The Mets’ bullpen finished 2019 11th in the National League in WHIP (1.432) and 13th in ERA (4.99) and if we removed Seth Lugo from the equation, the numbers would be significantly worse. The pen was dogged last year by the dreaded combo of injuries and ineffectiveness. But let’s take a minute to dream on what might be for the 2020 pen. What if the top four guys combined for 290.1 IP, 2.51 ERA and a 1.016 WHIP – wouldn’t that be something?

And that’s what Dellin Betances, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia and Seth Lugo combined for in 2018, with Lugo’s contribution only what he did as a reliever that season. Of course, Betances missed most of 2019 while Diaz and Familia were pretty rotten last season. Only Lugo was able to duplicate his strong season from 2018 a year ago.

The Mets’ top four relievers last year combined for 237 IP, 4.14 ERA and a 1.300 WHIP.

If you asked most fans, they would expect Lugo to pitch well as long as his elbow holds out, which, knock on wood, it has done so the past two seasons. They also expect Diaz to bounce back to some degree and Familia, well, they have considerably less hope for in 2020. Which makes Betances the big wild card of the group.

In the five-year period from 2014-2018, Betances put up numbers that marked him as one of the top relievers in the game. In that span of 373.1 IP, Betances had a 2.22 ERA and a 1.018 WHIP. His 607 Ks led to a remarkable 14.6 K/9. The only weakness was his walks allowed. There was the ugly 6.6 BB/9 in 2017 and about a 3.5 mark in the other four seasons. But the Mets will gladly take his 3.9 BB/9 in his five-year peak if he can give them 70 innings in the bargain.

And there’s the rub. After being both durable and dominant in those five seasons before 2019, last year injuries limited him to 0.2 IP due to shoulder, lat and a partial tear of his left Achilles tendon. The latter one came after he pitched in his lone game of the 2020 season on September 15 after he made his way back from the other two injuries.

None of the injuries required surgery, although he was in a walking boot for six weeks after the Achilles injury. Certainly the hope is that since Betances made it back to the majors following the shoulder and lat injuries that those are in the past. But the Achilles is another beast.

At his introductory press conference after signing with the Mets, Betances declared that he felt good now and that he’d be ready to go in Spring Training. Those are easy things to say in early January. Let’s see what happens when he undergoes his first official workout, scheduled for February 12. Was the roughly six weeks following that news conference enough time to get Betances from long tossing to being able to throw off a mound in a competitive situation?

Even if he’s not ready to go on February 12, there are still 11 more days before the first Grapefruit League game and a little over a month after that before the first regular season game. Regardless of when he’s able to take the mound in a real game, the Mets will be better when that happens. And if he can make a complete comeback to what he was from 2014-2018, that would be tremendous.

It’s remarkable how well the Mets did last year with essentially only Lugo and Justin Wilson has good options out of the pen. It may be unlikely that either of those two will be able to match what they gave the club in 2019. Which will make comebacks by Betances and Diaz all the more important for the success of the Mets in 2020.

5 comments on “Mets hope for durable and dominant Dellin Betances

  • Dan Capwell

    It will be neither 2018 or 2019 for this quartet. Instead somewhere in the middle, meaning we will be walking a tightrope in the late innings for most of the season. There will be some spectacular performances and some alarming failures.

    They should sign Ryan Buchter, as they need another lefty. Otherwise, they can hopefully hang in contention and add some reinforcements in July. They’ll likely be needing it.

  • José

    My best method to keep from looking like I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about is to claim nothing if not absolutely sure about it. With that said, I’ll actually go out on a limb and say the BP will be a strength.

    This is not their best rotation ever, but I can feel sure in saying this is the most balanced – and potentially deepest – staff they’ve ever had. There appear to be no turkeys in this collection

    • Brian Joura

      Six guys in the pen have had at least one terrific year under their belt, with the majority having multiple strong years. It’s not like it’s a bunch of Bashlors or Rhames where you hope things finally come together for them.

      It’s unrealistic to think that all of them are going to be great. But if the team ends up with four reliable arms – rather than the two they had last year – it will be a good thing.

  • Remember1969

    I don’t know if you are planning on doing a future “Bullpen Projection”, but I’ll go out on a limb and make some guesses for 2020. I don’t have any inside info on any of them and have no basis for my statements . .just taking stabs.

    Overall, the bullpen will be good to better than good.


    Diaz will have a bounce-back year and will take the closer role and be dominant.

    Betances will be a solid addition and hold down the 8th inning well, although he will be innings limited to some degree because of not throwing last year.

    Familia will actually be OK and stick with the team ahd pitch reasonably well – sub 4.00 ERA and sub 1.2 WHIP

    Unfortunately, Lugo will not be able to replicate last year as the elbow issues will catch up to him early (hoping I am wrong about this one)

    Wilson will not be as good as last year – he will walk too many batters

    Brach will prove to be a very good signing. Will be the second or third best guy in the pen.

    Gsellman will be Gsellman – seemingly on the verge of being great at times, blowing up at other times.

    The rest: Wacha will get some time as a reliever as Matz and Porcello will be the 4th and 5th starters. I am not expecting a ton from Wacha. Maybe some OK long relief appearances.

    Zamora will be back at some point and throw pretty well, setting himself up for a bigger role in 2021.

    Drew Smith will pitch with the big club this year (and do OK).

  • Metsense

    Betances,along with Wilson, should slot in very nicely as set up men for the primary closer Lugo. If the starters can give the Mets a consistent six quality innings then the bullpen should have a strong foundation.
    If Rojas uses these primary relievers in high or very high leverage situations then maybe the bullpen won’t be burned out by June.
    There are many other experienced relievers in the bullpen that should be able to secure a three run lead (even though it is technically a hold/save situation) or pitch effective when behind two runs so a blowout can be prevented. I’m confident that Betances will have a good year and therefore the bullpen will have a good year also.

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