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Mets acquisition of Nick Tropeano is a savvy bullpen move

Sep 2, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Nick Tropeano (72) pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 2, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Nick Tropeano (72) pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Nick Tropeano is an accomplished pitcher who showed encouraging signs in 2020 that he could be a solid contributor for the New York Mets in 2021.

After Steve Cohen finalized his purchase of the New York Mets, the club wasted no time in pursuing needed pitching help.

Yahoo! Sports announced on Friday that the Mets have claimed right-handed pitcher Nick Tropeano off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although this move has flown under-the-radar because most ardent baseball fans are focused on Steve Cohen’s ownership sale, the Mets should be congratulated for this shrewd, perspicacious move. Nick Tropeano may not be a huge name that will shake up the Mets bullpen, but his acquisition is an indication of how the new ownership and management plans on constructing the Mets bullpen.

Tropeano has been in the major leagues for six seasons. He received his first opportunity with the Houston Astros in 2014 after a brief but successful run with the Oklahoma City RedHawks (now the Oklahoma City Dodgers) which saw him pitch to a 9–5 record, a 3.09 ERA, and a 0.987 WHIP in 124 ⅔ innings. He then spent several years with the Los Angeles Angels, mostly serving as a backend starter or long reliever.

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Tropeano utilizes four types of pitches, although he mostly uses either a fastball or a split-finger fastball, which comprises approximately 57% of pitches thrown. For his offspeed pitches, he routinely goes to his curveball, which he deploys against hitters 31% of the time. He also occasionally throws changeups to mix with his primary offspeed pitch.

Tropeano is also an adroit pitcher, skillful enough to handle a various number of pitching assignments.

Over the course of his big league career, Tropeano has served as the Angels starting pitcher and has also been deployed out of the bullpen, most recently for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2020, Tropeano appeared in seven games out of the Pirates bullpen, allowing two earned runs in 15 ⅔ innings.

Although his 2020 year was a small sample size, Tropeano displayed certain trends that are encouraging for his potential success as a Met. For example, he enjoyed a substantial decrease in the amount of balls hit for “hard” contact (which is defined by MLB.com’s Statcast page as a batted ball that has an exit velocity of 95 mph or greater). In 2019, Tropeano allowed a Hard% of 54.2%. In 2020, he decreased this percentage to 31.7% while seeing his medium% increase by 23%. The quality of contact data is one indicator of the quality of pitches Tropeano is throwing hitters has dramatically improved since his rocky 2019 season.

Tropeano also struck out more hitters at a higher rate, averaging 10.91 strikeouts per 9 innings in 2020. This is a career-high for him in his age-30 season, and it also speaks to the quality of the pitches he threw in 2020.

The Mets, meanwhile, are facing a tenuous starting pitching situation, which I have highlighted in a previous article. With the starting pitching market being replete with middling starters with the exception of Trevor Bauer, there is no guarantee the Mets will have five reliable starting pitchers to begin the 2021 season. Because of this distinct possibility, there is a growing belief that the Mets may employ an opener more often in 2021 than they did in any previous season.

Nick Tropeano’s versatility makes him a potential candidate to fill that role. Tropeano’s proven record as a starter with the Angels and his success as a reliever with the Pirates shows that he can be a multifaceted pitcher. With all of the question marks that the Mets currently have with their pitching staff, it would behoove them to bring aboard pitchers who are versatile and provide the Mets with the flexibility of mixing and matching pitchers based on matchups.

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At the very least, the Mets acquisition of Tropeano shows that the Mets are prioritizing versatility out of the bullpen and that they may be more receptive to abjuring the traditional pitching philosophy in favor of a more analytical-driven approach to pitching.

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