Lugo might be the most fascinating piece here. An all-around solid pitcher, Lugo’s value to his team has so far depended on his role, or maybe just the blemish that is 2017. Without last year, Lugo’s ERA is 2.68 in 164 innings, his WHIP 1.09.
Lugo has always been good at limiting homers, a must for any team’s elite relief pitcher, and he doesn’t walk many hitters either. The most telling statistical change as a full-time reliever, however, is Lugo’s increasing strikeouts per 9 innings:
2016: 6.3 K/9
2017: 7.5 K/9
2018: 9.1 K/9
This is an encouraging trend. It’s clear Lugo belongs, and it appears the bullpen is the right place for him at the moment, but in a world of openers and sparkling bullpens, could Lugo have a more vital role next season?
There were opportunities this season for Lugo to be given spot starts, only to be passed over for the likes of Chris Flexen and P.J. Conlon. Lugo did start 5 games this year, but next year Callaway could expand his role by using him as the ultimate Andrew Miller–maybe, start 15 games, close 10, and be a clutch reliever the rest of the time. I’m not saying this must be the case, but it sure could benefit the 2019 Metsies.
Since 1961, and including Lugo, 23 MLB pitchers have finished a season with 95+ innings, 40 games in relief, 5 starts, and a sub-2.80 ERA. Included in this list are recent campaigns by Mike Montgomery (Cubs, 2016) and Chris Devenski (Astros, 2017), two role pitchers who were important pieces in championship bullpens –although, neither performed great come Postseason–Lance McCullers SENIOR (you heard me right), and Juan Acevedo (Cardinals, 1998).
Lugo’s accomplishments are not remarkably rare, but his companions are cause for excitement about his future. Lugo’s K% is the fifth highest among the group, while his walk rate is the ninth best.
The Mets must figure out how to use Lugo as effectively as possible because he can be a vital part of a potential contender.