Has Taylor Buchholz been a good reliever?

Monday I made a big deal about Tim Byrdak and the difference in his effectiveness versus RHB and LHB. But the truth is that Byrdak does not have the biggest L/R platoon split among the team’s relievers. That distinction belongs to Taylor Buchholz, who has been murder against RHB and nearly as bad against LHB as Byrdak is versus RHB.

It’s hard to determine at this point if Buchholz has been a good reliever for the Mets. On the surface that seems ridiculous, as he sports a 1.66 ERA and a career-high 9.97 K/9. Additionally, Buchholz has tamed the walks that plagued him upon his return to the majors last year. After posting a 4.50 BB/9 in 2010, that number is down to 2.91 so far this year.

But the flip side of that is that Buchholz has allowed six of his 11 inherited runners to score. Heading into Tuesday’s games, 105 relievers had inherited at least seven runners this season and Buchholz had the 15th-highest percentage of his inherited runners score.

And while Buchholz has a shiny ERA, he’s been quite fortunate in that regard. He has an unsustainable .216 BABIP and he has stranded every single runner that he has put on base. His xFIP checks in at 3.08. Combine that with his IR scored numbers and it paints a picture of a much more ordinary reliever.

As implied earlier, each of the four runs allowed by Buchholz has come via a HR, three of those to LHB. Lefties have a .988 OPS against him. But he has faced more RHB (47) than LHB (39) and he has been 1968-vintage Bob Gibson when a righty steps up to the plate. RHB have just a .357 OPS against Buchholz and have just 1 BB compared to 17 Ks.

The big difference is his curve ball, which has been nearly unhittable for righties this year. According to Joe Lefkowitz’ Pitch F/X tool, Buchholz throws his curve 50.3 percent of the time to RHB, who swing and miss 25.6 percent of the time versus his hook. And when they do connect against his curve, righties hit fly balls 70 percent of the time. Since fly balls are the batted ball least likely to produce a hit, the result has been a lot of outs with his deuce.

However, the curve is less effective versus lefties. Buchholz still uses the pitch extensively, as he throws it 28.6 percent of the time to LHB. But lefties do not pop the pitch up. Instead they have an 83.3 ground ball rate against his curve.

The pitch that Buchholz throws the most to lefties is his two-seam fastball, which he throws 35 percent of the time. He features a four-seamer 21.4 percent and a change-up, typically the pitch that righties try to neutralize lefties with, 15 percent of the time.

The two-seamer is the one he has allowed the three HR with and it also carries a 22.2 LD%. Overall, Buchholz has had good luck with his change-up, but he has only thrown it 8.8 percent of the time, usually when he is behind in the count.

In his career, Buchholz does not have an extreme L/R split. RHB have a .688 OPS against him lifetime, while LHB check in with a .735 mark.

While the evidence against Byrdak is compelling that he should not face a RHB, the case for management to avoid sending Buchholz versus LHB is simply not there. While it would be nice if he threw fewer two-seamers and more off-speed pitches, it also seems likely that he will have better success against lefties in the months ahead simply by regression, even if he keeps his current pitch breakdown.

While he has not pitched as well as his ERA indicates, Buchholz is still an important part of the team’s bullpen. When Pedro Beato returns from the disabled list, perhaps Terry Collins can use the Rule 5 pick in situations with runners on base and utilize Buchholz in more situations where he starts an inning fresh.

Revamped Mets pen leads to 5-game win streak

One of the keys to Tuesday’s victory over the Nationals was the work of the bullpen. Mets relievers went 4.1 IP and allowed 1 ER and picked up both the win (Ryota Igarashi) and the save (Francisco Rodriguez). Considered by some to be the weak point of the team, the bullpen has been an asset since Sandy Alderson made a couple of early tweaks and SP started going a bit deeper into games, last night aside.

