The revamped New York Mets bullpen is not initially working out as Brodie Van Wagenen had planned. However, it is still early and we should expect them to improve.
The current relief corps for the New York Mets seem to be massively underperforming their talent, at least using their careers as evidence. Edwin Diaz has mostly been identified as the sole reliable piece standing after struggles from nearly every other member of the ‘pen.
Mining through each of these pitchers’ stats will be a futile measure considering the minuscule sample size of the situation. However, an analysis of each reliever’s performance can reveal some of their inadequacies. Seth Lugo has struggled mightily this season, poor performances bookended by two innings in which he struck out the side.
Lugo’s Opening Day performance was very reminiscent of his brilliance from last season and that style of pitching was also present in his April 7 outing against the Nationals. He regained his 96-mph fastball and his sharp curveball with its insane spin rate. The intermediate period between both excellent performances were flat breaking balls, reduced velocity, and an exorbitant ERA.
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It is for the most part due to a lengthy illness that required medication that prevented him from executing his pitches properly. Being significantly separated from his illness has allowed him to regain his form. Multiple years of success in the major leagues and the same pitches that he excelled with last season being executed provide enough evidence for one to expect a turnaround.
Robert Gsellman also has shown strides of improvement over the opening weekend series, at Citi Field, with the Nationals. Outside of a sharply hit double by Anthony Rendon, he routinely produced soft ground balls with his hard sinker and two-seam fastball. He did allow a run- Rendon scored on a Ryan Zimmermann ground out- that would have been easily avoided if Mickey Callaway made the logical decision of playing the infield in.
The larger issue is not the arms in the bullpen, it is more so how they are being utilized. First off, Callaway has had a major issue of pushing pitchers too long, beyond their limit. Justin Wilson pitched a perfectly clean eighth inning in the third game of the season, but when pushed for a second inning of work he ceded a walk-off home run to Trea Turner. Luis Avilan, who has typically been used a lefty-specialist, got through a clean eighth inning on April 3, but when he was brought out for the ninth he immediately faltered.
While this is not all on Calloway, he needs to begin to gain familiarity with the relievers and how to utilize them. It is a process that takes time and will improve.
Another part of the equation is the fact that the Mets faced the Nationals twice in the first nine games, thus the batters’ previous at-bats against the Mets bullpen are very fresh, making them easier matchups. Early in a season, these sort of issues plague clubs and it is evident around the league. The National League bullpen ERA rankings are quite high to start the year, the entire NL East besides the Marlins being in the bottom ten of the league.
The combination of high ERAs, overused arms, and familiar opponents have created a formula for the Mets bullpen to falter. They have the talent to produce at an adequate level, but an amassing of circumstances has prevented early success. Perhaps pursuing Craig Kimbrel is a necessary step they must take to add more depth, but unless things change rapidly it is doubtful that a deal will materialize.
Therefore, the Mets bullpen certainly has the talent to be successful, yet it may take another arm to take the next step. Overall, despite early struggles, it would be very reactionary to assume there will not be any improvement.
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Everyone has to settle in, those playing the game, those managing the game, and also those analyzing it. It is too early to figure anything out, but it is also too early to be significantly concerned.