Have the New York Mets used Aaron Loup perfectly this year? It’s hard to argue with the results. He is on his way to having one of the best years a relief pitcher ever has.
Amazingly, he has even appeared in all but the third inning this season. Loup even got two starts this season in bullpen games for the club. He retired all six batters he faced while adding three strikeouts to his season statistics.
Mostly used in the latter part of the game, it’s not really fair to truly criticize anyone for how he has been used because of the success. But with the season winding down and the Mets fighting for .500 more than an actual playoff berth, there is one question weighing on a few people’s minds.
Should the Mets have pushed Aaron Loup into even bigger situations?
Heading into action on Sunday, Loup has retired more batters in the eighth inning than any other this year. His 15 innings in the eighth tops the 14.1 tossed in the sixth and 14 in the seventh. He has been used exactly as we would expect. When the starter is out, the game is on the line, and a lefty is coming up, it’s Loup who has routinely gotten the call.
There is a major difference between pitching the sixth and eighth inning. There’s also a good chance some of the same batters will come up in the order. With just three outs separating them in the seventh, you’re often choosing which time you want Loup to face that part of the order.
Friday’s loss to the Philadelphia Phillies represented an example of this. When they removed Taijuan Walker after the fifth, it was Loup who entered the game. It made a lot of sense. Bryce Harper was coming up. Loup, like he has often done, retired the Phillies in order. He even struck out Harper.
Then came the seventh inning where the Mets went from trailing 2-1 to 3-1. By the time Seth Lugo was able to get out of the inning and the Mets were back on the field for the eighth inning, the same exact batters of the Phillies order were due up.
Loup was no longer available. Fortunately, the club had Brad Hand to dispose of Harper. Unfortunately, this came after a double and single and what would eventually turn into an RBI off the bat of Didi Gregorius. It was Jeurys Familia who would surrender the hit to Gregorius.
It’s a small moment and not one to cite as the reason why the Mets lost the game. It does represent something about Loup’s usage. He never really seemed to become a true setup man in the sense that he was locked into the eighth, sometimes seventh, inning of any game.
The Mets strategy with Aaron Loup this year is debatable
Knowing Loup has been the team’s most consistent reliever, the Mets have chosen to go to him sooner than later. He’s the relief pitcher that helps them survive another inning. Luis Rojas has never seemed to hesitate to call upon him for some big outs even if the team might need him six outs later.
In fairness to the Mets strategy, Loup’s weakness has been pitching in high leverage situations. Batters are hitting .250/.311/.328 against him in those 74 opportunities. Compare this to the .177/.242/.503 in medium leverage and .135/.179/.135 in low leverage, it’s likely the team views Loup as a guy who can get them through certain situations but not others.
The eighth inning has been a struggle at times for Loup, too. The .271/.302/.339 slash line against him in the penultimate frame doesn’t exactly inspire confidence to make any change. Compared to his sixth and seventh inning performances (.083/.185/.146 and .108/.182/.135) it’s no wonder why the Mets never seemed to give Loup a promotion in their bullpen.
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I take nothing away from what Loup has done this year. Frankly, after reviewing the numbers, he probably was set up to perform his best. He just happened to achieve more than anyone could have dreamed in his minimal role closer to middle reliever than actual setup guy.