We all hope that David Stearns will add another arm or two to the bullpen. But whether he does or not, one thing that we hope that Stearns and/or Carlos Mendoza will do is to utilize Brooks Raley as a true setup man, rather than the lefty specialist that it seemed Buck Showalter wanted Raley to be. He’s simply a better pitcher than Drew Smith, who some may want to see in that primary setup role, instead. Let’s take a look at what these two pitchers gave the Mets last season. The Low, Med and Hi columns will be how they did in situations with that type of leverage according to Baseball-Reference:

Raley 82 .708 73 .684 81 .554 130 .583 106 .728
Smith 112 .680 72 .911 60 .829 142 .777 102 .800

Raley was simply better last year in every category, except for low-leverage situations. And it’s not like last year was some outlier for Smith. Here are his career marks in the three leverage categories:

Lo: 408 PA, .639 OPS
Med: 173 PA, .863 OPS
Hi: 164 PA, .853 OPS

The Mets want so badly for Smith to be a late-inning reliever but he’s just not that good. Sure, he throws pretty hard and posts solid K/9 numbers. But his FIP has always been worse than his ERA, with the gap shrinking. In 2021, Smith notched a 2.40 ERA but with a 4.69 FIP. In 2022, it was 3.33/4.33 and last year it was a 4.15 ERA and a 4.55 FIP.

Smith shouldn’t be used in a close and late situation unless absolutely necessary.

THE CASE FOR A 6-MAN ROTATION – My hope is that one day we’ll see clubs go back to a 4-man rotation. My firm belief is that if everyone prepared for it ahead of time and trained accordingly, that there would be little, or no, dropoff from the results with a 5-man rotation for most teams. But the 2024 Mets simply don’t seem to be that squad. Here’s how pitchers did last year with four, five and six or more days of rest between starts:

Player 4 PA OPS 5 PA OPS 6 PA OPS
Jose Butto     60 .545 97 .674
Joey Lucchesi     75 .887 101 .570
Tylor Megill 143 .930 286 .792 138 .696
David Peterson 91 .878 251 .827 118 .779
Jose Quintana 51 .627 181 .704 66 .637
Kodai Senga 65 .818 406 .602 223 .619

All of the attention was on how Senga did with extra rest but everyone besides Quintana did better with additional days off. As for the new pitchers, Luis Severino was like Peterson, as the numbers weren’t good in any category but got better with more off days between starts. Adrian Houser was best on a traditional four days of rest. Sean Manaea’s September stretch run was every fifth day, propping up his numbers there, compared to earlier in the season when he wasn’t very good.

Of course, the challenge with a 6-man rotation is a shorter bullpen, which is why the Mets will likely run a 5.5-man rotation, putting in an extra starter when there are no days off built into the schedule. But would a shorter bullpen lead to better deployment overall? It’s something the decision makers should at least consider.

A STARTING POINT TO MULL – The Mets were 75-87 in 2023, which is a .463 winning percentage. There are many reasons why the record was so poor but one of them were the individual performances of Brett Baty and Starling Marte. Baty finished the year with 389 PA and a 65 OPS+ while Marte posted a 73 OPS+ in 341 PA. It’s tough to be good with 730 PA below the Galvis Line from guys you were hoping would help drive the offense.

Baty started 98 games and the Mets went 44-54, for a .449 winning percentage. That’s worse than the .463 mark overall of the team. Marte started 82 games last year and the Mets went 36-46, for a .439 winning percentage, which was worse than Baty’s. Baty and Marte both started the same game 53 times and the Mets went 22-31, for a .415 winning percentage. Over 162 games, that winning percentage would result in a 67-95 mark. It’s tough to have two sink holes in the lineup at the same time, something the team should keep in mind, regardless of which combination of players they may end up being.

A LOOK AT THE LATEST LEFTY MASHER – The Mets signed Harrison Bader to help their outfield defense and provide a righty bat to utilize against lefty pitchers. And without a doubt, the Mets need a bat of that type. Bader has a lifetime .824 OPS versus LHP and it would be great if he could deliver something close to that mark versus southpaws in 2024.

But much like we view relief pitchers as fickle because there’s more variability in 60-inning samples than there are in 180-inning samples, Bader has shown quite a wide range of outcomes versus lefties in his career. In the season with the most PA against lefties, Bader put up an .886 OPS in 138 PA. The only other time he reached triple digits in PA, he posted a .640 OPS in 106 PA. These came in back-to-back seasons.

There’s another set of back-to-back years that stand out. In 2022, Bader had a .562 OPS versus LHP, while in 2023, it was a terrific .936 mark. Will Bader hit lefties at a good clip in 2024? You might as well flip a coin for your answer.