In 2010, National League relievers posted a 3.97 ERA. The Mets’ bullpen finished fifth in the league with a 3.59 mark. But the team had to rework its bullpen in the offseason. This year’s Opening Day roster did not feature six of the top eight relievers from a year ago, as measured by appearances. Only Rodriguez and Bobby Parnell were back from the strong group the Mets assembled in 2010.

Impressive Spring Training performances led to the inclusion of setup man Blaine Boyer and Tim Byrdak on the Opening Day roster. After camp opened, Alderson said that the bullpen decisions were going to be made on a combination of Spring results and previous history. Unfortunately, the previous history of both Boyer and Byrdak left a lot to be desired.

The first 10 games of the season, Boyer and Byrdak combined to allow 12 ER in 10.1 IP. After a particularly bad performance by Boyer, in which he allowed four runs in extra innings to pick up the loss, Alderson moved swiftly to correct a mistake and removed the guy with a 10.80 ERA. Byrdak had a 9.82 ERA at the time but managed to hold onto his spot.

Alderson later made other moves, as he placed Parnell on the disabled list and sent D.J. Carrasco to the minors. The latter move was particularly interesting, as Alderson gave Carrasco a two-year contract in the offseason. But after he allowed 6 ER in his previous 5.2 IP, it was hard to argue with the decision to send him to Buffalo. Interestingly, Carrasco will work as a starter in Triple-A. Carrasco has indicated a desire to start, but it is unclear if the move is to honor that request or to simply get him more innings to work out his early troubles.

Regardless of the reasons behind the early transactions, the end result has been a good one for the Mets. In the last 10 games, Mets relievers have posted 28 IP and allowed just 8 ER for a 2.57 ERA. The team has also played its best ball of the year in this stretch, as they are 6-4 and are currently riding a 5-game winning streak. In the winning streak, the relievers have gone 13.1 IP and allowed just 2 ER (1.35 ERA).

A new pecking order has been established in the pen. Rodriguez is still the closer, but Jason Isringhausen has ascended into the eighth-inning role, taking over for the injured and ineffective Parnell. Taylor Buchholz (1.38 ERA in 13 IP) and Pedro Beato (0.00 ERA in 11 IP) are the main bridges to the veterans at the back of the bullpen.

Dillon Gee is now a reliever on the club and Terry Collins plans to use him as a short guy, rather than using him as a mop-up man. It remains to be seen how Gee will react in this role. But he has pitched well as a starter for the Mets, giving hope that he can be an option in the seventh inning of close games and give rest to Beato and Buchholz.

Strong results over the past 10 days have lowered the bullpen’s ERA to 3.84 for the season. While there are health concerns surrounding Isringhausen and Buchholz, who combined for just 20 IP the past two seasons due to injuries, right now the bullpen has defined roles and pitchers performing at high levels. If the Mets have a lead after six innings, they have a good shot to nail down the win.

Very few fans are satisfied either with their middle relievers or how their manager uses his bullpen. Mets fans have to look no further back than to this time last year, when we were complaining bitterly about Jerry Manuel’s daily usage of Pedro Feliciano and Fernando Nieve, along with the inclusion of top prospect Jenrry Mejia in the pen.

Now, thanks to the decisive moves of Alderson, Mets fans find themselves in unaccustomed territory. As long as our relievers stay healthy (and don’t’ have to pitch 4.1 IP on a regular basis), our bullpen is well-suited to protect leads at the end of the game.

But we still don’t want to see Byrdak versus a RHB in a close game.

Top 10 Spring Training stories for Mets

After four months without MLB, Spring Training is always a welcome sight. Even though the teams never have full lineups, the pitchers rarely throw at peak form and managers make moves they never would during the season – we can’t help but to look at the stats and look at things that jump out. There are always going to be people struggling and people exceeding expectations. But sometimes the surprising thing is who is doing what – and to what extent.

With that in mind, here are my Top 10 surprises in Spring Training for the Mets.

