Last season the Mets used 30 different pitchers, with 21 of those not making a single start. In 2009, those numbers were 24 and 13, respectively. Over the last decade, the trend has been towards more pitchers in general and specifically more relievers. On top of there being more relievers, we’ve also seen more innings from the bullpen here recently. In 2009, Mets’ relievers combined for 501.2 IP. In 2018, the club’s relievers tallied 546.1 IP. That number fell in 2019 to 519.2 IP but was still above the 2009 total.
So, it was a bit surprising to me to find out that over the last decade, the Mets had “only” 30 relievers deliver a combined 50 innings. After all, the Mets had four relievers to top that total in 2019, alone. Sure, maybe you cycle through guys and they can’t do it in one season but we keep seeing a lot of the same guys in multiple years and it’s not that hard to get to 50 IP if you’re on the team for parts of three seasons. In his first three years with the Mets, Josh Edgin never came close to 50 IP in a single season. But he combined for 81.2 IP from 2012-2014. My expectation is that we would have had a bunch more guys like that, pushing our total of relievers with 50 IP the past decade to well over 50.
Still, 30 is a good total. In fact, it’s an ideal total, since that’s exactly how many people are listed on a standard leaderboard page over at FanGraphs. No toggling between multiple pages to see results here! Generally, I’m not a fan of using fWAR for relief pitchers but since that’s the default on these leaderboards, let’s note that the top Mets reliever in the past decade was Jeurys Familia, who amassed a 5.5 fWAR in 377.1 It’s hard to remember now but Familia actually made one start for the Mets back in 2012. That four-inning outing is not included, nor are starts for any other relievers mentioned here.
So, if Familia’s the best, which reliever was the worst? By this metric, that distinction goes to Tyler Bashlor, who in parts of two seasons with the Mets has amassed 54 IP and a (-0.8) fWAR. Now Bashlor’s not the worst reliever used by the Mets in the last decade. If we had made the cutoff 30 IP instead of 50, he’d be beaten out by Robert Carson (-1.1) fWAR in 33 IP and Drew Gagnon, with (-1.0) fWAR and 31 IP.
In case you’ve managed to forget him, Robert Carson was a hard-throwing lefty who came up at a time when the Mets’ organization thought that the secret to world peace and eternal happiness was to be a lefty reliever. They wanted so bad for Carson to be successful that they kept putting him out there, despite the fact that he was beyond terrible. Carson had five different stints with the Mets over his two years with the club. To give you an indication of how bad he was, Carson had 8 Ks and 9 HR allowed in 19.2 IP in 2013.
You probably remember Gagnon, as his two-year stint with the club came in 2018-2019. Somehow, he managed to go 5-2 in his tenure but pretty much everything else screams out failure. He had a 55 ERA+ and his FIP (7.88) was worse than his ERA (7.32) the past two seasons. Gagnon had seven consecutive scoreless appearances early last season, which should give you an idea how bad he was the rest of the year. In his final 10 games, he allowed 20 runs (17 ER) in 9.2 IP and opponents had a 1.502 OPS against him.
The Mets released Gagnon last November and now he’s pitching in the KBO, where he’s being used as a starter and having surprising success. In 67.1 IP, Gagnon has a 3.88 ERA and has allowed only 2 HR. Bully for him. The Mets released Carson following the 2013 campaign and he spent the next year split between the Angels and Dodgers organizations. He never made it back to the majors. Since 2015, Carson is still out there pitching, in various Independent and foreign leagues. It’s admirable he’s still out there performing.
Which brings us back to Bashlor. While the Mets gave up on Carson and Gagnon after two years, they’re not willing to do the same with Bashlor. In fact, we may see Bashlor on the 2020 Opening Day roster. If so, that will be due to circumstances more than anything else. If he was out of options, he’d be gone already, like his fellow bullpen arsonist Jacob Rhame. And the only reason he’s under consideration for a spot on the MLB club is due to the increased roster size of 30 to start the year, combined with the absences of Brad Brach and Jared Hughes.
Some players go through their career unable to catch a break. Bashlor’s the exact opposite, as he is living a charmed life right this moment. Of course, that charmed life will have an expiration date. The rosters won’t stay at 30 all year and you figure either Brach or Hughes will make it back at some point. Bashlor will have to do better, much better, if he hopes to continue with the Mets.
Finally, here’s Bashlor’s rankings among the 30 Mets relievers with at least 50 IP since 2010:
ERA – 28th (5.33)
FIP – 30th (6.18)
xFIP – 30th (6.11)
WHIP – 21st (1.41)
The leaderboards don’t show OPS for pitchers but Bashlor has a .783 lifetime OPS allowed, including an .861 mark last season. For a point of comparison, Michael Conforto had an .856 OPS last year. Bashlor turned the average hitter into Conforto last season. That’s not good. And that same phrase also describes Bashlor’s potential inclusion on the Opening Day roster.