New York Mets: Which relievers could offer them some relief?

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 15: Starting pitcher Seth Lugo #67 of the New York Mets throws a warm up pitch during the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 15, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 15: Starting pitcher Seth Lugo #67 of the New York Mets throws a warm up pitch during the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 15, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The New York Mets say they want to significantly upgrade their bullpen. The question is how many quality relievers will they add, and what will they have to give up in terms of money and/or players?

Following up on my pitch-by-pitch analysis of the New York Mets starting pitchers, along with Aaron Nola, Max Scherzer, Chris Sales, and Nathan Eovaldi, I decided to do the same analysis with the Mets significant relievers and the top free agent relievers they might pursue.

I did not explain this in much detail in the first article, but by using individual pitches instead of plate appearances, there is more data to analyze, which is especially useful when comparing relief pitchers who face fewer batters than starters do.

To see the reliever pitch by pitch data, please click here.

MLB Trade Rumors predicted salaries and years for 2018-19 free agent relievers

Mets “veteran” relievers going into 2019

In this chart, the percentages are color-coded from dark green (best result of pitches) to dark red (worst), with shades of green, yellow, orange, and red in between.

I included the average percentages of all these relievers (based on total pitches, not average of percentages), as well as the average of all pitchers who threw from 500-1499 total pitches in 2018.

At the far right side of the chart are two calculations attempting to measure the quality of the pitches:

  • The first column is weak contact (total of Poorly/Under, Poorly/Topped, and Poorly/Weak in the Quality of Contact menu) divided by hard contact (barrels, solid contact).
  • The second column is good pitches (called strike, swinging strike, swinging strike–blocked, foul tip, missed bunt, and swinging pitchout) divided by bad pitches (ball, ball in dirt).

As with the starters, the two pitch results that do not correlate with quality of pitcher is weak contact allowed and hit by pitches allowed. Relievers (or at least an approximation) allowed weak contact on 10.84% of their pitches, while starters (those with 1,500+ total pitches) allowed 11.17%.

My theory is that starters would rather have weak contact than long counts, to allow them to go deep into games, while relievers would rather strike guys out.

The 16 relievers I examined averaged 10.12% weak contact.

Looking at hard contact, these 16 relievers allowed 1.68% hard contact, while the average starter allowed 2.25%, and the average reliever allowed 2.11%.

For strikes not including fouls, these 16 relievers got strikes on 30.89% of pitches, while the average for starters was 28.60%, and for relievers, it was 28.74%.

These 16 relievers threw 35.83% of pitches for balls, while starters averaged 35.53% and relievers averaged 36.26%.

I will include flares/burners, although I did not use them in my initial weak/hard contact calculation:

  • 16 relievers 3.67%
  • starters 4.37%
  • relievers 4.18%

Incorporating flares/burners into weak contact/hard contact

Here is a chart with two additional columns, one including flares/burners with hard contact, and the next one adding weak contact percent/hard contact plus strikes/balls, to provide one stat with which to imperfectly compare these relievers to each other and to average relievers.

Looking at this chart in particular, I suggest that Adam Ottavino is the perfect choice to join the Mets as a free agent in 2019. It doesn’t hurt that he is a local guy–born in New York City, and first drafted out of Berkley Carroll High School in Brooklyn–and that he did something so New York earlier this year to keep pitching.

He is about to turn 33 and does not have a particularly long track record of dominance, so I am hoping the Mets can sign him for two-three years at between $10-13 million per year.

If he signs elsewhere, and MLB Trade Rumors has him signing with the Yankees (!), David Robertson or Joe Kelly are my Plan B and Plan C.

Two more free agents I would like to sign

The Mets have been linked to Andrew Miller, and he would be a fine acquisition as long as the contract is short-term and incentive-rich. I would offer in the two year plus vested option range, and a base salary of $6-8 million a year with incentives based on appearances that could bring his salary up to $11 million/year over three years if all goes well.

Here’s my other suggestion, and some of you may wish to close your eyes now. Every time I tried to combine this data into useful information, one guy kept coming up at or near the top of the list. The good news is he’s cheap and can be had for a short-term contract.

His name is Oliver Perez. Yes, we all remember his terrible years as a starter with the Mets, but his stats as a lefty-specialist are superior in just about every way. Would you offer him one year and about $5 million to pitch for the Mets? I would.

Next. Examining the relievers the Mets picked up in recent trades

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Who do you believe can offer the Mets bullpen some relief?