10. Tim Byrdak with 2 Saves
In 343 games in the majors, Byrdak has 3 Saves and a 4.35 ERA. While it’s surprising that he has yet to give up an earned run this Spring, it’s only 6.1 IP. Last year with the Astros he had an 11.1 scoreless innings streak and a 14.0 streak. But if you had given us five guesses before Spring Training started about who would lead the club in Saves in late March few, if any, would have said Byrdak.

9. Fernando Martinez and his .364/.481/.591 line
When the Mets signed Martinez as a 16-year old, he was a five-tool talent and everybody’s expectations were through the roof. Now after an injury-marred minor league career, most people have written him off as a starter, much less an impact major league player. So, while it was only 22 ABs, it was still very nice to see Martinez put up sparkling slash numbers.

8. Kirk Nieuwenhuis gets 32 ABs despite .094 AVG
One of the most useful things to see in Spring Training is who gets a lot of ABs. Those are the guys that the club wants to see play, usually because they are competing for a roster/starting spot. But when a minor leaguer gets that much time, it’s a clear example that the club thinks highly of him. Nieuwenhuis benefits from being a CF but that doesn’t explain this much playing time with so little production. I had him rated fifth in my top prospects ranking and it’s clear the Mets are high on him, too.

7. Taylor Buchholz approaches 2009-10 innings total
Elbow surgery, along with a back injury that landed him on the DL last year, limited Buchholz to just 12 IP the past two seasons. This Spring, Buchholz has logged 11 IP, the top total of any reliever on the staff. And to make things even better, he has yet to allow a run. Buchholz has been fortunate, as he has allowed 15 baserunners in those 11 innings, but his health and performance have been good to see.

6. Daniel Murphy not locking up 2B job despite .811 OPS
Murphy has picked up right where he left off offensively despite missing most of the 2010 season. With only Jonathon Niese being likely to deliver big ground ball numbers to the right side of the infield, it should be an easy decision to install Murphy as the regular at second base and look to replace him defensively in the late innings with a slim lead. After all, an .811 OPS would tie for the sixth-best mark among second basemen in the majors last year. After scoring just 656 runs last year, which ranked 13th in the 16-team NL, the Mets should look for offense wherever they can get it.

5. Reserve outfield production
Not many people were enthusiastic when the Mets signed Jerry Hairston and Willie Harris for backup outfield spots. Hairston had a .652 OPS in 2010 while Harris was nearly as bad with a .653 mark. But in 78 Spring ABs, the duo has combined for 28 H, 9 2B, 1 3B and 4 HR. They also have 14 R and 11 RBIs.

4. Rule 5 picks struggling
Most people expected that Brad Emaus and Pedro Beato had good shots to make the roster. But Emaus got off to a terrible start before finally getting some hits the past few days. Beato has gone the opposite route, starting off strong but really sputtering later in the Spring. Emaus still has a chance to make the team because of support for his game in the front office. But Beato seems like a long shot. And cynics will point out that the owners will recoup $50,000 if they return both players.

3. Luis Hernandez named front runner by NY Post
Although the line is blurring, mainstream outlets (yes, even the Post) still have stronger editorial standards than independent blogs. So it was a huge deal when Mike Puma’s story broke that Terry Collins wanted Hernandez to be the starter at 2B. While the Mets have termed the story premature, there seems no doubt that Collins was impressed by what he saw from Hernandez last season. It will likely come down to Emaus or Hernandez at second base and it will be interesting to see if the manager wins out over the front office. I’m rooting for the front office.

2. The return of Jason Isringhausen
Another thing no one saw coming was the signing of Isringhausen, who inked a minor league deal on February 15th. After back-to-back years with elbow surgeries, it seemed like his career was over. But Isringhausen is seemingly back at full strength and has survived pitching on back-to-back days. He’s now the leading contender to be the team’s primary setup man and is hands down the feel-good story of the Spring.

