The New York Mets went 77-85 in 2011. As suggested by the sub-par record, there were a fair share of ups and downs throughout the season. “2011 Season in Review,” which will be an ongoing series, will analyze every single Mets player that picked up a ball or glove in 2011, for better or worse. This particular “2011 Season in Review” will take a look at reliever Jason Isringhausen.
What an improbable season it was for Jason Isringhausen. It had been two years since he last threw a big-league pitch; two years since he underwent Tommy John surgery that drove him out of the majors and onto slow-pitch softball fields; and 20 years since he was first drafted by the Mets, when Izzy asked the team that believed in him when he was 18 to give him another shot. The Mets obliged, inviting him to Spring Training but keeping their expectations low — something they failed to do the first time around.
The Mets nearly let Izzy slip away before they left St. Lucie, but he reluctantly accepted an extended Spring Training assignment on March 30. By April 11 he was in Flushing tossing two-thirds scoreless innings against the Rockies, much to the delight — and disbelief — of the fans.
The 38-year-old whose career seemed all but over had become the Mets’ setup man. Perhaps this revealed something about the state of the Mets’ bullpen, but nonetheless, Isringhausen was getting the job done. Relying on a mid- to upper-80s fastball and a good knuckle curve, he allowed just three runs and seven hits in his first 15 innings. Terry Collins used him sparingly at first, but by the end of May he was confident enough in Izzy’s health to use him five times in six days — although he allowed runs on three straight days during that stretch.
By mid-June Isringhausen had 15 holds, and while he gave up a run every few appearances, he was steady — steadier than Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato, at least. Thus, when Francisco Rodriguez was traded in mid-July, Collins handed the closer role to Izzy, who was just seven saves away from number 300 of his career. In his first six chances, Jason earned five saves and a win. But he began to struggle in August, getting tagged with two losses in the first two games of the month. Nonetheless, on August 15, he became the 23rd player to save 300 games.
Two four-run debacles in August were the only times Isringhausen allowed multiple runs in 2011, and after the latter on August 20, Collins gave the closer duties to Parnell. Izzy struck out the side in order against the Marlins on August 29 and appeared to be regaining his edge, earning four holds in four scoreless efforts. Unfortunately, though, that would be all for his season due to a herniated disc in his back.
His final 2011 line: 46.2 innings, a 4.05 ERA, 44 K, 24 BB, a 1.29 WHIP, and a .211 opponent batting average. In a mostly young and erratic bullpen, Isringhausen gave the Mets more than they could have asked for or even imagined.
Now, the question is whether Izzy will be back at Citi Field in 2012. He could certainly be considered a valuable pen piece by other teams, as long as they feel his back issues won’t linger. That being said, the Mets are short on relievers, and if they let him go they will have to find some cheap replacements.
Whether Izzy returns or not, his Mets reunion — which gave fans a feel-good story and gave the team much-needed bullpen help — was one of the highlights of the 2011 season.