The New York Mets bullpen has shown signs of improvement in 2020, but in 2021, they have a chance to build a much more dynamic relief corps.
New York Mets fans were optimistic about their bullpen situation when the 2020 season began. Not only did the team have the benefit of an unusually deep starting rotation consisting of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Stephen Matz, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha to help carry the pitching load, but they also had a multitude of dynamic relievers.
Stars like Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo led the way with arms like Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson available as complementary options. Things seemed even more secure when the team added All-Star Dellin Betances to the mix.
However, as the shortened season reached the half-way mark, things have been disastrous. The starting rotation was demolished by a Syndergaard injury, Stroman opt-out, and poor performances by Porcello and Wacha. This placed undue pressure on the bullpen.
So far this season, Lugo has shifted roles, Diaz ha lost his closer job, Betances has a high ERA, and the unit ranks 24th in bullpen WAR. It has been a mess. There is, however, still hope for a building a dominant pen before the 2021 season begins. Here are five realistic steps the Mets can take to go from the bottom to the top:
Step #1: Make Seth Lugo the closer
Mets fans are in on a secret that casual MLB fans seem unaware of: Seth Lugo is a fantastic pitcher! The fact that he has bounced from setup man, to spot closer, to starter-in-training has caused his excellent production to be overlooked by many. He is not among anyone’s list of best relievers. He is likely not even owned in your fantasy baseball league.
However, the fact remains that Lugo is great at his job. He has posted an ERA at or below 2.70 in each of the past three seasons and he has been proficient in every role assigned to him. While the Mets would benefit from another good starter, Lugo’s best role is as the closer of the future.
The rotating door of closers needs to stop. Lugo’s spits indicate that he would be a capable option as the primary option at the end of games. While some organizations have used advanced metrics to shift their thinking and deploy their best reliever in the highest leverage late-game situation, I believe that the Mets would be wise to employ a traditional closer. And their best reliever seems to be the ideal man for the job.