1. The domination by Chris Young
I was not in favor of the Young signing. He had pitched just 96 innings the past two years due to shoulder surgery. Even when he was healthy, Young never topped 179.1 IP in a major league season. His last good year came in 2007 and there were serious questions about his velocity. Yet somehow this Spring, Young leads the team’s starters with a 1.33 ERA in a team-high 20.1 IP. He’s been touched by the gopher ball and still has a sub-par strikeout rate (3.98 K/9) but it’s hard to argue with the results, including six shutout innings this weekend.

Mets bullpen: Analyzing NL LOOGY performance

Following up on yesterday’s piece asking if the Mets need a LOOGY, I decided that we needed to see what these lefty relievers contributed, both overall and then broken down versus LHB and RHB, to determine what others have gotten from these guys.

The first thing I did was do a Play Index search at Baseball-Reference, where I selected all lefties in the National League last year who made 80% of their appearances as relievers and who pitched in 40 games, sorted by ascending order of innings pitched.

1 Randy Flores 27.1 10 9 13 18 2.96 4 115 98 7 0 1 0 .224 .321 .418 .740
2 Dan Runzler 32.2 12 11 20 37 3.03 1 144 119 5 1 1 0 .244 .357 .328 .685
3 Zach Braddock 33.2 11 11 19 41 2.94 1 151 127 9 0 2 2 .228 .333 .323 .656
4 Joe Thatcher 35.0 5 5 7 45 1.29 1 137 124 3 0 1 2 .185 .231 .234 .465
5 Trever Miller 36.0 17 16 16 22 4.00 2 151 129 3 1 2 2 .233 .322 .318 .640
6 George Sherrill 36.1 28 27 24 25 6.69 4 180 148 12 2 1 2 .311 .406 .500 .906
7 J.C. Romero 36.2 17 15 29 28 3.68 3 171 135 3 0 5 0 .222 .379 .311 .690
8 Dennys Reyes 38.0 15 15 21 25 3.55 2 163 137 6 0 2 1 .248 .354 .336 .690
9 Gustavo Chacin 38.1 22 20 20 31 4.70 3 186 162 9 0 0 1 .315 .388 .426 .814
10 Tim Byrdak 38.2 15 15 20 29 3.49 4 170 147 9 2 0 3 .272 .353 .442 .795
11 Doug Slaten 40.2 18 14 19 36 3.10 2 174 151 5 0 4 0 .225 .328 .298 .626
12 Eric O’Flaherty 44.0 14 12 18 36 2.45 2 181 161 9 1 1 0 .230 .311 .335 .647
13 Joe Beimel 45.0 18 17 15 21 3.40 5 188 171 9 1 0 1 .269 .326 .421 .747
14 James Russell 49.0 37 27 11 42 4.96 11 219 197 8 1 4 4 .279 .324 .497 .822
15 Jeremy Affeldt 50.0 25 23 24 44 4.14 4 228 193 11 1 3 1 .290 .376 .420 .795
16 Arthur Rhodes 55.0 14 14 18 50 2.29 4 217 194 10 0 1 2 .196 .265 .309 .574
17 Javier Lopez 57.2 17 15 20 38 2.34 2 235 210 11 1 2 2 .238 .308 .329 .636
18 Hong-Chih Kuo 60.0 8 8 18 73 1.20 1 229 208 6 1 1 1 .139 .211 .192 .403
19 Pedro Feliciano 62.2 24 23 30 56 3.30 1 280 242 12 0 6 0 .273 .367 .335 .702
20 Sean Burnett 63.0 17 15 20 62 2.14 3 261 236 9 0 1 0 .220 .284 .297 .581
21 Billy Wagner 69.1 14 11 22 104 1.43 5 268 239 6 1 3 1 .159 .238 .255 .493
22 Sean Marshall 74.2 25 22 25 90 2.65 3 307 276 11 1 2 2 .210 .279 .290 .569
23 Jonny Venters 83.0 30 18 39 93 1.95 1 350 299 8 0 8 1 .204 .311 .241 .552
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/20/2011.

