Since Buck Showalter took over the helm for the New York Mets, there was very little question he was a players’ manager, and believed in the analytics, but also would periodically rely on his feel for the in-game moves needed. The Mets got off to a great start and have largely held serve, so there has been little reason to chirp too much about Showalter’s peccadillos. There was always one open question which might affect the Mets postseason successes more than normal, and that is pitching staff management.
Nearly every Mets fan has clasped their hands behind their head when Showalter brought in Joely Rodriguez in a situation with higher leverage than Rodriguez should be utilized in. At least that is what selective memory tells us. Rodriguez on average has been used in lower leverage situations, however, his season has been punctuated with letting the first batter faced reach at an alarming rate. Which is a problem if Showalter uses Rodriguez mid-inning. Don’t get me wrong – Rodriguez usually creates more leverage leading off an inning too.
All of that just highlights the greater issue with Showalter. He needs better bench support on how to manage the pitching staff. He needs to spot when Carlos Carrasco doesn’t have it sooner. He needs to not be so slow with the hook on Taijuan Walker, letting him get into the third time through the order in close games. He can listen to Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. Chris Bassitt has managed to perform as expected, and has gotten enough run support to make decisions less painful.
Most of these plays happen under the watchful eye of small sample sizes, so any individual move can work out or not work out, and it is important to assess the moves throught he lens of “Is this likely to work out?”.
Showalter was already known to make “gut moves”, and no one wants to think about Darin Ruf batting “because he is due”. Watching him make suboptimal critical pitching decisions in the face of known probabilities is certainly frustrating. Injuries to more reliable arms have made Showalter have fewer options than anyone would like but he has made the same type of substitutions even before the injuries.
Showalter has led the Mets to the postseason, so there is very little to gripe about. Nonetheless, winning the division would mean a big difference for the Mets, in addition to being National League East champs.
The Mets offense has been feast or famine which means Edwin Diaz has only made five appearances in the month of September, and there are just three games left this month. Two of the five stints were when the Mets trailed by three and four runs. Barring the emergence of Adam Ottavino or someone else as a 7-8 inning reliever, Showalter has to consider making Diaz a fireman, or use the last ten games to “stretch” Diaz out for 1.1 to 1.2 inning appearances.
All in all, Showalter has done a good job this season. There is considerable room for improvement in managing the bullpen, and perhaps the Mets wouldn’t be trying to hold off the Atlanta Braves in the last week.