Mets bullpen needs Seth Lugo more than the rotation does in 2021
By Mason Smoller
Despite the needs in their starting rotation, the New York Mets must keep Seth Lugo in the bullpen.
Since making his debut on July 1st, 2016, Seth Lugo has become one of the most underrated pitchers in all of baseball. Pitching 383.1 innings over his five seasons for the New York Mets, the 31-year-old has been one of the team’s few consistent pitchers. Without a doubt, his value is undeniable.
And that is why he must remain in the bullpen in 2021.
For the first time since 2017, the Mets turned to Lugo to be a staple in their starting rotation. Injuries and poor pitching forced the move, as Lugo went from being a force in the bullpen to average as a starter.
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Over seven starts, Lugo went 2-2, posting a 6.15 earned run average and giving up seven home runs. Whereas compared to his nine bullpen appearances, Lugo owned a 2.61 earned run average with three saves and only one home run given up in 10.1 innings. Simply put, he was not the same player once stretched into the rotation.
But it was not only in 2020 where Lugo saw such a drastic difference between the rotation and bullpen.
When called up at age 26 in 2016, he originally was a starter, though his average numbers and the Mets talent at the front of the rotation pushed him to the bullpen. Over his career, Lugo owns a 4.35 earned run average in 194.2 innings, giving up a .272 batting average.
From the bullpen, Lugo becomes a completely different animal, one that the Mets need him to be in order to contend this season. In 188.2 career innings as a reliever, Lugo has a 2.53 earned run average with opponents only hitting .197 against him. Clearly, the numbers speak for themselves – Lugo is elite in the bullpen, not the rotation.
Looking at the starting rotation, the Mets have plenty of arms that can match Lugo’s performance. Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman round out the team’s one and two. Noah Syndergaard brings his own power to the mound once he returns from Tommy John, and rookie David Peterson is coming off of a strong debut. Plus, the team is rumored to be making a big push to sign free agent starting pitchers.
As for the bullpen, the Mets will need at least one or two relievers to depend on for a strong outing. Who knows which version of Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, and others might show up in 2021? Let alone if Edwin Diaz’s promising performance last season will continue over a full season.
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Of course, a lot can change in the coming weeks with free agency and winter meetings taking place. The Mets are going to be very active, as Lugo’s versatility comes in handy as Sandy Alderson builds this roster. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Seth Lugo must remain in the bullpen in 2021 because of the elite reliever he offers in a day where few are as reliable as him.