Trevor May will help solidify the New York Mets bullpen and do so at a bargain price.
The New York Mets finally made their first big splash of the Steve Cohen era, as the Mets signed former Minnesota Twins reliever Trevor May to a 2 year, $15.5 million deal. The deal is going to pay May around $8 million per year, and let me tell you, this deal is an absolute steal for the Mets.
I know the first thing everyone is going to pay attention to is the ERA. While a 3.86 ERA isn’t great at first glance, remember that 2020 was a funny year for pitchers. Elite pitchers like Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, and Jose Berrios all had ERAs over 4.00. You have to dig below the surface to find May’s true value, which is very high.
In a league where strikeouts have increasingly gone up over the years, Baseball Savant tells you that May is in the 98th percentile in strikeout percentage, as well as 99th percentile in whiff percentage (the number of swings and misses May gets). Last year, May struck out 39.6% of the batters he faced, which placed him in the top 2% of the league.
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May’s strikeout numbers have been consistent since 2016 as well, which is around the time the Twins converted him from a starter to a reliever. Since 2016, May is averaging about 11 strikeouts per nine innings, and averaged 14.7 strikeouts per nine this year, which is ridiculous.
The change from starter to reliever is a significant one for a couple of reasons. One, your mindset changes. When you are a starter, you have to conserve your energy and figure out how to make pitches and maintain velocity over the course of nine innings.
As a reliever, you come in for one to two innings max, and throw as hard as you can, which can unlock a grittier mentality for a lot of guys.
The second reason, which ties into the first reason in a way, is that it will make your pitches better and also make your velocity go up, which has happened for May. According to Baseball Savant, he sits in the 89th percentile in fastball velocity, with an average of around 96 miles per hour.
It’s also allowed his offspeed pitches to become more effective as well. This year, he had a .176 BAA on his slider, with a 34.4% whiff rate on that pitch. Just as well, his changeup had a 38.7% whiff rate. We know his fastball is great, but being able to have offspeed pitches that can get swings and misses in pressure situations is huge, and he clearly has those.
Being a reliever has also allowed him to be much better with runners on base, which is essential, considering he’s going to be a late-inning relief pitcher for the Mets. According to Fangraphs, from 2014-2016, May had a LOB% (left on base %) that never exceeded 74%. Since 2018, May’s LOB% has never dipped below 78%, with it being exactly 80% last year.
If you take a look at May’s numbers at face value, simply staring at the 3.86 ERA, you may not be that impressed. It’s really when you take a look at the numbers at an even deeper level that you will see his true value.
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With a 7, 8, 9 combination of May, Lugo, and Diaz, the Mets have the potential to boast one of, if not the nastiest, back end bullpens in baseball. Let’s welcome May to New York with open arms, and expect big things from him!