Mets bullpen needs big improvements and Andrew Miller’s left arm

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Andrew Miller #24 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field on September 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Andrew Miller #24 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field on September 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The New York Mets bullpen could use some major upgrades. Who can help them out?

With regard to the New York Mets bullpen, fans and those within the organization entered the season with high expectations. The bullpen was supposed to be highlighted by the experienced core of Jerry Blevins, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, and the elite closer in Jeurys Familia.

As with seemingly everything else that started out positive in the Mets’ 2018 season, the bullpen would not take long to collapse. The Mets bullpen finished the season with a 4.96 ERA and -0.6 fWAR, good enough for third worst in baseball.

Swarzak, who was acquired in 2017, missed about half of the season due to injuries but was completely ineffective when he was healthy, anyway: in 29 appearances, he had a 6.15 ERA and 1.59 WHIP.

Ramos was even worse: he compiled a 6.41 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in 28 appearances prior to undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. Blevins finished the season with a 4.85 ERA in 64 appearances but proved that he is useless against lefties: LHBs hit .264 against him in 2018.

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Of this group of relievers, Familia performed the best but was traded to the Oakland Athletics halfway through the season. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, who were converted to relievers because the Mets’ bullpen lacked depth and injuries ailed multiple pitchers, were the best arms in the Mets’ pen.

Lugo was, by far, the Mets’ best reliever this year: in 49 relief appearances, he boasted a 2.66 ERA. Gsellman was excellent at the beginning of the season but that did not last long as he quickly became overused. T

The Mets did experiment with some other arms, but nothing positive came of that. Hansel Robles was decent in April, but the Mets stuck with him longer than they should have: he had a 5.03 ERA in 16 appearances.

Chris Beck, whom the Mets acquired in the middle of the season, carried a 5.23 ERA in six appearances. Paul Sewald, for the second season in a row, was quickly overworked and finished the season with a 6.07 ERA in 46 appearances.

In 2017, the Mets acquired many young arms to bolster the bullpen, but that did not work out either: Gerson Bautista, Bobby Wahl, Eric Hanhold, Tim Peterson, and Jacob Rhame were all given the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues but they were all terrible and proved they were not ready for the majors just yet.

Going into 2019 the Mets have a good bullpen core in Lugo, Gsellman, Drew Smith, Tyler Bashlor, and Daniel Zamora. However, the Mets have an elite starting rotation.

Jacob deGrom’s record would have been historically good if he had a solid bullpen (as well as effective hitters to actually score runs for him, but that is beside the point) to close out his games.

Because the Mets have such great starting pitchers, they need to bolster their bullpen as much as possible in order to secure their leads and wins. Former Mets GM Sandy Alderson made it clear to the entire baseball world that he saw relievers as volatile and not worth the investment.

However, newly appointed GM Brodie Van Wagenen has expressed his interest in diving into the bullpen market and acquiring multiple arms. Should one of these relievers be the highly-touted Andrew Miller?

The 33-year-old had a rough 2018 season: he served three DL stints for hamstring, knee, and shoulder injuries and in 37 appearances he had a 2-4 record, 4.24 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 45 strikeouts in 34 IP, while also collecting two saves.

Not only are his recent numbers worrisome for fanbases whose teams are looking to sign relievers, but Miller’s 2018 situation can be particularly scary for the Mets. The Mets’ bullpen statistics were horrendous in 2018, but Miller’s injuries are also quite alarming.

The Mets have one of the worst track records in baseball when it comes to injuries, and fans are sick and tired of their roster continuously being plagued with never-ending ailments. Why should they sign a reliever who spent most of 2018 on the DL for such a high price?

Here is why:  from 2014-2017, Miller boasted a 2.04 ERA or lower each season. During that span, he was arguably the best reliever in baseball. Miller is important to the Mets because he has historically been excellent against RHBs and LHBs, alike.

As previously mentioned, Blevins has proven to be worthless against LHBs, so Miller may be a good replacement. The Mets’ greatest need for the bullpen is to acquire at least one reliever for the highest-leverage spots, regardless of the inning.

Miller is convenient because he can come in to get a lefty out and stay in to pitch to subsequent batters. After all, he has averaged 1.04 innings per games pitched since 2015. It is important to note that the Mets are currently sans closer.

Thankfully, the Mets can use Miller in that role, as well, since he has a great deal of closing experience. Lugo and Miller would make a deadly combination: not only can both of them pitch effectively for multiple innings, but they would be unhittable as a set-up man/closer duo, respectively.

Gsellman should be better next season because the Mets have hopefully learned their lesson and will not overwork him early on. Additionally, the young arms the Mets acquired last year may be ready to shine in the Majors in 2019. If the Mets acquire Miller along with another powerful arm (Zach Britton?), their entire pitching staff will become one of the strongest in baseball.

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Is Miller the man for the job? Or should the Mets put their focus on someone else?