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Spin It: The Bullpen Can Be Good

Welcome to the inaugural #spinit post, where I try to be cloyingly positive about reader-submitted topics. To submit a topic for me to ‘spin’, tweet (And follow) me @Ceetar with the hashtag #spinit or email me at ceetar@ceetar.com.

 

@ceetar what hope do we have the ‘pen will actually be decent, if not respectable?#SpinIt

— MK (@attgig) January 14, 2013

It’d be easy to simply reference the blind nut principle with bullpens; sooner or later these relievers are going to have good years, but I don’t think that’s necessary. The Mets bullpen has the potential to be pretty good in 2013, and certainly ‘decent’ is a low bar.

 

Bobby Parnell is a good reliever. He was their best reliever last year, and he throws hard. That’s a start. The Mets have a handful of fringe type prospects and young pitchers that can throw some that they can mix and match in the bullpen. Guys like Josh Edgin, Robert Carson, Elvin Ramirez and  even Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia.

 

The Mets did fill their bullpen with some signings as well. Brandon Lyon is usually pretty good. He can certainly help.

 

LaTroy Hawkins is 40 years old, but he’s been pretty reliable as a pitcher over the years. He put up a decent year last year after an awesome one for the Brewers in 2011. If he has anything less in the tank, he should be good for some innings.

 

Pedro Feliciano re-signed with the Mets. He’s always been an excellent lefty reliever, and if he’s sufficiently recovered from the woes associated with being a Yankee, he could definitely be an asset.

 

Another pickup to keep an eye on is Greg Burke. Burke made some mechanic adjustments that led to a really terrific year for the Orioles AAA team. He throws side-arm now, and can hopefully use his newfound delivery to get some big outs for the Mets in 2013.

 

Bullpens are so often a crap shoot, but with the young arms and the potential of some of the other guys, there’s a good chance it can be a strength for the Mets in 2013. This is without mentioning Frank Francisco as a bounce back candidate. He really under-performed his peripherals last season, so perhaps this year he has a less volatile year and locks down his innings.

February 11th, 2013 by Ceetar in 2013, ceetar, Mets, spinit
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The Mets Best Reliever

July 28, 2012 - Source: Norm Hall/Getty Images North AmericaEveryone likes to toss out the Mets bullpen ERA and talk about how bad it is and call it the worst bullpen ever.  Truthfully though, the Mets do have some good relievers and they’re getting overshadowed by how bad the overall numbers look.

 

Tim Byrdak and Jon Rauch have both had pretty good years, give or take a couple of slumps, but it’s Bobby Parnell I want to talk about.   ERA is not everything, but Parnell’s is at 3.07 which certainly isn’t bad.   Parnell has actually been better than that though, he’s just been victimized by some bad luck and defense.  Four of the 19 runs scored against him are unearned.  That’s more than 20%.

 

Since Frank Francisco last pitched for the Mets, Bobby Parnell has pitched 14 innings and allowed 4 earned runs for a 2.57 ERA and a .581 OPS against with 15 strikeouts.

 

He’s holding opponents to a .354 slugging.  Luis Castillo’s career slugging was .351.  So Bobby Parnell is as likely to give up an extra base hit as Castillo was to hit one, and you may recall that didn’t happen very often.

 

He’s been victimized by the Mets not turning double plays.  The MLB average is 11% of  ground balls with a runner on lead to a double play.  The Mets only turn 6% of them for Parnell.

 

Parnell strikes out 23.4% of the batters he faces, which is well above the MLB average of 18.4%.

 

He walks 5.7% and the MLB average is 8.5%.

 

His ground ball to fly ball ratio (with line drives included in fly balls) is 1.38 compared to the league average of 0.8.

 

His first pitch strike percentage is above average, as is his swinging strike percentage.  He throws more total strikes than the average reliever and gets to a 3-0 count less often.

 

With runners on third and less than two outs the runner scores only 36% of the time against Parnell as compared to 52% league-wide.

 

So Parnell has actually executed his pitches pretty well and should be getting better results.   Games like Jordany Valdespin’s two error game at shortstop make his numbers look worse overall, and double plays not turned have hurt him, particularly because those don’t count as errors because you can’t assume the double play, and ultimately hurt his ERA.   Given his strikeout numbers and the fact that he rarely allows extra base hits and home runs, Bobby Parnell is the reliever you most want on the mound in any given high-leverage situation.

