Mets must stop relying on minor league pitchers even for mop-up duties
By Tim Boyle
The New York Mets have tried to survive with a bullpen of minor league pitchers. To succeed, they need big leaguers.
On Tuesday September 3, 2019, hope of the New York Mets making the postseason were buried. Up 10-4 in the ninth inning in a game where Jacob deGrom looked prepared to defeat Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals, Mickey Callaway called upon Paul Sewald to record the final three outs of the game.
Unfortunately, those three outs never came. Sewald got the second batter of the inning to fly out to right, but everyone else managed to keep the inning going.
Luis Avilan failed to do his job and Edwin Diaz was on the mound for the three-run home run by Kurt Suzuki to end it. In what should have been an easy victory, the Mets bullpen blew yet another one.
A lot of the blame for this one has fallen on Mickey Callaway and Diaz. Rightfully so. After a clean eighth inning by Seth Lugo and a day game to follow, there’s an argument to make in favor of keeping him in the game. However, because of the big lead, it’s also fair to suggest he should have gone with a lesser arm as he did. In this case, it’s hard to blame Callaway when you want Lugo ready to go again as soon as possible.
Sewald allowed four earned runs in his 1/3 of an inning which raised his ERA of up 4.91 on the year. Coming into the game he was at 2.51 in limited opportunities. His inability to deliver even a below-average inning is what sparked the Nationals rally.
For the past three seasons, the Mets have relied on minor league pitchers like Sewald for mop-up duties. These fringe-major league pitchers in their late 20s have been unsuccessful countless times. Sewald, Chris Mazza, Tim Peterson, Drew Gagnon, and so on have all contributed to more Mets losses than we would like to think about.
This doesn’t include the younger guys such as Jacob Rhame or Chris Flexen who have failed in their opportunities. Take a look at the Mets pitching statistics this year and you’ll find inflated ERAs attached to just about everyone.
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The problem is simple. These men are not major league pitchers. You can get away with having one on your roster to pitch exclusively in games where you’ve lost your starter early. The Mets have made it a habit to carry an abundance of these men throughout the season.
Mop-up duty is an unflattering role in the bullpen. It’s a necessary one, however. The Mets have gotten by—or at least tried to—with minor leaguers in this role. This isn’t working.
While I don’t expect a mop-up man to necessarily have an ERA below 4.00, it is a pitcher who could conceivably only allow a run a little more than every other inning. With all of the failure, I think it’s a job best suited for a veteran. This usually means paying a little more money, but not always.
Imagine a Mets team with more professional pitchers. I’m referring to the ones we all agree belong in the most competitive league in the world: Major League Baseball. Can we say this about many of these guys?
There’s no exact way to find the guy you want when your time is up big or down by double-digits. Failed starters are usually a fit for this role. My personal preference would be to give the task to men with extensive major league experience.
Something I believe in about this Mets team is how mentally broken many of their players become at times. For a younger player with less confidence, this can be far more disastrous. I believe this is a part of why Diaz has failed so often in 2019. It’s also why guys like Sewald seem to have more frequent endless innings than others.
The Mets have a nice core in place, but other parts of the ball club to work on. One of those lesser talked about roles is the “last man in the bullpen.” This is a job that can no longer go to just anybody.
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This game was not Sewald’s fault. I don’t blame Avilan or Diaz either. Even Callaway gets a pass. This latest heartbreaking loss was a result of a 162 game season. Every once in a while—sometimes too often—nights like this happen.