Year in Review: Justin Hampson

By Matt Musico

Rising Apple continues to wind down our Year in Review series as we sneak a peak at what Justin Hampson did between his time with the Mets and Buffalo Bisons in 2012. Hampson had a solid season statistically, which is why he decided to test the free agent market after recently being out-righted back to the minors and removed from the active 40-man roster.

How He Did on the Mound

After already having a full year with the Buffalo Bisons in 2011 (3-3, 3.41 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 56 Ks in 58 IP), Hampson was hoping to see some time in the Major Leagues, which would be his first since a short stint with the Padres in 2008. He was called up towards the end of June and made three appearances between June 25th and July 1st before being sent back down to Triple-A. Hampson was included in the handful of players that earned September call-ups, and he put together a strong showing for New York, compiling a 1.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 2.14 GO/AO, and .194 opponent batting average in 10 innings and 13 games. However, when it came to using left-handed relievers once Tim Byrdak hit the DL, Terry Collins preferred to use the combination of Josh Edgin and Robert Carson.

Sep 24, 2012; Flushing, NY,USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Justin Hampson (45) pitches during the seventh inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PREWIRE

During his second season with Wally Backman and the Bisons, he continued his success from the year prior, actually improving upon his 2011 performance. The southpaw went 4-3 with a 2.33 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 59 K’s in 65 innings pitched (51 appearances). It puzzled me as to why Collins and upper management didn’t give Hampson more of a chance to prove himself, as he continually impressed at both the Minor League and Major League levels.

Areas to Improve Upon

Despite his success, I was able to find one thing he could improve upon going into next season. Although his ERA was low in Flushing, his LOB% was drastically lower than it had been with Buffalo. With the Bisons, he was stranding runners at a 83.3% clip, whereas he was doing the same thing at only a 63.6% rate in the Majors. Some of this statistic involves luck, as a softly hit and well placed ball could do a lot of damage. So, coupling that with a lack of velocity on his fastball (85.7 mph in ’12), I understand why Collins preferred harder throwing lefties. At 32 years of age, Hampson won’t be able to gain speed on his fastball, but being precise with his focus and his pitches will allow him to strand runners at a higher rate.

Projected Role in 2013

Since he’s opted for free agency, he currently doesn’t have a role with the Mets going into 2013. With the New York front office looking to once again overhaul the bullpen, Hampson would have liked to try and snag a spot out of spring training in the Big League ‘pen, but feels that his 2012 season is strong enough to get a better deal from another team.

Contract Status and Trade Rumors

Before he became a free agent, Sandy Alderson and the Mets out-righted Hampson back to the minors almost two weeks ago. Once he cleared waivers, he opted to break away and enter the market. It will be interesting to see how the winter shakes out for the 32-year-old southpaw, as he’ll be looking for a spot in a team’s Big League bullpen, combined with making more than the $480K he earned in 2012. If New York isn’t able to find a veteran left-handed reliever in their price range and Hampson is still available, I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to pursue later in the winter.