One week into the 2019 season, New York Mets Manager Mickey Callaway has continued to misuse the bullpen, as he did last season. Here’s a breakdown of some of those decisions.
Let me begin by first saying this: I am very optimistic for the New York Mets 2019 season and I am a fan of many of the move the team made this past offseason, particularly with regards to the bullpen, which last season posted a historically bad combined 4.96 ERA.
With that said, I felt that last season, the team’s skipper Mickey Callaway made several questionable moves regarding the use of the team’s starting pitchers and relievers, and while it is still early in the year, it appears that those same issues have carried over into 2019.
At the time of the writing of this piece, the Mets are five games into the new campaign, coming off of a 6-5 win against the rival Miami Marlins, which was a prime example of Callaway’s questionable decisions.
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However, to properly display my concerns, I am going to breakdown the bullpen use over the first five games.
In game one against the Nationals, after the reigning Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom pitched 6 shut out innings, the Mets used 3 relievers to finish the game, which Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia and new closer Edwin Diaz each completed a scoreless inning of work in route to a 2-0 win.
After an off day, game two saw Noah Syndergaard give up 4 runs over 6 innings, followed by Justin Wilson making his season debut, pitching a perfect seventh inning. Familia entered the game in the 8th inning and exited with the bases loaded and two outs. Seth Lugo then followed and got the third out to retire the side.
Lugo stayed in the game to begin the 9th inning with an 11-4 lead but struggled and allowed 4 unearned runs while only recording two outs on 41 pitches, forcing the Mets to turn to Diaz to finish the game.
My reaction was that Lugo stayed in the game way too long and should have been pulled before his pitch count got that high, but I gave Callaway the benefit of the doubt because with such a big lead, he probably didn’t want to waste another reliever unless he needed to.
Also, for those taking notes, 3 of the four relievers used had appeared in game 1, meaning that there were 3 fresh arms who had yet to be used in the new season.
Game three against the Nationals saw starter Zack Wheeler throw 5 innings while allowing 4 runs, followed by Robert Gsellmen allowing 1 run over 1.1 innings, followed by Luis Avilan and Tim Peterson recording 1 out each to finish the 7th. All three of these relievers to this point had yet to appear this season, so I’m fine with Callaway here using the fresher arms.
The Mets rallied to tie up the game in the top of the eighth, making the score 5-5. For the eighth inning, he turned to Justin Wilson again, who had pitched the night before. He pitched a scoreless 8th but was sent back out for the 9th inning, where he recorded only one out before he gave up a walk-off home run to Trea Turner.
This was the second big moment with the bullpen where I questioned Callaway’s decision to have Wilson pitch multiple innings after pitching the day before, especially since he made the mistake to use 3 relievers to get through 2 innings earlier on in the game.
In Game 4, Steven Matz pitched 5.1 innings, allowing 3 runs, but only 1 earned. Tim Peterson pitched 1.2 scoreless innings in relief, followed by Jeurys Familia, who pitched a scoreless 8th, and then Edwin Diaz. This was an odd decision because going into the 9th, the Mets had a 7-3 lead and shouldn’t have wasted their closer. Diaz pitched a scoreless 9th, but did struggle and threw 29 pitches, meaning he was unavailable for Game 5 the following night.
In Game 5 of the season, Jason Vargas was pulled following the fifth inning with a 5-2 lead, after throwing only 74 pitches. Robert Gsellman pitched a scoreless 6th, followed by Seth Lugo, who had a rough 7th inning, where he allowed 2 runs, shortening the Mets lead then to 6-4
Then Callaway left Lugo in to start the 8th, where he only recorded 1 out, allowed a third run and left with the bases loaded. Wilson was then brought in to finish the 8th, and then the 9th inning to finish the game, with the Mets winning 6-5.
In summary, as displayed by the breakdown of the first 5 games, Mickey Callaway has shown that he has been overusing certain pitchers in improper situations, as well as leaving relievers in the game too much.
While it is only 5 games into the season, if the Mets hope to make the postseason, they need to address this issue in strategy and not overuse their relievers, because if players like Lugo or Justin Wilson get overused consistently, then they likely won’t make it to October.
They also need to be sure not to burn through the bullpen when they know that other relievers may be unavailable for the game, such as in-game three where 3 pitchers were used to get through the 6th and 7th innings, forcing Wilson to have to pitch two on short rest.
While it’s easy to criticize the team in hindsight, I am a fan of the bullpen we currently have in place right now, but I’m concerned that the overuse and mismanagement of some of the relievers will lead to inconsistent performance and potential injury.
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My hope is that Mickey Callaway takes notice of these issues in strategy sooner rather than later, and corrects them so that the Mets stand a better chance of making the postseason in 2019.