The New York Mets have had a fantastic offseason. They’ve fixed the starting rotation with the additions of Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt. They’ve fixed the lineup by adding Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar, and Mark Canha. They added a bullpen piece too, in Adam Ottavino.
The problem is, the Mets still don’t have a lefty in the bullpen they can truly trust. Or do they, in a sense?
While they don’t have a physical lefty in their bullpen - or in their starting rotation, for that matter - they do have two right-handed relievers with reverse splits. Generally speaking, right-handed relievers are better against right-handed hitters. However, Miguel Castro and Drew Smith are both better against lefties.
Drew Smith had an awesome 2021, posting a 2.40 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and striking out a batter per inning. Taking a look at his platoon splits, he held righties to a .226/.286/.417/.702 slashline with 22 strikeouts and only six walks allowed. Those are great numbers, but let’s look at his line against lefties. They hit just .145/.270/.371/.641 against him with 19 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Taking a deeper dive into his Baseball Savant metrics, Smith throws almost exclusively fastballs vs. lefties. He throws his firm four-seamer 61.5% of the time and his cutter 21.9% of the time. The remaining 16.6% is split between changeups and curveballs. Hitters are consistently swinging and missing at his offspeed pitches (60% on changeups, 41.2% on curveballs).
When hitters do make contact, much of it goes on the ground. 40% of the contact he gives up on cutters results in ground balls, and his changeup is even better, at 50%. The launch angle against his cutter was just 13 degrees, while his changeup was unliftable at just six degrees.
Miguel Castro also had a good 2021. He tallied a 3.45 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and struck out more than a batter per inning. His one issue is the walks at 5.5 BB/9, so keep that in mind during the rest of this segment. His platoon splits show that righties hit .180/.327/.328/.655. Even with the on-base percentage high because of his command issues, those are good numbers. However, lefties hit .198/.313/.270/.583, which is an insane slashline. Even though their batting average was 18 points higher, their slugging percentage was 58 points lower.
Castro’s Savant page is interesting. He changed his pitch usage a little bit, throwing his slider more to lefties and his changeup a little less. The launch angle against all of his pitches was down in 2021, at just 13 degrees for his sinker, eight degrees against his slider, and three degrees against his changeup. He was able to induce a lot more ground balls because of this, with 42.9% of the contact against his sinker, 50% of the contact against his slider, and 68.2% of the contact against his changeup going on the ground.
His changeup took a huge leap forward in 2021. His expected batting average (xBA) against was just .175, the expected slugging (xSLG) against was just .236, and the xwOBA was just .215. The barrel rate was down to 2.3%, the in zone swing and miss rate was up to 33.3%. He has two pitches that lead the league in average pitch velocity: his changeup, averaging 92.1 mph, and his sinker, averaging 98.
So what does all of this mean? It means that even if there is no lefty, the Mets have guys who are capable of getting lefties out at a very successful rate. Factor in how the Mets don’t have a lefty in the rotation but acquired Chris Bassitt with his reverse splits, the Mets now have several pitchers with reverse splits who are very good in those roles.