There is no excuse for Seth Lugo to be pitching in relief down four runs.

The Mets are in a freefall due to their failures regarding RISP and starting pitching. Last weekend’s sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia “with Zack Wheeler” Phillies was not pretty, in part, due to weakness of starting pitching by the names of Walker Lockett (Why?), Steven Matz (What?), and Rick Porcello (How Much?). Despite many, many questions – Jacob deGrom, did you need a new mattress? – there has been a staunch refusal from the team to start Lugo as he is considered too important to the bullpen.

To reiterate, Lugo was pitching in relief down four runs in the eighth inning. Why, if he’s so important to the bullpen in high-leverage situations, why? Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez took some guesses because they thought it was weird when they saw Lugo warming up late in the game on Sunday. They wondered that if like Edwin Diaz before him, Lugo asked for more work as he had failed in his last outing Friday night (AKA the “Wilson Ramos hates Mets fans” game). It was the only realistic guestimate, because otherwise it felt punitive and/or stupid.

Punitive to let it hit home with Lugo that starting was as out of reach as the moon for him and the Mets organization were sick of getting questions on Lugo starting every time a starting pitcher coughed up the lead or put up a five spot before Nimmo walked for the 909th time. Stupid because Robert Gsellman was starting the next day and if Lugo really needed work, he could have followed Gsellman for 1-2 innings. While possibly a low-leverage situation, the Mets actually would need Lugo the next day because Gsellman was not fully stretched out yet and would need some help. If you’re a Mets fan, you know Lugo has been vocal about wanting to start for years now, that the bullpen is almost full go, Diaz has improved as of late (still not closing though), and the starting rotation is the opposite of  good right now. So, why, was this oh so important bullpen cog warming and then pitching in the eighth inning in a game his team was down by four?

I think knowing Lugo’s history with the Mets is relevant. Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we?

In 2016, Lugo and Gsellman came up to save the Mets. This is not hyperbole as the Mets lost Matt Harvey, deGrom, and Matz to injury. Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon weren’t enough to get the Mets to the postseason once again. After losing to the Kansas City Royals in the 2015 World Series despite screams for Harvey to finish that ninth inning (don’t cry, everyone), the Mets wanted that back to back postseason appearance that is so elusive to them. Lugo and Gsellman were crucial to the Mets making their 2016 Wild Card appearance. While Lugo started the season in the bullpen, his starts down the stretch were part of the reason they made it in.

Unfortunately for Lugo, 2017 was a different story with injury (partial UCL tear), inconsistency in the rotation, and an appearance versus the Houston Astros in Texas in which he questioned his own stuff (whisper: because the Astros were cheating if you hadn’t heard). Shortly thereafter, Lugo was informed he was going back to the bullpen.

In Spring Training 2018, Lugo earned a starting rotation sport when Wheeler failed and ended up in AAA for a bit. Unfortunately for Lugo (sensing a theme?), he was the fifth starter and his turn got skipped due to snow in April. Wheeler came back and, again, Lugo was directed to the bullpen. Lugo was successful, but when Syndergaard got hurt, he got his chance to start again. He made five starts in 2018 and was okay other than one stellar start against the Yankees, with six scoreless innings. When Syndergaard was back, rinse and repeat for Lugo.

In 2019, Lugo, for the first time, spent the entire season in the bullpen and was brilliant. His 2-innings appearances became lore as was his taking on the slack of Diaz and Jeurys Familia who were terrible.

In 2020, Brodie Van Wagenen noted that Lugo was starting pitch depth along with Gsellman, but they were really bullpen pieces, arms, whatever non-human word teams use to describe MLB athletes. This was after signing the likes of Porcello and Michael Wacha, basically telling Lugo, “no, not you.” Unfortunately for all of us, COVID-19 happened and the season was in question. Eventually, MLB decided on a 60-game “sprint” season and the Mets subsequently failed again and again out the shoot with RISP and their starting pitching.

So, why, was Lugo pitching that eighth inning down four runs?

One can only guess. However, if true that Lugo needed work, it appears the Mets are incapable of properly managing his usage in the bullpen considering his non-traditional status as a relief pitcher. That is a little scary considering they’re adamant about leaving him in the bullpen. You’d think with the analytical nature of baseball today, at the very least, the Mets would have a chart, many, many, many charts, indicating when they should use Lugo. For example, pitch him every 2-3 days, no matter the score, so he gets his work in, and will possibly appear in high leverage situations. With the bullpen having other pitchers that can go two innings (e.g. Jared Hughes) and the likes of three possible closers in Familia, Diaz, and Dellin Betances, Lugo is not alone out there.

