One of the New York Mets' biggest strengths, if not their biggest strength last season, surprisingly, was their bullpen. The Mets just flat out did not hit all year, yet they were in first place for most of it. The starting rotation was great in the first half, but they collapsed in the second half when Jacob deGrom went down with an injury. That meant the bullpen had to pitch a lot.
In the second half of the season it seemed like no pitcher other than Marcus Stroman was capable of giving the Mets anything close to a quality outing. The bullpen was responsible to pitch a heavy workload and for the most part, performed admirably.
One of the biggest contributors to the Mets bullpen was Aaron Loup. Unfortunately, he signed with the Angels. Another big contributor to the Mets bullpen was Jeurys Familia. He just signed with the Phillies.
While Familia wasn't nearly as dominant as he was in his first Mets tenure, 65 appearances and 12 holds aren't very easy to replace.
Familia was very useful as a middle reliever and as frustrating as he was to watch at certain points, he did come up aces in big moments often throughout the season. There're a lot of similarities between Familia and the newest Met, Adam Ottavino.
The Mets signed Ottavino to a one-year $4 million dollar deal. He comes with very little risk as he is on a cheap one-year deal, but has the potential to be a very crucial piece in the Mets bullpen.
Right now the Mets bullpen has a lot of talent. Edwin Diaz is a very good closer. Trevor May and Seth Lugo are reliable late-game arms. Miguel Castro and Drew Smith are coming off of very good years with tons of potential. Ottavino can slot into a couple of different places. He has experience as a late game reliever during his time with the Yankees. He also can pitch the middle innings if need be.
Ottavino went 7-3 with a 4.21 ERA in 69 appearances. Not great, but Familia-esque. He struck out 71 batters in 62 innings pitched, a 10.3 K/9. The issue that has plagued Ottavino throughout his career has been his tendency to lose the strike zone at times. He walked 5.1/9 last season and has walked 4.1/9 in his career. Not great. However, he doesn't allow many home runs (0.7 HR/9 last season.)
The reason why I think the Ottavino signing is so exciting is because of his advanced metrics. Ottavino excelled at avoiding hard contact. He ranked in the 93rd percentile in average exit velocity, the 95th percentile in hard-hit percentage, and the 90th percentile in barrel percentage. The walks are frustrating, but when you don't allow a lot of hard contact, they often won't come back to bite you especially if you have a good defensive team behind you like the Mets do.
Ottavino has dominated right-handed hitters in his entire career, holding them to a .213/.296/.329 slash line with just 31 home runs allowed in 1,299 at-bats. Righties have an 82 OPS+ against him in his career. The lefties get to him a little more, but they did not hit a single home run against Ottavino in 101 plate appearances this past season.
Ottavino has also had a lot of success pitching in New York. In his only full season in the Bronx, Ottavino posted a 1.90 ERA in 73 appearances. He had that level of success even while walking 5.4 batters per nine. That was a result of him limiting hard contact and striking out a lot of batters. When he's on he can be really good.
Ottavino likely won't be anything close to what he was in 2019 but for one-year $4 million dollars that's perfectly fine. Not every bullpen has eight all-stars in it. He is, however, a veteran arm who has pitched in countless different situations and will do just fine in a middle relief role in this Mets bullpen. He came at a very low cost, and is essentially replacing Jeurys Familia. In my opinion, he is an upgrade.