Mets will need Edwin Diaz at the top of his game when baseball returns
By Stephen Tomas
When baseball returns, the New York Mets will need to get the best out of Edwin Diaz in the closer’s role.
The New York Mets had an exciting offseason in 2018-2019, making several moves including the trade that landed All-Star closer Edwin Diaz. A big move to address an area of need creates an immediate increase in confidence. The enthusiasm that it generates is abundant amongst both the team and its fans.
However, sometimes trades that initially cause excitement sour and turn bad quickly. The Mets and their fans are far too familiar with this reality. Diaz provides Mets fans with a perfect example of how quickly hope can turn into horror. In 2019, the young closer’s 5.59 ERA, 73 ERA+, and 1.38 WHIP were career worsts, and by quite a bit.
Prior to 2019, Diaz never had an ERA higher than 3.27 (2017), an ERA+ lower than 128 (2017), or a WHIP higher than 1.16 (2016, his rookie season). It’s always disappointing when an offseason acquisition does not perform to their expectations. It is especially frustrating when a player expected to be as close to a sure thing as they come fails miserably.
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Diaz did strike people out, posting a career-best 15.4 SO9, but when he did not miss bats the results were terrible. He struck out many but gave up a lot of hits as well, evident by the career-high 9 hits per nine that he turned in. Diaz was supposed to solve the 9th inning issues that have plagued the team for several seasons, but he contributed to the problem instead.
So after such a terrible season in 2019 is there any reason to think that Diaz is capable of turning things around?
Yes, he absolutely can. He just turned 26 in March and still has elite stuff, but he must keep the ball out of the bleachers.
Much has been made of the move to New York being stressful on Diaz due to the increased expectations. In comparison to Seattle, New York crowds tend to be larger and louder. Many think that the added pressure to perform on a bigger stage got to Diaz, and to some extent it certainly did. His body language on the mound often looked awful and he frequently wore a defeated facial expression.
In any event, it is hard to justify blaming his lack of success entirely on the speculation of added stress. As was the problem for most pitchers in 2019, the number of home runs that he gave up increased at an alarming rate, leaving him with a career-high HR/9 of 2.3 (his previous high was 1.4 in 2017).
Overall, Diaz allowed a career-worst 15 home runs over a career-low 58 innings pitched by the end of the 2019 season. His previous worst was 5 home runs over 73.1 innings in 2018. He clearly did not end the decade on a high note. That being said, his talent and youth make anticipating a bounce-back season much more plausible.
If Diaz can stay healthy both physically and mentally, he is a strong rebound candidate. Let’s hope that he is and that he starts off the new decade fresh and focussed on the present. Toss out last season and the Mets still have a dominant 26-year-old closer in Diaz.
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Last season was a disaster, but it’s over, and there is still plenty to like about having Edwin Diaz on the team moving forward.