Clearly, not all of these guys are LOOGYs but where do you draw the line? Wagner certainly isn’t one but after that it gets tricky. Kuo and Venters probably aren’t specialists, either. Ultimately, I decided to just leave everyone in and include the data, so if you really object to Wagner and others being included, you can do the calculations without them to check the numbers that you get.

With everyone included, I came up with a .235/.317/.334 average pitching line overall for our lefties. Since this was inspired by Byrdak, we should point out that he had a .272/.353/.442 line last year. While the average lefty had a .651 OPS, Byrdak had a .795 OPS.

Now let’s see how they did versus LHB and RHB. Unfortunately, the Play Index does not let you sort this way. So, I went through each of our 23 pitchers and copied down their splits by hand, resulting in the following numbers:

BA v L OBP v L SLG v L BA v R OBP v R SLG v R
Flores .295 .380 .508 .246 .328 .474
Runzler .260 .339 .360 .232 .369 .304
Braddock .151 .270 .170 .284 .379 .432
Thatcher .197 .239 .288 .172 .222 .172
Miller .203 .294 .257 .273 .359 .400
Sherrill .192 .286 .288 .427 .516 .707
Romero .217 .323 .277 .231 .452 .365
Reyes .307 .409 .453 .177 .288 .194
Chacin .323 .403 .387 .310 .384 .450
Byrdak .213 .271 .373 .333 .435 .514
Slaten .151 .235 .151 .295 .409 .436
O’Flaherty .231 .277 .321 .229 .340 .349
Beimel .221 .275 .379 .329 .388 .474
Russell .238 .276 .450 .308 .357 .530
Affeldt .290 .395 .420 .290 .364 .419
Rhodes .214 .230 .393 .182 .289 .245
Lopez .162 .250 .242 .306 .361 .405
Kuo .095 .159 .111 .159 .233 .228
Feliciano .211 .297 .276 .336 .436 .395
Burnett .273 .327 .384 .182 .253 .234
Wagner .071 .175 .071 .186 .257 .311
Marshall .196 .255 .284 .218 .292 .293
Venters .198 .310 .260 .207 .312 .232

This was a lot of work by itself, so I did not expand to include the numbers necessary to figure out averages of the sample for our slash line numbers. Instead, let’s use the median, which is the middle number for each category in our sample. Since we have 23 players, whichever one is 12th in our sorted list would be the median, meaning 11 pitchers finished with a number better and 11 pitchers finished with a worse number.

The median slash line for our lefties works out to:

vs. LHB — .213/.277/.288
vs. RHB — .246/.359/.395

Byrdak was almost perfectly in the middle of our sample versus lefties in AVG (.213) and OBP (.271). But he was significantly worse in SLG (.373). Versus righties he was significantly worse across the board (.333/.435/.514).

There’s a reason he was available on a minor league deal prior to this season.

Now, let’s see how some Mets relievers fared last year in the same left/right splits that we used for our lefty relievers:

BA v L OBP v L SLG v L BA v R OBP v R SLG v R
Manny Acosta .163 .217 .256 .245 .345 .362
Taylor Buchholz .250 .250 .500 .227 .393 .455
D.J. Carrasco .260 .333 .375 .227 .324 .337
Bobby Parnell .327 .364 .442 .276 .315 .299

We know that Byrdak faced just as many RHB as LHB last year. Given that the differences in batters faced by left/right split for most LOOGYs is a similar rate, how many of the above pitchers would you prefer to see over Byrdak? I would suggest all of them, especially when you consider how high Parnell’s BABIP (.374) was last year.

Managers today do everything to minimize criticism. That means setting up roles for everyone and then no one can blame the manager when something goes awry. So, if a LHB, let’s call him Chase Utley, has no discernible split between LHP and RHP, you still bring in your LOOGY and if Utley gets a hit, it’s certainly not the manager’s fault.