August 3rd, 2012 by Ceetar in 2012, Baseball, Mets, Pitching
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Mets Bullpen: Worst Ever, or Just Bad?

I’m not trying to defend the bullpen, because they haven’t been great and have been giving a lot of close games away lately, but it I keep hearing people talk about how it’s the worst bullpen in the league and how horrible it is and that’s misrepresenting it a bit.  The National League league average for bullpens is 3.85 and has been a little worse, 3.98, in June and July.  The Mets are at 5.00.  That’s what makes it look really bad.

 

These seven guys in the bullpen are not fully responsible for all those numbers.  So the bullpen the Mets will have available to them tonight is not the epic failure it’s being made out to be.   Manny Acosta, with 33 runs allowed, is still tops in the National League among pitchers with no starts.  Now, you can’t discount those runs because clearly someone else would’ve given up some in that role, but it does seem worth nothing that the non-Acosta relievers are pitching to a 3.77 ERA.   The bullpen with Manny Acosta in it was posting a 5.54 ERA.  Since the last time he appeared in a game, the Mets bullpen has posted a 4.07 ERA.

 

That certainly isn’t record-setting bad.  It’s a bullpen that will close out games when you have a good starting five and an offense that can score runs.  The Mets have been struggling with consistency in those other departments lately and that’s a bigger problem than the bullpen.   Another thing in the Mets bullpen’s favor is the defense.  They don’t make a lot more errors than average, but the plays not made or double plays not turned can be problems as well.  I’m sure we all have nightmares about some of these games where the Mets gave the opposition four or five outs to work with.  Balls falling in that an average defender would catch means a higher ERA for the pitcher despite his best effort.  Sometimes it’s just bad luck, as with the hit and run last night, but other times it’s a bad read or bad positioning.

 

Of course ERA isn’t the perfect tool for evaluating relievers so it’s probably not safe to say they’ve been only a tick worse than league average lately.  They’ve allowed 33% of inherited runners to score, with or without Acosta, and that’s good for second worst in the league behind only Philadelphia.  League average is 28%.  Sometimes those runs apply to other relievers, but sometimes they’re hurting the starters ERA and don’t show up in my calculations above.

 

So while the bullpen hasn’t been great the extent to which it’s struggled has been over-stated lately.  Even the average bullpen around the league is is going to give up a run roughly ever seven outs.  That’s usually at least one run a game.

July 18th, 2012 by Ceetar in 2012, Baseball, Mets, Pitching
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A Week Later: Hopeful for the 2012 Mets

No Met has made an error, hit a home run, or struck out looking in over a week.  With a week of the offseason under my belt to let the highs and lows of emotion mellow out with time, it’s time to take a closer look at what transpired in 2011 and what hope there is for 2012.

 

The team played harder than was expected.   They didn’t give in, whether because of a tough loss, a rough week, or a poor start to a game.  They’d battle back late in games, and bounce back from a tough loss with a solid win.  There were plenty of times late in the season where they did seem to be going through the motions a little bit, but they seemed to bounce back from that as well.  Hopefully 2012 avoids any long periods of being out of it and prevents the team from getting complacent.

 

The bullpen, while successful for some stretches of times, was mostly a failure.  Part of this was the trade of Francisco Rodriguez, part of it was the depression of Taylor Buchholz.   Part had to do with the starters rarely giving length, as was the main problem in April.   The Mets are aware of this problem, and with some good scouting and analysis, there are relievers out there that you can get for reasonable prices.   I would expect at least 2-3 new faces in the pen to compliment the ones that stay.  The Mets lost a lot of games late last year, and strengthening the pen will go a long way in 2012.

 

The starting rotation is what’s going to be the big deal in 2012.  This is what’s going to make or break the team as a contender.   Niese and Dickey are locks.  Mike Pelfrey is also pretty much a lock, although he does become a trade candidate as well.  I wouldn’t be against keeping Capuano, but I suspect he’s priced himself out of what the Mets want to pay him.  Johan Santana is supposed to be ready to go as normal during Spring Training, but I’d put the certainty of that at somewhere around 75%, and that may be optimistic.  Right now he’s penciled in, and it won’t be until February before we know if he’ll be able to progress normally towards an Opening Day start.   Therefore the Mets need a backup plan.  Adding Santana would certainly help, but it’s likely the Mets need to upgrade further.   Finding another quality starter and reassigning Dillon Gee to be depth for Santana could be the way to go.  However, Dillon Gee may have earned a major league job.   If the Mets can get to the regular season with a healthy Santana, and everyone else, having to send Gee to the minors to start the season would be a nice problem to have.  From there they could reexplore trading Mike Pelfrey.  Other teams will deal with injuries, and many teams could make good use of a guy that will throw 200 innings of slightly above league average value pretty consistently.

