Relievers are fickle. For whatever reason, they were deemed at some point not to have the stuff to succeed as a starter, which certainly calls into question their ability to consistently pitch well. And then when they only pitch about one-third as much as a starter over a full season, it becomes easier to see why their numbers might fluctuate from year to year. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves as we hope for rebound seasons from Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia.
But if they can be fickle, it stands to reason that some of that fickleness should manifest itself in a good way for the reliever. So, let’s take a look at some of the best seasons by a Mets reliever here recently. Here are the top 10 seasons since 2000 for a reliever with at least 30 IP, sorted by WHIP.
10. 2018 Seth Lugo, 78.1 IP 1.009 WHIP (.560 OPS allowed)
Lugo appeared in 54 games this season, with 49 of those coming in as a reliever. He didn’t do bad as a starter, as he posted a 3.91 ERA and a 1.304 WHIP, but the Mets used Jason Vargas as their fifth starter whenever they could. Vargas was horrible for a good part of the season, which added fuel to the fire of those who wanted to see Lugo take his place in the rotation. But the Mets were stubborn about it and Vargas came back to pitch very well his last eight games of the year. Combined with how well Lugo pitched out of the pen, it was a win all the way around. At least from the middle of August until the end of the season.
T 8. 2015 Familia, 78 IP, 1.000 WHIP (.569 OPS allowed)
Wouldn’t this have been nice production to have received from Familia in 2019? Instead, he had 1.733 WHIP, which likely put him on the worst list. Shoot, let’s go ahead and check that one. Yep, it’s the 7th-worst WHIP by a Mets RP in this century. Back to 2015 – that was the season when Familia harnessed his control. After allowing 32 BB in 77.1 IP in 2014, he allowed just 19 in 78 IP and helped lead the Mets to the World Series.
T 8. 2013 Bobby Parnell, 50 IP, 1.000 WHIP (.555 OPS allowed)
The previous year Parnell was pretty solid with a 2.49 ERA and a 1.238 WHIP. And he was even better in ’13 until he was sidelined by a neck injury in late July. They tried rest and when that didn’t work, Parnell received an epidural shot. And when that failed, he had surgery to repair a herniated disc. He recovered from the neck injury and was appointed as the team’s closer. But he appeared in just one game in 2014 before he tore his UCL and underwent TJ surgery. And he never was the same pitcher afterwards.
7. 2015 Erik Goeddel, 33.1 IP, 0.990 WHIP (.553 OPS allowed)
An injury to then-closer Jenrry Mejia gave Goeddel an opportunity early in the ’15 season and he was outstanding in his first 22 games, posting a 1.96 ERA. But he came down with an injury himself, losing two-plus months to an elbow strain. He was solid upon his return but not nearly as good as he was early in the year. In 2016, Goeddel was very effective in his first 25 games, posting a 2.70 ERA and a 0.750 WHIP. But he allowed runs in six of his final 11 games and his season line was poor. After a disappointing 2017, the Mets cut ties with Goeddel, who caught on with Seattle and then finished 2018 with the Dodgers. His final numbers that year included a 2.95 ERA and a 1.255 WHIP. But his season ended early with another elbow injury and he did not pitch in 2019. But maybe he’s healthy and the Mets could bring him back for 2020 and hope for the good fickle again.
6. 2012 Jon Rauch, 57.2 IP, 0.988 WHIP (.617 OPS allowed)
If you remember Rauch, you probably recall two things about him. First, he was very tall. His listed height at B-R is 6’11 and if he was in the NBA, he might have been listed at 7’2. The other is that he had more tattoos than the average NBA player. He appeared in 73 games for the Mets in ’12, as he was frequently used when Terry Collins went to his favorite move of playing matchups with his relievers. He was better that season than the Mets had any reason to expect. He had a 4.85 ERA and a 1.346 the previous season and a 7.56 ERA and an 1.800 WHIP the following year. Excellent deployment by Collins? Perhaps. But fickle seems at least as likely an explanation.
5. 2016 Addison Reed, 77.2 IP 0.940 WHIP (.536 OPS allowed)
A late-season acquisition in 2015, Reed was excellent in the stretch drive, helping the Mets to the World Series. It certainly seemed like a fluke, as he had a 1.500 WHIP and a 4.20 ERA with the D’Backs before the trade. But Reed was extremely good in ’16 and was strong again in 2017 before he was dealt to the Red Sox for three relievers who’ve been different levels of disappointing. Meanwhile, Reed signed a two-year deal beginning in 2018 with the Twins. He was not good his first year and then last season a thumb injury kept him out of the majors all season. Perhaps the Mets can bring him back along with Goeddel.
4. 2014 Buddy Carlyle, 31 IP, 0.903 WHIP (.547 OPS allowed)
After not pitching in the majors in two seasons, one of which was spent in Buffalo for the Mets, Carlyle pitched well in ’14 in the first year for the Mets in Las Vegas and got the call back to the show. Injuries kept him from a chance to duplicate his fine season in 2015. First it was back and hamstring tightness and his year – and his MLB career – ended when he underwent hip surgery.
3. 2019 Lugo, 80 IP, 0.900 WHIP (.562 OPS allowed)
It’s been a joy watching Lugo pitch the past few years. And as good as Lugo’s final line was last year, it doesn’t accurately portray how good he was the overwhelming majority of the time. He had a three-game stretch in late June where he allowed 7 ER in 3.2 IP, as he allowed 12 baserunners in that stretch. Take away those three outings and Lugo had a 2.00 ERA and a 0.786 WHIP
2. 2008 Billy Wagner, 47 IP, 0.894 WHIP (.517 OPS allowed)
Over a decade later the pain of Wagner’s elbow injury in August of ’08 still hurts.
1. 2013 Carlos Torres, 36.2 IP, 0.873 WHIP (.548 OPS allowed)
A waiver wire pickup by Sandy Alderson, Torres in a way was the Lugo of his day. He spent some time in the rotation in ’13 and there was discussion about what his best role on the team would be. Torres’ numbers as a starter look worse than Lugo’s but he had two disastrous starts against Washington (7 IP, 14 ER). In his other seven starts, he allowed 13 ER in 42.2 IP for a 2.74 ERA. But just like with Lugo, the Mets chose to use him as a reliever. In 2014, Collins gave him a Mike Marshall-like workload, bringing him into a game 35 times in the first 66 games of the season. And he was never the same for the Mets again. He had a good year for the Brewers in 2016, with a 1.154 WHIP, but it didn’t last.
Speaking of Marshall, few recall that he ended his career with the Mets. In the strike year of 1981, all teams got a shot at the playoffs with the split-season format concocted to handle all of the missed games. Even the Mets! And for a 38 year old, he was really good. In 31 IP, he posted a 2.61 ERA, a 1.097 WHIP and a .600 OPS allowed.