Everyone believes the Mets need to trade for a reliever. While there’s never been a team out there that couldn’t use a dominant reliever added to the mix, it’s my belief that the Mets don’t need to pay the freight to get that guy. Now, if some team want to trade an impact reliever for a fringe guy and cash, that’s one thing. But if they expect a top 10 prospect, my preference would be to use the guys currently on hand in firm roles designed to maximize their results.

Barring a trade, my preference is to see Seth Lugo and Adam Ottavino share the eighth inning, with neither pitcher going in back-to-back days or coming on in the middle of an inning.

Buck Showalter has used both Lugo and Ottavino in a variety of ways and right now they sit with a 3.97 ERA for Lugo and a 2.67 mark for Ottavino. However, with a concerted effort to have them pitch in more strictly defined roles, it’s my opinion that both relievers could be more effective.

Let’s break down both relievers and how they’ve done when brought into a game in certain situations. We’ll start with Lugo and here’s how he’s done this year when pitching with at least one day of rest and starting off the inning as the first pitcher and limiting the outing to a maximum of one inning pitched:

Date IP ER
7-Apr 1 0
13-Apr 1 0
19-Apr 1 0
22-Apr 1 0
1-May 1 0
3-May 1 0
8-May 1 0
12-May 1 0
17-May 1 0
25-May 1 0
4-Jun 1 0
8-Jun 1 0
25-Jun 1 0
1-Jul 1 0
4-Jul 1 0
9-Jul 1 0
Total 16 0

While Lugo has a pedestrian 3.97 ERA overall this year, he’s yet to give up a run when he’s had at least one day of rest and starts the inning clean. Lugo’s appeared in 33 games this year and 16 have fit this description. Maybe he’s just been extremely fortunate in these circumstances. Or maybe this is putting him in the best position to succeed.

There are two other breakdowns to look at and we’ll combine them into one chart. The first are Lugo’s results when he pitches in back-to-back games. The second grouping is when he comes on after the inning has started.

Date IP ER   Date IP ER
8-Apr 1 0   11-Apr 0.1 2
18-May 1 2   16-Apr 1 2
28-May 1 0   24-Apr 1.1 0
5-Jun 1 2   29-Apr 0.2 0
5-Jul 0.1 1   14-May 0.2 2
Total 4.1 5   27-May 0.1 0
        19-Jun 0.2 2
        12-Jul 1.1 2
        Total 6.1 10

When Lugo pitches on back-to-back days, he has a 10.39 ERA. And when he comes on after the inning has started, he has a 14.21 ERA. There’s no overlap in these two categories – there will be for Ottavino – and they make up 13 games. In these unlucky 13 outings, Lugo has 10.2 IP and 15 ER for a 12.66 ERA.

So, with rest and a fresh inning, Lugo has a 0.00 ERA in 16 appearances. With no rest or coming on mid-inning, he has a 12.66 ERA in 13 appearances. If you had access to these numbers – wouldn’t you bend over backwards to give Lugo a clean inning whenever possible?

You might realize that the above numbers add up to 29 appearances, while Lugo has pitched in 33 games this year. Four times, he’s had at least a day off between appearances, came in at the very beginning of the frame and pitched more than one inning. Those four games totaled 7.1 IP and 0 ER. We could add those to the other 16 games where he did not pitch the day before and started the inning clean. That would make it 23.1 IP without allowing a run.

Now let’s look at Ottavino. Like with Lugo, the first chart is when he’s had rest and starts off the inning:

Date IP ER
7-Apr 1 0
13-Apr 1 0
16-Apr 1 0
19-Apr 1 0
26-Apr 1 0
30-Apr 0.2 3
2-May 1 0
8-May 1 0
13-May 1 0
28-May 1 0
1-Jun 1 0
4-Jun 1 0
8-Jun 1 0
15-Jun 1 0
26-Jun 0.2 1
1-Jul 1 0
3-Jul 1 0
6-Jul 1 0
11-Jul 1 0
  18.1 4

Two things are different here between Lugo and Ottavino. We see Ottavino had outings where he started the inning but did not finish, while Lugo had at least a full inning in the 20 games where he was rested and started the frame. And, of course, the other difference is that Ottavino gave up runs in this scenario while Lugo did not. Still, 4 ER in 18.1 IP is very good. That’s a 1.96 ERA.

Now, let’s show the results for Ottavino both when he pitches in back-to-back games and when he comes on after the inning has started. As mentioned earlier, there are cases that fit both of these categories and they are included in both groupings.