 

Then there is the offense.   The offense was very good last year, despite few home runs and a lot of injuries.  2012′s hinges on Reyes staying, but if he does the Mets offense again looks to be very potent.  The biggest concern would be if Pagan can shake off the bad defensive year, and if Duda can take a step forward out in RF.   Thole needs to improve as well, and there’s something to be said for having a veteran right-handed catcher to work with him.  The Mets are discussing moving the walls in a bit in right and left, which will probably help the home run numbers, although they may shrink the gaps a little bit.   It looks like the Mets should still have a top-flight offense next year, capable of dealing damage to opposing pitchers.

 

The Mets could be competitive next year.  A lot hinges on Reyes re-signing and Johan turning up healthy.  The Mets do need to revamp the bullpen, sign another starter, and address the bench, but those are all reasonable expectations.  It’ll be an interesting offseason, and hopefully it will be a launching pad for a good season to come.

October 6th, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, 2012, Baseball, Mets
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Johan Santana to the Bullpen?

The Mets starting rotation has been performing pretty well.  No one’s an ace, but mostly they’re keeping the team in games and pitching pretty well.  Johan Santana appears to have taken the next step towards return, but there are a lot of questions revolving around that.  Will he be the dominant Santana we’ve come to know and love, or some lesser pitcher while still recovering from the shoulder surgery?  Which pitcher would he replace in the rotation, and will he be able to go deep into games, or will he be on a strict pitch count?

Maybe it’s Johan Santana who should go to the bullpen.  In the best case we’re talking about five weeks of games, and maybe six or seven starts.  He’ll barely have time to really get into a routine and build up some arm strength.  Pitching out of the bullpen would allow him to work on his game and proving his shoulder is repaired without having to really push it.  He’ll be able to build muscle and arm strength and work on his mechanics without the strain of 100 pitches at a time.  They could work out a schedule and not pitch him too often or back to back days or whatever works best for him.

He has done it before.  When he first came up with the Twins he spent a lot of time in the bullpen, and while that was before he was established it’s not exactly a foreign concept to him, he’s pitched 77 games out of the bullpen in his career.  Let the beat writers joke about the Mets 23 million dollar middle reliever, it’s still better than the Mets 23 million dollar Ace who’s still experiencing soreness in his shoulder.  Or..

Many feel Francisco Rodriguez is a lock to get traded before his option vests.  It’s certainly possible, and it does seem like the Mets have a plan in mind with him as they certainly don’t seem to care about his option or use.  What about using Johan Santana to close?  Closers don’t have a whole ton of value, which is part of the reason you don’t need an overpaid closer clogging up the roster, but you do still need to replace the quality innings Rodriguez gives you and what better way than someone like Santana?  You could say that Santana is not used to getting ready to pitch that fast, but he’d have all of “Spring Training” to get used to it, and with a closer you often have a couple more minutes.

After all, the goal with Johan is to get him pitching again. He needs to build up his arm muscles again and recover from having his shoulder sliced open.  He doesn’t necessarily need to throw 40-50 innings to do so, 20-25 in a more limited capacity could be just fine.  He’d be able to test out his shoulder, get some time under his belt with major league innings, and shut down at the end of the season healthy and ready to rev it back up in Spring Training like normal.

A lot of this could depend on how the Mets are doing in the playoff picture when Johan Santana comes back.  On the other hand, it’d be foolish to rely on Johan for anything this year at this point in his rehab, so if he does indeed come back, the Mets don’t need to desperately shove him into the rotation and demand he win every game.  Let him ease himself back into pitching, and take what value you can get while keeping him healthy and strong.  He’s too valuable to future years to push him too hard coming back from surgery.

July 7th, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, 2012, Baseball, Pitching
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Going to the Game to Make the Mets Win

Headed out to the game tonight alone.  Which means I’ll be roaming around the park aimlessly watching the game from all over the place.

