Another day, another toss-up game and another loss as the Mets blew a 3-1 lead in the late innings against the Braves last night. The bullpen started out as a disaster but was a strong point for awhile after a couple of decisive moves by Sandy Alderson. But now it’s back to being a disaster due to overuse and the insistence by Terry Collins on using relievers in a matter that is eerily similar to Jerry Manuel.
Jason Isringhausen has pitched in seven of the team’s last nine games. He has a 6.75 ERA in that span and the Mets are 3-6. It’s probably not a good idea for any reliever to work that often and definitely not for a 38-year old with a recent history of arm injuries.
But Collins is in a quandary in regards to his relievers, with Bobby Parnell being more gas can than water, Taylor Buchholz on the disabled list and Pedro Beato sporting a 16.20 ERA over his last five appearances. And it’s not like bringing in Francisco Rodriguez earlier is going to help, as K-Rod has allowed runs in three of his last four appearances.
Ideally, Isringhausen pitches the eighth inning and Rodriguez the ninth. Also ideally is that you use the rest of your relievers in situations where you build their confidence, so that you can use them in higher-pressure situations to avoid burning out your top bullpen arms.
Does anyone have any confidence in Tim Byrdak or Dale Thayer at this point? I know I don’t, but at the same time if it’s a close game in the eighth inning today against the Braves, I really don’t want to see Isringhausen on the mound.
So, who should Collins use?
The same guy he found lacking in Spring Training. The same guy who put up a 2.95 ERA, a 1.210 WHIP and a 9.53 K/9 last year for the Mets. The guy who failed to make the team out of Spring Training despite a 1.69 ERA and a 1.031 WHIP so that the Mets could take gas can Parnell and TNT Blaine Boyer north with the club.
Yes, loyal readers know I am talking about Manny Acosta. Much to my surprise, I have found myself being the biggest Acosta fan in the world who is not directly related to the player. I never sought out this role; instead it has been thrust upon me.
Ask the average Mets fan about Acosta and seemingly seven out of 10 will tell you he stinks. Our own Mike Koehler proudly counts himself among the majority and has chided me more than once for backing such a stiff.
I don’t know why Acosta did not make the team out of Spring Training. Perhaps he made a pass at Terry Collins’ wife. Perhaps he made a pass at Terry Collins. Those make more sense than the obvious (insane) reason of veteran baseball men looking at the sum total of Boyer or Byrdak’s careers and coming up with the conclusion that they were better options to help a winning ball club than Acosta.
Byrdak was kept because he throws with his left arm and is middle of the pack among LOOGYs in retiring lefty batters. But he’s terrible against RHB. He has a lifetime .882 OPS allowed versus righties and we know that roughly half of the batters he will face this year will bat from the right side of the plate.
Meanwhile, Acosta had a .473 OPS against opposite-side hitters for the Mets in 2010, in this case LHB as he’s a righty. This year in Buffalo, he limited lefties to a .120 AVG, although that’s where his trouble with walks came in April.
Boyer was kept, uh, I don’t know why he was kept. Yes, he had a strong Spring Training, but the rest of his MLB career suggested a guy who was no good. You know, like the guy we saw in April before Alderson correctly cut ties with him.
But Acosta is here now and it’s Collins’ job to use him in a manner that he can turn to him in the eighth inning of a close game if the situation calls for it. Obviously not all relievers are created equally and some are simply better than others.
However, you just can’t keep trotting Isringhausen out nearly 80 percent of the time. This harkens back to Manuel and his usage of Pedro Feliciano and Fernando Nieve last year. Now Feliciano is on the DL and his new general manager says the Mets overused him and Nieve is struggling to revive his career with the Astros and currently has a 7.63 ERA at Triple-A.
So, hopefully Acosta does well the first few times that Collins calls his number. And if he does, hopefully Collins will pitch him in meaningful innings and not let him grow cobwebs. Because if the manager has no faith to use you except in the Pat Misch, lowest of low leverage situations, the Mets would be better off with another hitter on the bench.
C’mon Manny – make me proud!