a stellar 2018 second half, Wheeler has stayed healthy, given us innings and continues to light up the radar gun, but he’s had trouble avoiding the one bad inning that has wrecked too many of his starts. Marcus Stroman was an exciting addition, but has yet to give us even one great start. All in all, this has been a better than average rotation, but not among the tops in the game. Having our starting five (including Jason Vargas before Stroman arrived) make 131 of a possible 139 starts with a rotation ERA of 3.95 (6th in the Majors) is good, but not good enough to carry an awful bullpen.

The Bullpen

Last season, the Mets bullpen blew 16 saves, so the front office wisely put an emphasis on retooling the relief corps over the winter. We brought in not one, but two proven closers, in Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia, plus, two proven lefties in Justin Wilson and Luis Avilan. These four plus swingman holdovers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman and a an endless collection of hard-throwing young righties to fill out at the margins, gave us a strong bullpen, at least on paper. Wilson and Lugo have gotten the job done with nice seasons. Gsellman was mediocre before getting injured and Avilan has been a disappointment. The parade of hard-throwing righties are all batting practice pitchers who can’t even handle mop-up duty. The real train wreck involves the two previous closers who were supposed to give us the best 1-2 bullpen punch this team has seen in many years. Last year, Diaz was arguably the best closer in baseball with 1.96 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. This year he’s lost his slider and his confidence en route to putting up putrid numbers – 1-7, six blown saves, a 5.65 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP.  If possible, Familia has been even worse. The righty entered the season with a 3.12 career ERA but this season, he sports a hideous 6.43 ERA. Both still throw as hard as ever, but Familia has lost his control, frequently walking batters as soon as he enters the game, while Diaz has lost his nerve, frequently leaving pitches over the fat part of the plate.

Whether you blame it on Mets starters for not being more efficient or their manager for being too quick to pull them out of games, there have been a number of times where we might have had a better chance to win had we not leaned so hard on a damaged bullpen. The Mets bullpen has already blown 25 saves, third worst in the Majors, but that’s not the ugliest stat from this bunch. That honor goes to 56% save percentage.

One thing that jumps off the page when you look at the standings is that the Cardinals seem to be overachieving. No stars on either side of the ball, unless you count Paul Goldschmidt, yet they sit in first place in front of the far more talented Cubs and Brewers. One stat that may explain it? A league high 78% save percentage.

6 comments for “Pitching numbers add up to a very weird Mets season

  1. NYM6986
    September 6, 2019 at 7:44 am

    Interesting article. What separates us from the Cardinals, Cubs and a few others is solid ownership and team management. Theirs nor ours. On paper we should have had a better pen. On the flip side we could never have predicted McNeil, Alonso, JD and even the solid season from Conforto. Our goal should be a .500 season which would be quite the improvement over last year. We are poised to contend next year lopping off marginal players like Frazier and Lagares, and protected ourselves with Stroman for the likely departing Wheeler. They need to figure out Díaz and Familia as it is hard to believe they are so bad. Does Lowrie make any impact next year? Is Nimmo healthy or will those bulging discs derail him in 2020?Lots to be excited about for next season. BVW has some work to do and hopefully it will not entail bringing in more aging former clients.

    • MattyMets
      September 6, 2019 at 10:07 am

      NYM6986, the good thing about this coming off-season is that the team has one glaring weakness for the front office to focus on. The bullpen is by far the biggest culprit. If they blew half as many saves we’d be fighting Atlanta for first place.

  2. NYM6986
    September 6, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Agree. We would also be far ahead in the wild card race. High hopes for 2020.

  3. Pete from NJ
    September 6, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    I think none of us would have thought the bullpen could be this bad. As a matter of fact just as Matt noted the relievers on paper were going to be the strength of the team added with a a healthy starting five-this was a really competitive year.

    I’m still looking for the guys to go 17-6 squeezing by Chicago by one game.. All this with Edwin Diaz finding himself saving games like we imagined last winter.

    It the Mets.

  4. MattyMets
    September 6, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    I’ve read in a number of places that Diaz is not doing well with the big apple pressure, that he’s like a Sonny Gray type. I know the big city and the media pressure is not for everyone, but I don’t buy it. Until he recently adopted deGrom’s grip, his slider was flat plane cement mixer. His fastball control hasn’t been great either.

    If this turns out to be true, I have two nagging questions. A) why didn’t Brodie and co. know this before they made the stupidest trade of the off-season? B) does that mean we’re forced to trade this guy for pennies on the dollar?

  5. Pete from NJ
    September 6, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Briodie seems to me a numbers guy. Diaz’s salary next year will be on the low side.for his first year of arb compounded by dismal numbers. 2.5 million for a potential star relief pitcher seems like good value.

    No loss harvest here.

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