The fact that the Mets used Lugo in the eighth inning in a game down four runs demonstrates his worth to the bullpen is questionable, especially considering the team’s current record (five games below 500 as of this writing), relative strength of bullpen, and extreme weakness of starting rotation.

Therefore, the Mets should look to the rotation where he belongs. The man wants to start, he has a starter’s pitching arsenal, and he has missed his chance to start for many external reasons, let it be April snow, Astros cheating, and/or Diaz failing. Merit should mean something, especially when your starting rotation is lost somewhere between Matz’s HR hangdog face and Porcello’s hanging slider to a former MVP named Andrew McCutchen.

Dear Mets: take a chance, trust your bullpen, and gather some intelligence in this 60-game sprint for 2021 by putting Seth Lugo in the rotation…starting now.

18 comments on “Seth Lugo needs to start ASAP

  • Robert Vincent

    Great article. And great memory, I had to reach for my Pepto Bismal reliving all these Met failures I had thankfully forgotten.
    Mets should start Lugo! To save this sprint of a season and to bolster the staff for 2021. I do not want to trade key pieces for Mike Clevinger.
    The Mets should start Lugo and this writer should replace BVW as GM. We’d be better off.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  • Eraff

    I’d swap Matz to the Bullpen and Lugo to Starter. Matz is a two Pitch no Brain Talented Arm in a 3-4 pitch Brain Role. Lugo is a 3-4 pitch guy in a 2 Pitch Role.

    I am surrendering an Elite Bullpen arm for an UnKnown Performance….. I’m doing that because Matz is a disaster, and the upper end is a Back end starter-=–he’s not a 1-2…and not a 3 either.

    This is a Playoff run…all hands on deck….no legacy assignments.

    • Jennifer Corozza

      That’s exactly what I think they should do: swap Lugo for Matz right now. Lugo is a cerebral pitcher who knows how to pitch and wants it bad. I can love Matz because I’m emotionally invested in the player, but still realize he needs out of that rotation now. As I noted, the Mets aren’t using Lugo properly in the bullpen for all his supposed importance in that spot. Another example last night with having him up in the 9th with the Mets up 7?? Gsellman laboring throug not even 2 innings on 47 pitches. The Mets are really slow on the uptake sometimes on making moves for the better of their team.

  • MattyMets

    Nice post, Jennifer and I love Eraff’s comment. I’m torn on Lugo. While he was solid to good as a starter, he’s dominant as a reliever (when used properly). Plus, I’m no medical professional, but does pitching sporadically at full steam out of the pen really put less strain on his partially torn elbow than throwing on regular rest with a consistent turn in the rotation?

    As far as Matz, his stuff looks good. Lefty with a hard fastball and a solid repertoire. He has two issues. 1) he gets rattled too easily. 2) he might be tipping his pitches. Not sure he’s cut out for the bullpen, but we can’t afford to carry a 9.00 ERA in our rotation. Imagine, not long ago, we were the envy of baseball with 5 young horses. We somehow failed to capitalize on any of them in trade and now basically have deGrom and an injured Syndergaard who will be entering his walk year. A year or so ago, I advocated for signing Wheeler and trading Syndergaard. Wish we did. A few years prior, we could have traded Harvey for Xander Bogaerts. Imagine? Matz had a lot of value at one time too.
    Next off-season, the once pitching rich Mets will be focused on filling out the once stocked rotation. So weird. Hopefully, it will be more deftly handled than the current ownership/GM team who thought it wise to trade away our top three pitching prospects, let Wheeler walk, and then spend money on reclamation projects.

    • Eraff

      Matty…. I think you’re missing the point on Matz’s Stuff. He has 2 possible big league pitches, and none of what he throws is under tight command or well thought. Guys with one or two possible Plus Pitches with a proven disability to harness them or add to them are better suited to non starting roles

      A lefty with a hot arm with an inning to burn would be a good upward profile for Matz. Yes, I thought he could be a top 10 starter… but he’s Not, and he’s not going to be one. What he “Is” can be used with better success for him and the team

  • Jennifer Corozza

    It is tough with Lugo because it almost depends what team he is on. If he was a reliever for the Yankees, the bullpen would be so stocked, they could probably use him properly, consistently. However, his arsenal and mental make up lean towards starting and our rotation is deGrom and his 4-man entourage at this point. The 9.00 ERA is really the issue with Matz as I don’t know that he’s really a reliever. I always have the feeling when Matz is pitching that I’m pitching (maybe because we’re both lefties), which is not what you want.