I’m thinking of hanging around the outfield tonight.  Checking out the pitchers warming up, watching the game from the Shea Bridge, and maybe climb up to the Pepsi Porch for an inning or two. 

The Mets really need to win tonight.  They’ve had one bad week every month that keeps them from getting above .500.   In May they got to .500 and then lost six of seven.  They got back to .500 again last week in Atlanta, lost a crushing game and have now lost four of their last five.   If they can minimize that damage and start the climb again now, they’ll hopefully be able to climb above .500 and keep going.   Maybe Bay is going to start being Jason Bay again after a big game last night, and maybe Wright and Davis get good news this week and make their way back to the team.  Otherwise this Mets season feels a lot like Sisyphus.

June 22nd, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, Baseball, ceetar, Citi Field, Mets
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Statistics Rising

You can make yourself crazy over-analyzing baseball.   A week ago the Mets rotation wasn’t pitching deep into games, the bullpen couldn’t get anyone out, and people were all set to write the Mets off.  Now they’ve run off a stretch of five wins in a row, the pitchers have pitched well from rotation to bullpen, and they’re scoring runs in all sorts of ways from home runs to errors to simple clutch hits.

 

The last time a major New York sports team other than the Mets won a home game was last Sunday the 17th when the Rangers and Yankees did it.   Since then the Rangers and Knicks both got bounced from the playoffs and the Yankees are 3-3 including dropping the last two home games against the White Sox with each of their two closers, Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano, blowing saves.

 

An aside on the Yankees: For a team as old as they are, it has to be a little worrisome that they’ve postponed so many games already doesn’t it?  They’ve played far fewer than anyone else, and in fact only played four games last week.  Those three games will have to be made up, and it’ll eat into days off and rest time for some of these veteran players.

 

You could make excuses about the quality of the Mets opponents, but I could make excuses that they were a bloop or a lucky bounce away from winning some of those games they lost too.  Regardless of who is in the other dugout, the Mets are playing good baseball right now.  When this team is playing well, they’re capable of beating anyone.  The question has always been if they’re going to stay healthy enough to have the chance to play well, and can they sustain the success longer than the slumps they might go through when guys are struggling?

 

Also worth noting is that if the only reason the Mets are winning is because they’re playing bad teams, why can’t the Phillies beat the Diamondbacks?

April 27th, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, Baseball, Citi Field, hitting, Mets, Pitching
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Happy Easter Eggs

Courtusy of the Mets Twitter account, the Mets are 12-19 on Easter Sunday.

 

The lineup will be:  Reyes-SS, Murphy-2B, Wright-3B, Beltran-RF, Bay-LF, Davis-1B, Thole-C, Pridie-CF, Niese-LHP

It is also Carlos Beltran’s 34th birthday.

 

The last Mets player to hit four home runs in four games was David Wright on June 7th through June 10th of 2007.  Ike Davis has a chance to match that today.

 

For all the bullpen bashing for how badly they started, they haven’t allowed a run in eight innings, and have a 2.08 ERA over their last eight games.  Additionally, Pedro Beato has thrown 11 innings to start his major league career and has yet to allow a run.

April 24th, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, Baseball, Mets
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Things Sure Are Different

The Mets lost on Opening Day for the first time in years yesterday.  This seems like the first sign that things are different this year.

 

Really, it’s just one game.  One game doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of a season.  There were plenty of good signs.

 

Emaus, in the middle of a rally in his Major League debut, worked the count and drew a walk to bring the tying run to the plate.

 

The Mets offense, the second Josh Johnson got a little tired, jumped all over him.

 

Carlos Beltran looked fine in right field, better than some of the Marlins looked defensively at positions they’d played for years.

 

Watching the disaster that the Astros closer was yesterday makes me happy that the Mets look to have a good bullpen, particularly one of the best relievers in the game.

 

This team had a lot of turnover from last year, and a new managing core.  It might take them some time to get their legs under them.  It may take a little while before they learned all their own strengths and weaknesses, and how they work best together.  Reyes and Emaus haven’t worked together up the middle that long.   Pitchers are still building up arm strength, and the bullpen will settle into more defined roles as they get some innings in.

 

Okay, time to fry some fish.  Still plenty of opportunity to win this series.

April 2nd, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, Baseball, Mets
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