Date IP ER   Date IP ER
3-May 1 0   9-Apr 0.2 0
4-May 0 3   23-Apr 1.1 1
14-May 1 0   4-May 0 3
18-May 1.1 0   17-May 0.2 0
22-May 0.2 0   18-May 1.1 0
29-May 0.1 1   21-May 0.2 0
5-Jun 1 0   24-May 0.1 0
  5.1 4   29-May 0.1 1
        10-Jun 0.2 0
        17-Jun 1.1 0
        20-Jun 1.2 0
        24-Jun 1.1 0
        9-Jul 1.1 1
          11.2 6

In games where he pitches with no rest, Ottavino has allowed 4 ER in 5.1 IP for a 6.75 ERA. And in games where he has come on mid-inning, he has a 4.63 ERA. And in the three games where he did both, Ottavino has allowed 4 ER in 1.2 IP for a 21.61 ERA. If we eliminate the double counting, we have 17 games where Ottavino either pitched with no rest or came on mid-inning. And in those 17 games, he allowed 6 ER in 15.1 IP for a 3.52 ERA.

Ottavino is much better than Lugo in these last two categories. But he’s still significantly better in clean innings with at least a day of rest between appearances. If you add what Lugo and Ottavino have done in these clean innings with rest, you get 41.2 IP and 4 ER for a 0.86 ERA.

That’s even better than I imagined before doing the research.

And the duo, in appearances that they either did back-to-back or came on mid-inning, combined for 21 ER in 26 IP for a 7.27 ERA.

It’s not possible to have two relievers go an entire year without either pitching in back-to-back games or entering in the middle of an inning. Starters get hurt or are ineffective or you end up with a stretch of 15 games in 13 days. Man plans and God laughs.

But, if you start off with the mindset that you’re going to avoid those situations whenever possible – well, you won’t have them happen 13 times with Lugo and 17 times with Ottavino in the first 89 games of the season. Those numbers should be at least cut in half, probably more like cut by two-thirds.

No one blinks an eye when the closer is held for the ninth inning in games where the team is leading by three runs or fewer. Nobody thinks it’s too difficult to save your lefty reliever for an appearance with two outs and a lefty at bat or the start of an inning where two of the three hitters are LHB. And very few are surprised when the worst reliever is held out for innings when the score is not particularly close.

If we can accept highly specialized roles for those relievers – why would it be overly difficult to refrain from pitching guys on back-to-back days or bringing them in once the inning has already started?

And sure – Edwin Diaz pitches in the eighth inning when the manager thinks it’s a crucial situation or pitches in the ninth when it’s not a save situation when he needs the work. And Joely Rodriguez will sometimes be asked to pitch a full inning when there’s only one lefty due up. And Tommy Hunter will pitch the 10th inning of a tie game when there’s no one else left available. But these are the exceptions.

It’s past time for Showalter to make it a point of emphasis to pitch Lugo and Ottavino with rest and a clean inning. And that will do plenty to push the team forward. And it might make it unnecessary to give up a top prospect for a new reliever at the deadline.

9 comments on “A deep dive on Seth Lugo and Adam Ottavino

  • BoomBoom

    Bc youve written abt this in the past I knew when Logo came back out for the 7th in the middle game that he was going to give up runs. And he did. Hard to imagine the Mets analytics team doesnt have the same info you do. Maybe they are trying to push him through it in case he s needed like this down the stretch.

  • Metsense

    This is great research. The Mets should hire you for their Analytics Department because your out of the box Deep Dive thinking would make a difference.
    I still think that they need another dominant relief pitcher like Chafin or Moore and the freight shouldn’t be too bad . Rodriguez is expendable ( or Hunter).The Rays, Orioles, Guardians, Mariners, Brewers, Rangers and Twins would maybe trade for one of these two veteran inexpensive relievers for a young minor leaguer (A) that has some potential.

  • T.J.

    The numbers have spoken. I am in full agreement. I’m sure that will help you sleep better now.

    If May can come back and be the good May, that deployment could work.

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks TJ – you joke but it’s definitely validating for me to hear that.

      My goal is to have something in a piece that the reader didn’t know or hadn’t considered. I had been advocating for the Mets to have this kind of usage for the two relievers. But if you asked me, I would have said that they would have had ERAs around 2.50 when used that way. But 0.84?!? That floors me. And I really expected multiple people to be impressed by that type of production.

      Now, that certainly shouldn’t be the expectation going forward. But we can absolutely appreciate what’s happened so far.

  • Aging Bull

    This is tremendous research, Brian, that packs a wallop of insight. You’ve proven your hypothesis conclusively. Q.E.D.
    Beyond that, you’ve made a practical and actionable recommendation.
    How can you get this into the hands of someone in the Mets organization? If they’ve done this exact analysis, it boggles the mind that they continue to ignore the implications. It seems more likely that they haven’t.
    Do you have some other outlet beyond M360 to publish this? Are you a guest writer somewhere else? I am sure that your loyal M360ers would happily promote your work however we can.
    In my opinion, this is your most impactful work and with it’s timeliness, ultimately needs to get to Showalter, Somehow, some way.
    Amazing, Brian. Congratulations and thank you.

    • Metsense


      • Brian Joura

        Thanks to both you and Bull for the kind words!

        • JamesTOB

          Extraordinary research, Brian. Congratulations. You deserve the admiration and respect you’ve been getting here in the comments section.

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