New York Mets biggest wild card in 2021 is Dellin Betances
By Mason Smoller
On February 16th, Seth Lugo, the star of the New York Mets bullpen, got surgery to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow. Chances are, he will only be resuming throwing around opening day, leaving a massive hole in the Amazins’ bullpen.
In Lugo’s absence, the Mets are going to need to rely on their other bullpen arms. Luckily, the Mets have a deep group of righties to hold down the fort. Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, and Miguel Castro all are capable righties who can take on those late-inning workloads.
Except, there is one reliever who, if he regains form, would be the perfect set up man for closer Edwin Diaz. And that is none other than Dellin Betances.
Mets need Dellin Betances to return to form
As usual, the Mets are going to hope their starting pitchers can go late into games. After all, that is what happens when a starting rotation includes Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, a healthy Taijuan Walker, and eventually Noah Syndergaard.
However, coming off of a shortened 60-game season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teams are going to be somewhat wary to let pitchers go deep often early in the year. Leaving teams wanting to use their bullpen arms early and often.
While the Mets have plenty of bullpen arms, few have the upside of Dellin Betances. That is, assuming he is back at full strength.
The 6-8 and 265-pound pitcher has not pitched lower than a 4.91era in spring training since 2016, but his six earned runs in four innings pitched this spring are certainly alarming. Especially when taking into consideration his horrid 2020 season.
In 2020, Betances had the worst year of his career since becoming an established bullpen arm. Over 11.2 innings of work, Betances owned a 7.71era and had a strikeout per nine inning mark of only 8.5. Definitely not the numbers the Mets thought Betances would post when they signed him last off-season.
But can Betances he?
From 2014-2018, there were few relief pitchers as dominant in all of baseball as Dellin Betances. Over the five-year span, Betances made four All-Star games, while holding a 2.22era over 373.1 innings pitched. Not to mention, the righty averaged no fewer than 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and over 15.0 for three straight years.
In other words, prime Dellin Betances was absolutely unstoppable during his time with the New York Yankees until 2019. After one appearance that season, Betances suffered a partially left torn Achilles, knocking him out the season. Clearly, Betances has not been the same player since.
In spring training, Betances has been among the few disappointments for New York. His velocity has dropped, and he has been outperformed by the other arms in the team’s pen. There is no doubt Betances will make the opening day roster, yet, if he continues to struggle, how long can the Mets afford to put up with his performance?
Betances’ outlook for 2021
Of course, the past year has been hectic, unusual, and downright chaotic for not only baseball players but for the entire world. Players who dominated previously saw drastic drops in production in the odd year and hope to bounce back this season, Betances among them.
Without a doubt, the Mets want Betances to return to his old Yankee self, especially in Lugo’s absence. If the Mets could get even a semblance of 2014-2018 Betances, the Mets will have a terrifying quartet in Betances, May, Diaz, and Lugo – once he returns.
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Nevertheless, that may be wishful thinking, because Betances may simply not be that kind of shutdown pitcher anymore. He remains the biggest question mark among all Mets pitchers, and time will only tell as to whether he can be reliable or remains a liability in 2021.