Mets’ Bullpen Growing In Stature

“If you ain’t got a bullpen, you ain’t got nothin’” – Yogi Berra, 1973

In 2011, the Mets didn’t have nothin’.

Unless you’re a dominant team (like ’86) or a hapless collection (like…oh, never mind), the difference between being over .500 and under is a matter of a couple of wins. Last year, the Mets won 77 games and finished 4 games under the breakeven mark. That four-game swing can easily be hung on the pitching in general and the bullpen squad in particular. The cast – or castoffs, if you prefer – included Pedro Beato, D.J. Carrasco, Jason Isringhausen, Manny Acosta, Ryota Igarashi, Tim Byrdak and Bobby Parnell. Among them, they accounted for 19 blown saves and 10 additional losses which did not come in save situations. Of those blown saves, six of them came in games the Mets eventually won. So let’s say the blown-saves-and- losses combination could have been cut in half with better arms out there. That means a quality bullpen could have been the difference between a 77-win year and an 89-win, contending-for-the-wildcard year.

Entering spring 2012, Byrdak, Acosta, Carrasco, Beato and Parnell remain and only the first two are guaranteed spots on the roster. Beato – a Rule 5 signee last year, and thus obligated to be kept on the MLB roster all year – and Parnell both have options, so they could be taking their act to Buffalo by April 1. Carrasco could be jettisoned depending on his spring. No wonder Sandy Alderson spent most of the measly cash available to him on bullpen help. The new names are Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez and Jon Rauch.

Now, I know bullpens are a crapshoot, year-to-year. There’s no guarantee that yesterday’s ace fireman won’t turn into this year’s arsonist. But Alderson did all he could to improve the club with the team’s meager resources – the positions were basically set before they got home from the Winter Meetings, and while starting pitching remains shaky at best, anything of quality available on the free-agent market was well out of his price range. The ‘pen was the only place to turn. Ramirez came on board as part of the Andres Torres trade, and Francisco was picked up relatively cheaply. The head-scratcher is the Rauch one-year, $3.5 million contract. Rauch wasn’t particularly effective last year, pitching to a 1.35 WHIP over 53 innings. Perhaps Sandy was paying for Rauch’s 6’10”, 290-lb.frame and creative body-art.

If nothing else, the bullpen has certainly had its ceiling raised.

5 comments for “Mets’ Bullpen Growing In Stature

  1. Steve S.
    February 21, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I still think that the Mets should win less than 80 games, due to the weak starting rotation, which will inevitably burn out the bullpen eventually.

  2. February 21, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Having a stronger bullpen for this year’s team also means that when contending teams are looking for relievers in July–as they always are–the Mets have something to offer and may reap some benefit if one of these guys has a good year.

  3. John Malay
    February 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Rauch is a fly ball pitcher. The vast reaches of Citi Field may help him unless the Mets bring the fences in too far (which they are dumb enough to do – fans like homers). Also, he is stingy with walks. In a pitcher-friendly park, giving up walks is an even greater sin than usual.

    I agree with my fellow commenter. If the park makes him look better than he did in 2011, someone will offer money or prospects for him.

  4. Metsense
    February 21, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    The Mets had better options than signing Rauch for 3.5M this past winter. Their need was a set up reliever with some closer experience, healthy for a 1 year contract and cheap.
    Rauch had a 4.58 ERA, 6.2 K/9, 2.57 BB/9, 1.9 HR/9
    -Kerry Wood posted a 3.35 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 0.88 HR/9, and 35.8% groundball rate in 51 innings for the Cubs last year. 3M
    -Octavio Dotel, posted a 3.50 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.00 HR/9, 3.5M
    -Latroy Hawkins, 2.42 ERA, 5.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.2 HR/9 3M
    -Mike MacDougal 2.05 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 4.5 BB/9 and a 60.9% ground ball rate in 57 innings. He ranked tenth among MLB pitchers in ground ball rate last year (minimum 50 innings). The 11-year veteran has a career ERA of 3.94 with 7.4 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9. 1M
    -George Sherrill held left-handed batters to a .256/.275/.333 batting line with 32 strikeouts and just one walk in 81 plate appearances in 2011. 3.00 ERA, 9.5 K/, 3.17 BB/9 ,0.8 HR/9 1.1M
    -Guillermo Mota pitched 80 1/3 innings for the Giants in 2011, posting a 3.81 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 40.8% ground ball rate. In 13 big league seasons, he has a 3.91 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. 1M
    I was surprised to hear Alderson hint the other day that Parnell may be heading to AAA. If that was going to be the case, why didn’t he trade him as I understand Colorado was interested in him and Turner for Seth Smith.

  5. John Malay
    February 22, 2012 at 7:58 am

    All of the above had better stats than Rauch in what was an awful year for him. Alderson seems to be betting it was a fluke and that he’ll do better at Citi, but at $3.5M it’s not a bet I would have made. I’m thinking Kerry Wood, maybe. He had OK numbers for a woeful team in the ultimate hitters park. Citi would be paradise for him.

    Of course, I’m old enough to still think that $3.5M is a lot of money.

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