The Bullpen May Not Be So Bad


The Mets’ bullpen has been much maligned so far this season. For the most part, the criticism has been fair. The relievers have squandered some leads, most notably in the series against the Rockies in Colorado, and the recent series in Miami. Sandy Alderson re-made his bullpen for the second year in a row, and already the relief corps has been asked to log a lot of innings due to the starting pitchers not going deeply into the games. Recently, however, the bullpen has been performing better, most notably Friday against the Braves, when they logged 5.2 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 4 hits. Let’s take a look at some of the performances from the relievers so far this year, starting with the back-end of the bullpen.

Apr 13, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher

Bobby Parnell

(39) delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Mets won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Parnell: Parnell has been solid, converting 3 of 5 save opportunities (the two blown saves were due to shoddy defense). Bobby has pitched 13 innings, allowing 6 hits and 2 walks for a WHIP of 0.62. He seems to have settled nicely into the closer’s role. He also has made it clear that he wants the ball often, a sign of confidence that Bobby had not demonstrated in recent years.

Scott Atchison: Atchison has pitched 14.2 innings, allowing 11 hits and 6 walks for a WHIP of 1.16. Atchison has been credited with 4 holds, and has given the Mets a credible 8th inning option. His recent history of arm trouble has limited his utility on consecutive days, but his veteran presence has served him and his teammates well.

Brandon Lyon: Lyon has been disappointing so far, throwing 12.1 innings, allowing 12 hits and 2 walks for a WHIP of 1.14. His numbers don’t reflect some unfortunately timed bad outings, such as last Friday against Atlanta. Lyon was brought in to be the 8th inning guy, and a potential closer to spell Parnell. He has not earned the latter opportunity.

Scott Rice: Rice has been effective, after his well-known 14-year minor league sojourn. Rice has tossed 15 innings, surrendering 10 hits, but walking an alarming 8, for a WHIP of 1.20. Rice has shown to be very durable, and tough on lefties. So far, Rice has been a fine pickup by Alderson. Rice will need to walk fewer batters to increase his effectiveness.

LaTroy Hawkins: The 40-year-old Hawkins has, along with Atchison, given the ‘pen a veteran influence. Hawkins has pitched 13 innings, allowing 16 hits and no walks for a WHIP of 1.23. Though Hawkins has given up more hits than innings pitched, he seems to spread them out effectively, having been charged with only 4 earned runs, for a 2.77 ERA.

Jeurys Familia: He may be the Mets diamond in the rough. The former starter is a converted reliever, after the Mets saw his live fastball and sharp slider. Unlike what the organization did with Jenrry Mejia, who has gone back and forth from starting to relieving, Familia is being allowed to develop into his relief role. His save on Friday night, with the knee-buckling slider that caught Dan Uggla looking to end the game, caught the attention of many Mets fans, who saw what Familia can do. Jeurys is still a work-in-progress, as shown by his numbers. He’s pitched 9.1 innings, letting up 9 hits, and a troubling 6 walks for a WHIP of 1.61. But Familia is young and talented, and can either be a piece of the future or a valuable trading chip.

Robert Carson: Carson was called up in late April to replace the struggling Josh Edgin. Carson has actually struggled more than Edgin. Robert has pitched 3.2 innings, allowing 7 hits and 2 walks, for an unsightly WHIP of 2.45. Carson is a curious case, since he throws hard (92-94) and has a good breaking ball. At a minimum, Carson should be tough on lefties, but he has not been. Left handed hitters are batitng .300 off of Carson.

Is the Mets’ bullpen great? No, it isn’t. But the eclectic collection of veterans and young pitchers may be beginning to settle in, and are in position to be vastly improved over the 2012 version. As noted above, a key to their success is a factor completely out of their control, more length out of the starters. If the rotation can go deeper into games, allowing Terry Collins to lighten the load for the relievers, the bullpen crew may be able to make a positive contribution to the 2013 New York Mets.

Commentary from Dan Haefeli:

So far in 2013, major league bullpens have thrown an average (mean) of 97.5 innings to an ERA of 3.69. The Mets have fared slightly worse, throwing 102 innings with an ERA of 4.76 (54 ER / 102 IP). Sandy Alderson deserves credit though, as his in-season moves have largely worked well in improving these numbers.

The seven relievers currently on the roster (as highlighted by Rich above) have combined to throw 81 of those 102 innings, to an ERA of 3.44 (31 ER / 81 IP), which would bump them from 29th in team ERA to 15th. Much of that has fallen on Robert Carson (7 ER / 3.2 IP) — the other six relievers have combined to allow only 24 earned runs in 77.1 innings, good for a slim 2.79 ERA. Despite some bumps that they’ve done good to iron out (Greg Burke and Josh Edgin, primarily), it seems that the group Alderson has put together has been better than advertised.

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