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Mets enter 2019 with a much better bullpen and fire at the back end

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PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 21: Edwin Diaz #39 of the New York Mets poses for a photo on Photo Day at First Data Field on February 21, 2019 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 21: Edwin Diaz #39 of the New York Mets poses for a photo on Photo Day at First Data Field on February 21, 2019 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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The New York Mets made sure to upgrade their bullpen this past winter, specifically by adding closer Edwin Diaz and bringing Jeurys Familia back to set him up.

The New York Mets addressed their bullpen issues this offseason by trading for Edwin Diaz and bringing back Jeurys Familia. The moves were necessary. The Mets bullpen had the third-worst ERA (4.96) and the third-lowest total of holds (65) in 2018. They were closer to Baltimore and Kansas City in this regard.

Diaz is coming off a career-best 57-save season for the Seattle Mariners. At age 25, Diaz is capable of matching his 2018 numbers, including a 1.96 ERA and 124 strikeouts.

There were inklings that Diaz could be a dominant closer in his first two years with the Mariners. He notched 18 saves in 23 appearances in 2016 and followed that with 34 saves in 52 appearances in 2017.

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The question is, can Diaz be dominant in the National League? After all, he had the benefit of pitching to American League batters over his short career. AL hitters have a tendency to swing at more pitches. The top four “whiffers” in Major League Baseball were in the American League in 2018.

The Mets had to take the chance, though. They got nowhere with their bullpen-by-committee in 2018. Having a closer puts that experiment to rest.

Bringing in Diaz allows the Mets to return Familia to his former role as a set-up man. Familia excelled in that role back in 2014, when he posted a 2.21 ERA and 23 holds.

Familia must regain his form as a set-up specialist, though. He had a 4-2 record with a 3.45 ERA while pitching for Oakland following a 2018 trade. That won’t cut it for a team trying to shed its reputation for blowing leads.

If Familia falters, Seth Lugo could step in to fill the eighth-inning role. Lugo fared well as a converted reliever in 2018, recording 13 holds and three saves.

Robert Gsellman must gain confidence as a reliever after struggling to adjust to that role last year.  Though he had 13 saves, Gsellman had a 4.28 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. Those are numbers for a mop-up reliever.

The Mets also brought in Justin Wilson from the Chicago Cubs, where he went 4-5 with a 3.46 ERA in 2018. Like Gsellman, Wilson needs to fix some things in order to become an effective reliever.

Having Diaz and Familia will certainly go a long way to masking the Mets’ deficiencies in the bullpen. Their presence means Lugo can enter in the seventh inning, rather than Gsellman or Wilson. For analytics followers, Lugo owned a 2.2 WAR last year – far better than Gsellman (-0.3) or Wilson (0.7).

Look at it another way. Adding Diaz means the Mets potentially have three relievers capable of delivering WARs of over 1.0 – Diaz, Familia, and Lugo. They didn’t have that last year, and it showed.

Will adding Diaz and bringing back Familia equal more wins for the Mets in 2019? It definitely gives them the chance to do so. The middle relievers will have to show improvement, but the back end of the bullpen should be better.

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If nothing else, the moves the Mets made this offseason should make the bullpen more effective.

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