Having a LOOGY on the staff is convention, it makes certain decisions automatic and it shields managers from criticism. No wonder every team has one. And it’s one thing if your LOOGY is really good. But when you have Byrdak, who by his slash lines was below-average for LOOGYs versus lefties and horrible versus righties last year and is now age 37, does it make sense to carry him over a better righty?

There was much made over the new Mets front office and how they were going to do things in a smart way. If Byrdak is kept over one of the four relievers listed above, I think it is right to question the decision and all people who had a hand in it.

Do the Mets need a long reliever?

When trying to figure out the makeup of the relievers on the staff, does it make sense for the Mets to have someone who can regularly pitch multiple innings in case a starter gets knocked out early? If the answer to that question is yes, that helps Dillon Gee and Pat Misch in their quests to make the Opening Day roster.

Last year, a Mets reliever pitched more than two innings in an appearance 22 times. However, most of the guys who did that are no longer on the club. Raul Valdes led the way with nine such appearances, while Hisanori Takahashi had five. Fernando Nieve (3), Elmer Dessens (1) and Tobi Stoner (1) are the other pitchers no longer around who had extended outings out of the pen.

Only Francisco Rodriguez, Manny Acosta and Oliver Perez, with one extended outing each, have a chance to return to the Mets bullpen in 2011.

The expectation is that with neither John Maine nor Perez in the starting rotation, the Mets will have fewer bullpen-killing outings from their starters this year. The flip side of that is with Chris Capuano and Chris Young coming back from major injuries, there is still a chance for a starter to go down on a regular basis and having someone who won’t blink if asked to pitch multiple innings is still a worthwhile thing for the Mets.

It’s likely that Rodriguez, Bobby Parnell and D.J. Carrasco have bullpen slots locked up. And it is almost unthinkable for a bullpen not to have a LOOGY in 2011. That leaves three slots remaining and multiple relievers vying for those positions, including Acosta, Pedro Beato, Taylor Buchholz, Gee and Misch.

Most assume that Buchholz has a slot. If Beato is impressive during Spring Training, he really forces the issue, as he is a Rule 5 pick who has to be offered back to Baltimore if he does not make the roster. In that case, Acosta, Gee and Misch are fighting for the final spot. Acosta went three innings in one appearance last year and could technically fill the long reliever role.

But what if Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins decide a long man is a necessity, a position to be filled first rather than last? Then they choose between Gee and Misch, with Acosta, Buchholz and Beato fighting with the long-man loser (and perhaps other LOOGY candidates) for the final two positions in the pen.

One other factor to consider is that Carrasco is also capable of going extended innings, having done so five times last year. Even Buchholz went 2.2 IP in one of his nine outings last season. Could the combination of Acosta, Buchholz and Carrasco be enough to forego a long man?

My guess is that the Mets will be flexible with having a long man in the bullpen. If Beato shows enough to merit a roster spot, they will do without a traditional long man. But if the Rule 5 pick is not worth keeping, they will opt for Misch instead. The veteran lefty being out of options has two advantages over the righty Gee, who can be sent down to Triple-A to continue working as a starter.

Only one thing is certain: Those that start the season in the minors are likely to make it to Citi at some point during the season. Last year the Mets used 20 pitchers and only four of those pitched exclusively as a starter. In 2010, the Mets bullpen had 182.1 IP thrown by relievers who were not on the Opening Day roster.

What to expect from Mets’ newest pitching additions

The unanimous feeling amongst Mets fans this offseason was that the franchise needed to acquire more arms to compete, especially with the loss of ace Johan Santana, who will most likely be out for half the year with a shoulder injury. Many Mets fans were upset that the team stood idle while divisional-rival Philadelphia snatched the biggest prize on the market in Cliff Lee.