    I really think starting with the routine it entails would be better for Lugo, but I am also not a doc. Thanks for the thoughts!

  • Brian Joura

    Since August 1:
    Diaz has 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB and 12 Ks
    Betances has 5 IP, 2 H 0 ER, 2 BB and 4 Ks
    Wilson has 3.1 IP, 3 H 1 ER, 1 BB and 3 Ks
    Hughes has 8.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 5 BB and 7 Ks
    Brach has 4 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB and 4 Ks
    Shreve has 7.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB and 12 Ks

    That’s a combined total of 34.2 IP, 19 H, 6 ER, 12 BB and 42 Ks. That’s a 1.56 ERA and a 0.894 WHIP. That’s six relievers outside of Lugo.

    And for comparison, the two starts by Gsellman and one by Lockett combine for:

    9.2 IP, 14 H, 9 ER, 4 BB, 7 Ks. That’s an 8.38 ERA and a 1.862 WHIP

    The idea that right now that Lugo is more valuable in the pen than he would be as a starter is laughable.

  • John Fox

    Nice piece of writing, Jenneifer. I would note that Lugo is likely to head to a team that will give him a shot at starting once his contract expires in a few years

    • Jennifer Corozza

      Thanks. Possibly, but my concern is he might be too old by the time he’s a free agent and if the Mets leave him the bullpen, other teams will stay with the safety of that. We shall see though.

  • JimO

    I am ok with moving Lugo to the starting rotation. They could use the shot in the arm.

    • Jennifer Corozza

      Right, how about trying something new? This is Matz’s 6th year in the league, when is he going to finally get it? I feel bad for him, but he still can’t seem to handle it when things don’t go smoothly in an inning. Consistently inconsistent is the name of his game.

  • Edwin e Pena

    Totally agree. Lugo go and start please ! Tonight we have the CY Young candidate Oswalt going. Oh god. Mets better bring the lumber tonight, it’s going to be a high scoring affair. Oswalt, Lockett, are not ML arms, good grief ! Get Lugo stretched out and start him, let Matz find himself in the BP before it’s too late. 5 more games after tonight and it’s freakin’ mid season ! No time to waste. Losing Thor and Stroman for the season and now Degrom for even 1 start, and losing Peterson tonight and Wacha going down too and Metsies are in deep doo-doo with staff. Trade deadline may not bring anything either, all teams looking for arms. Lugo in the BP sitting around 2-3 games and doing nada is not helping, when as a starter he could be. Why is this so difficult for Mets to understand ? Sitting Lugo around in the BP is a luxury Mets no longer have.
    Wake up! It’s ‘getting late early’ as they say.

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  • David Klein

    Peterson to the injured list with shoulder fatigue maybe this finally opens the door for Lugo? Sucks that Peterson’s hurt I liked watching him pitch,

  • Jennifer Corozza

    That’s the whole thing, Lugo in the bullpen is a luxury. It’s like this season so far has become a comedy of errors regarding the rotation. If not now for Lugo, when it’s all falling apart, when exactly?

  • Mike W

    We really need to be real about the future. We dont have a deep starting staff for 2021, so why not find out if Lugo could be a good option, especially if he wants to he a starter.

    A lot easier and more affordable to find a good reliever than starter.

    Maybe instead of Oswalt tonight, the Mets should use a pitching machine.

  • TJ

    Nice article!

    I’ve been on the Lugo starter squad for a while, but admit he is no sure thing to be as good in the rotation as he is in the pen. Using Brian as the compass, the Lugo-more-valuable-in-the-pen position has moved from disagree-but-valid to laughable. That’s good enough for me.

    Besides, at the rate the starts are going down, they may run out of other options.

    • Jennifer Corozza

      Thanks. That’s part of the reason I think they should start trying now, just in case he isn’t good enough for starting anymore. I think he’ll be at least fine, which is much better than the Oswalts of the world. I mean, look at Gsellman, who is always linked with Lugo: 47 pitches in not even 2 innings? He’s just back from IL, but to choose him over Lugo feels slimy. It’s tough with the ownership issue, so maybe they don’t want to change anything, but winning consistently would be nice. A better starter for even one position would be a start.

  • Jennifer Corozza

    Life can be very funny sometimes, glad I got this article in when I did.

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