Mets: Getting to know Hunter Strickland, one of the new faces at camp
By Tim Boyle
Let’s get to know a little more about one of the newest members of the New York Mets, relief pitcher Hunter Strickland.
Hunter Strickland is one of the newest members of the New York Mets organization. He is one of those players they added right as rosters were being finalized prior to Summer Camp, Spring Training 2.0, Working Out Part Deux—whatever you’d like to call it.
Best known for a rivalry with Bryce Harper, which certainly adds some bonus points, I wanted to take a closer look at some of his numbers.
While the odds of seeing Strickland appear in a Mets uniform this year aren’t great, giving him this opportunity could always lead to a relationship down the line.
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Prior to 2019, Strickland was having a very good career as a member of the San Francisco Giants. Of course, it’s important to note how many pitchers thrive in that ballpark because of how welcoming it is to them.
In 226 relief innings for the Giants, Strickland was 14-14 with a 2.91 ERA. It wasn’t all just luck, though. He had a 138 ERA+ and 3.68 FIP. This suggests to me that he was an above-average pitcher who did get lucky sometimes.
Strickland isn’t an overpowering reliever reliant on strikeouts. He has never had a full campaign where he averaged more than a strikeout per inning. He is close, though, with a career total of 8.2 strikeouts per nine frames.
Those San Francisco nights included work mostly as a setup man. In 2018, he got the opportunity to save 14 games. This was, however, his worst season in a Giants’ uniform. His 3.97 ERA wasn’t dreadful but it was still more than a run higher than what he did as a member of the Giants in his previous 3+ seasons.
Strickland only became available because the Washington Nationals released him this preseason. He was actually a member of their roster for the final two months in 2019, delivering a 5.14 ERA in his 21 innings. Before that, he was with the Seattle Mariners which featured just 3.1 innings of work and an 8.10 ERA. That’s far too little to really analyze much at all.
If you watched closely, you may have even seen Strickland appear in two games during the NLDS. He gave up three home runs in two innings of work which ended his postseason.
It’s certainly possible Strickland’s best days are now in the past. His struggles in 2018 could be written off as discomfort in the closer role. Last year, we can attempt to blame the injuries that sidelined him for so long.
Adding him to the organization was definitely wise by the Mets. Particularly in this uncertainty with the 2020 season still looming, it’s important to have guys you know can pitch in the big leagues albeit less effectively than they used to.
Likely, Strickland is one of those guys who puts on a Mets’ uniform for a few exhibition games at best. But what if he’s more? What if he enjoys his time with the club so much he returns next year?
The Mets were able to get Brad Brach back (say that three times fast) for the 2020 season following a short visit at the end of 2019. He was one of the first additions they made in the winter.
It goes back to some old trade deadline debates about how it’s worth adding a superstar player for the final two months if it means you are able to get them in your door. I remember this was a big argument throughout 2018 when it came to Manny Machado. Fans of many clubs—not so much the Mets—were willing to overpay for two months of him just for the chance to start negotiating early.
Let’s not kid ourselves; Strickland isn’t a coveted free agent. However, at only 31, there’s definitely reason to believe he has something left in his arm.
Perhaps we will get a chance to see Strickland pitch for the Mets next spring in a more realistic attempt at cracking the roster. I think a reason why the Mets brought him, Melky Cabrera, and so many others to Citi Field this month was to get a head start on seeing what else is out there.
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Strickland isn’t going to wow us or assume the closer role anytime soon. What he can do is possibly provide the Mets with a little more bullpen depth—something they so desperately needed in 2019 and may continue to require for the haul through the 60-game 2020 campaign.