However, new General Manager Sandy Alderson has preached financial responsibility and has mostly scoured the scrap heap to find hidden gems. So, will the addition of Chris Young, Chris Capuano, Taylor Buchholz, D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Tankersley, Pedro Beato, Mike O’Connor and Tim Byrdak turn into the Mets’ treasure, or rightfully some other team’s trash?

The Mets, while working with a tight budget, bypassed on some of the bigger free-agent arms (notably Lee) and avoided making any trades (Matt Garza, etc.) while trying to keep payroll flexible for 2012, when they can be actively aggressive. So, this ragtag collection will have to do for now.

Let’s breakdown what each can bring to the table:

Chris Young: If there is a jewel in the group it would be Young. Young has battled many injuries in his past, most recently a shoulder injury, and the former all-star will look for a new beginning in Queens. While he is losing speed off his fastball, Young is crafty and his flyball-pitching ways can lead to success at Citi Field, much like it did at Petco Park. At this point, it’s fair to expect an injury. Hopefully he can give the Mets more than 100+ innings.

Chris Capuano: Capuano is another ex-All-Star who is trying to recapture past glory. Tommy John surgery had him miss all of the 2008 and 2009 seasons. However, in 2010, while pitching in 24 games (nine starts), Capuano had an effective run down the stretch finishing with a respectable 3.95 ERA and 1.30 WHIP to go along with 54 strikeouts in 62 innings. The cavernous gaps of Citi Field can only help him as well, as he looks like a decent replacement to fill Hisanori Takahashi’s old role.

D.J. Carrasco: The well-traveled set up man comes to the Mets after a successful season with both the Pirates and the Diamondbacks last season. Carrasco has shown the ability to pitch well against both lefties and righties, and he eats up a lot of innings too. Carrasco will compete with Bobby Parnell to be the team’s primary set-up man.

Taylor Buchholz: Buchholz is another decent low-risk/high-reward type pitcher to gamble on. Buchholz is another Tommy John survivor who could bounce back. He is not overpowering, but he once was the prominent set-up man in Colorado back in 2008. He is no lock to make the roster, but odds are he finds a spot.

Taylor Tankersley: Tankersley is a lefty-specialist who missed all of 2009 with a stress fracture in his elbow. The 2004 first round draft pick has not made good on his talent, and will have to prove something in spring training. Tankersley was only signed to a minor league deal, so the chances of him making the opening day roster looks slim at this point.

Pedro Beato: Beato, a Rule 5 Draft selection, has to make the roster or else be sent back to the Orioles. Beato is a hard throwing righty with a lot of upside. Like most of the other additions, a lot depends on how Beato does in spring training. If not for anything else, Beato is a local product out of Brooklyn.

Mike O’Connor: O’Connor is a lefty specialist without much of a ceiling. O’Connor will have to battle the likes of Tankersley and Byrdak for the role as the team’s LOOGY. O’Connor has posted mediocre numbers while pitching in the majors with Washington (5.47 ERA, 1.42 WHIP). Consider O’Connor an extreme long-shot to make the roster.

Tim Byrdak: Byrdak is the most recent signee. Byrdak is in the driver’s seat to be this year’s LOOGY. Left-handed batters hit .210 against him last year. While with the Astros last year, Byrdak had a 2-2 record with a 3.49 ERA. Byrdak has enough veteran moxie to replace Pedro Feliciano.

As it stands right now, Young and Capuano are likely to start off in the rotation, while the rest (sans Carrasco-who is a lock) will fight it out to make the bullpen. Read here to see Brian Joura’s take on how the bullpen might shake out.

While these new additions will not produce a buzz in Queens-and subsequently put butts in seats- they are projects that could turn into fools’ gold. All Alderson wanted was flexibility for next year’s payroll and he got in this group.

Manny Acosta and the bullpen competition

After a flurry of moves in the past 10 days, the Mets seem set with the people they will bring to Spring Training to compete for jobs. There should be plenty of competition for a slot in the bullpen, as there should be no fewer than nine relievers vying for the final four spots. Earlier in the offseason, I thought Manny Acosta was likely to wind up with a place on the Opening Day roster. Let’s see if that’s still the case.