One thing that’s a little more certain is his lifetime .667 OPS in 1,585 PA versus RHP. In 2021, Bader had a .789 OPS versus righties. It’s the only time in his career when his OPS versus righties reached .700 in a single season. The past two years, his OPS numbers versus RHP have been .669 and .503, respectively.

Stearns has made it a priority to improve the team’s defense. And that’s a noble goal. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to be able to hit to stay in the lineup. It seems unlikely that Bader will hit at an acceptable level to play against righties on a regular basis. It wouldn’t be a gross exaggeration to suggest that he face as many RHP as Daniel Vogelbach did with LHP. Let’s hope he has good fortune against southpaws this season, making him a worthwhile guy to start in the outfield one-third of the time.

DAYS OFF ARE A GOOD THING – Under Showalter, the Mets liked to play their good position players as much as possible. Last year, four guys amassed 150 or more games played, led by Francisco Lindor with 160. In 2022, Lindor played 161 games, one of three to surpass the 150 mark, while Jeff McNeil had 148. There’s definitely value in stars being healthy. But you can be healthy, get two or three days off per month for rest and still play in over 140 games. Would strategic days off for Pete Alonso kept his slumps from being so deep and so long? It’s a possibility for the team to consider.

From 2016-2022, while he was GM/PoBO in Milwaukee, Stearns’ teams never had more than two players amass 150 or more games in a season. And there were multiple times when that total was just one. Was that more Stearns’ doing or that of Craig Counsell? It’s one of many things to watch in this upcoming season, not just with the Mets but also with Counsell and the Cubs.

6 comments on “Brooks Raley v. Drew Smith, the combined misery of Brett Baty and Starling Marte, playing time and days off

  • Metsense

    My off-season wish was to obtain two more relief pitchers better than Smith. It didn’t happen. Smith is a second level reliever.
    My off-season wish was to obtain an everday outfielder for insurance Marte because of his age and uncertain health. It didn’t happen. Marte would be a good fourth outfielder at his age. Instead Stearns signed Bader, who is offensively good for 33% of the time.
    Initially, my off-season wish was upgrade third base but I reluctantly reconsidered because there were three young players competing for the position. Now there is only two. That is concerning. I hope that there isn’t four sink holes in the lineup.
    A 5.5 rotation would would be good for the Mets for the reasons you expressed.
    Everybody needs a day off each week or they get burned out. In baseball they are built-in off days. This year’s schedule there are nine occasions that they play for an extended period of time with no days off. Everyone in the starting lineup should get rested at least those nine days.

  • NYM6986

    So no good set up man and concerns about 3B and RF and DH. Hard not to think 4th place and no playoff spot again. There is still enough talent to make a playoff run, but the noted holes make that much harder to do.

    • Brian Joura


      There’s no “right” way to approach this offseason but it just seems that the choices where they spent money were … odd.

  • TexasGusCC

    As we noted in an interview with Dansby Swanson last year, he said that the Braves taught him the value of being in the lineup every day. In fact, last year Matt Olsen played 162 games. Riley and Acuna played 159. And all eight non catcher stars played at least 138. Why can their guys do it and not ours? Enough of that. Alonso and Lindor want to be in there everyday, and that’s admirable and I wouldn’t want to change that.

    As for the pitching, the best news I heard this winter in Allen is in camp and throwing at his old speed. Him, Diaz, Scott and possibly Tidwell are the hope of the future of that rotation right now as possible 1/2’s. But, that future is a bit far and that’s all we need to know to understand that imports are needed.

    Lastly, the Mets still need to bring in a lefty, but I don’t want to see Butto, Megill and Lucchessi “stretched out” in the minors. Screw that! Pitch your best and stop taking wins for granted!

    • Brian Joura

      Beltran, Delgado, Reyes and Wright used to play nearly every day before 2009, too.

  • Dan Capwell

    Great analysis on the relief pitchers. I just wonder if in those late and close situations, if Smith doesn’t grip the ball a bit too hard and hurries up his pitches just a tad. Human nature and all that.

    Maybe a crazy idea, but perhaps the #6 starter is a bullpen combo? Maybe Smith could be the opener and then they go to Megill or Joey Lu and try to get 5-6 innings out of that pairing before switching to the regular late innings guys? It appears that the Mets are stuck with Smith, who chokes in tight situations. Megill, etc. are good for maybe one time through the batting order.

    And finally, I have seen the Braves, the Rays, and to a lesser extent the Yanks and LA, trot out these otherwise obscure relief arms season after season and get some really great mileage out of them. The Braves doing this is particularly annoying. Maybe it’s the Mets turn here. Guys like Tonkin, Crick, or Adams could rise to the occasion and be at least as effective as some of the more recognizable names out there that want multi-year contracts.

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