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Mets reliever Aaron Loup is the most important player nobody is talking about

Mar 4, 2021; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Aaron Loup (32) pitches against the Washington Nationals at Clover Park. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2021; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Aaron Loup (32) pitches against the Washington Nationals at Clover Park. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
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The days of the lefty specialist are over in Major League Baseball. The three-batter minimum made sure of this. While it doesn’t completely eliminate the need for southpaws in the bullpen, it does change their duties. The New York Mets went out and acquired a few lefties this offseason. The most prominent reliever was Aaron Loup.

Calling Loup “prominent” does feel like a bit of a stretch. Prior to joining the Mets, his name was one I only vaguely knew. He has bounced around with a few teams, most recently as a part of the American League pennant-winning Tampa Bay Rays in 2020.

Loup is the lone lefty guaranteed to be in the Mets bullpen at the start of the 2021 season. He’s on an island all alone in a role the Mets cannot ignore. Considering how important he is, why aren’t more people talking about him?

Mets will need some big outs from Aaron Loup this year

Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, and probably someone on the Miami Marlins—they must have a good lefty down there—could give the Mets some trouble this year. The questionable bullpen in Flushing is full of righties who should face some big-name lefty-swingers at some point in 2021.

In those big spots late in games, it’s Loup who should be on the mound.

Left-handed hitters are batting .232/.301/.319 versus Loup in his career. Righties haven’t dominated him (.264/.333/.424) but the contrasting numbers do fit well into the narrative that he’s a guy you want on the bump versus lefties a lot more.

Contrary to what we might believe, Loup had better numbers against right-handed hitters last year. They batted only .192/.246/.423 against him compared to the .212/.278/.303 slash line lefties had.

The small sample size (a must-have phrase when talking about 2020 statistics) could play a factor. However, Loup’s career numbers against righties are not so bad anyway.

Mets won’t have too many other places to go

Aside from Loup, the two best lefty candidates to make the Opening Day bullpen are Jerry Blevins and Joey Lucchesi. Blevins is a veteran who made a living facing lefties almost exclusively during his peak. He could have the edge over Lucchesi if only because the Mets want to keep him stretched out as a potential starter if needed.

Down the line, the Mets could also have David Peterson pitching out of the bullpen when all of their starters are healthy (i.e. Noah Syndergaard returns). Even then, Loup’s importance to New York is clear.

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The Mets didn’t sign any of the top relievers available this winter. Instead, they chose to add Loup and a right-handed counterpart, Trevor May. Both solid arms, it’s guys like them we can’t afford to see fail because of how few options there are behind them.

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