First, we know that three spots in the bullpen are set with Francisco Rodriguez, Bobby Parnell and D.J. Carrasco. All three of those are righties, so it is a reasonable guess to assume that the Mets would prefer one of the final four spots to be filled by a lefty. Here are the nine main contenders for the bullpen jobs, along with some stats from 2010. I used major league data whenever possible.


Name L/R Avg FB SwStr% K/9 K/BB
Manny Acosta Right 94.1 9.6 9.53 2.33
Pedro Beato Right low 90s Unknown 7.54 2.63
Taylor Buchholz Right 89.0 10.2 6.75 1.50
Tim Byrdak Left 88.9 9.8 6.75 1.45
Dillon Gee Right 89.1 7.9 4.64 1.13
Pat Misch Left 85.7 7.7 5.5 5.75
Mike O’Connor Left 85.0 7.0 8.92 4.12
Oliver Perez Left 88.0 7.1 7.19 0.88
Taylor Tankersley Left 87.4 8.2 5.25 1.0

Acosta’s advantages are that he throws the hardest of our remaining candidates. He has the top fastball velocity and the most strikeouts. Acosta also is among the leaders in Swinging Strike percentage and K/BB. And while he is a righty, Acosta limited lefties to a .473 OPS last year.

Beato’s numbers are from Double-A, with an approximation on his fastball velocity. When he was in junior college, Beato regularly threw in the 90s and could dial it up to 96. His velocity had dropped his first few years in the minors, but reports had him throwing harder last year, his first in the bullpen. A Rule 5 selection, Beato has to make the Opening Day roster or be offered back to the Orioles.

Buchholz is not overpowering but he gets a lot of swings out of the strike zone, plus swings and misses, thanks to his curve ball and changeup. The Mets gave Buchholz a major league deal, one that includes a $400,000 bonus if he makes the Opening Day roster and is not on the DL.

Byrdak has not officially signed but I included his numbers here, anyway. If the Mets agree to terms with the 37-year old, he is more of a traditional LOOGY, a guy to bring on to face a tough lefty and get him out of the game if a righty steps into the box. In his nine-year career in the majors, Byrdak has limited lefties to a .677 OPS but righties smack him around to an .886 tune.

Gee is still in the mix for a starting job, but with the signing of Young, his best bet to make the team is probably as a reliever. Without having to pace himself, he probably could throw a little bit harder than the numbers above show, which are limited to his time in the majors last year.

Misch is in the same boat as Gee, perhaps slightly better situated because he throws lefty and is out of options. While he is a southpaw, Misch enjoys no platoon advantage, as lefties in the majors have an .804 OPS against him, compared to a .768 mark for righties.

O’Connor pitched very well at Buffalo last year. The K/9 and K/BB numbers above were taken from his time in Triple-A in 2010. The other numbers were from his major league trial with the Nationals in 2008 and probably are not a good reflection of his current talent level. O’Connor is now a long shot to make the Opening Day roster, but is a good bet to make it to the majors during the 2011 season.

Perez comes to camp with a chance to win a spot in the bullpen but virtually no one expects him to be with the club when it begins the regular season.

Tankersley is signed to a minor league deal but the lefty has a good shot to make the team. Tankersley is recovering from elbow surgery which kept him out of baseball during the 2009 season. Last year in Triple-A, he limited lefties to a .118 AVG and when he was promoted to the Marlins, LHB had a .200/.286/.433 line in 35 PA.

We know that Spring Training stats are meaningless but the Mets will probably make some bullpen decisions this year based on what the above pitchers do in Florida. Acosta and Misch are out of options, Beato is a Rule 5 guy and Buchholz gets extra money if he makes the team. I still like Acosta to make the team, but a strong Spring showing would certainly help his cause.