The New York Mets had a lot to celebrate in 2022, including Buck Showalter taking home the National League Manager of the Year award. In his first year with the Mets, Showalter led the team to 101 wins, which was good for the second-best record in franchise history.
Known for his meticulous attention to detail and ability to get the best out of players, there’s no doubt that Showalter was a breath of fresh air for the franchise’s managerial position. But despite taking home the hardware for his accomplishments last year, there’s still room for improvement in 2023.
Mets fans will certainly remember the brutal September that contained a sweep by the lowly Cubs and a three-game skid to the Nationals and Pirates, but what may not be remembered was Showalter’s misuse of the bullpen in those games.
Mets manager Buck Showalter will need to be more meticulous with his bullpen use in 2023, especially with the NL East improving
At home against the Nationals, down 2-1 in the top of the 9th inning, Showalter elected to go with Adonis Medina instead of Edwin Diaz, even though Diaz had only pitched twice in the previous week. Medina, who, despite his heroics in Los Angeles, had a terrible outing before this appearance, got lit up to the tune of four earned runs while only recording one out.
A similar situation would befall Showalter the following week when he decided to send out Bryce Montes de Oca for a second inning in a game where the Mets were facing a narrow deficit. Instead of keeping it close, Montes de Oca proceeded to put the game out of reach by turning a 4-2 game into a 7-2 hole.
Both these instances (and a handful of others) suggested that Showalter was subconsciously conceding the games at hand, in a crucial stretch for the Mets. This isn’t to suggest that Showalter was necessarily throwing in the towel, but it would point to the idea that perhaps he was looking ahead to the next game or two, rather than trying to put the Mets in a position to win the current game.
This isn’t to suggest that all of Showalter’s bullpen decisions were bad. You’ll remember that Buck wasn’t scared to go to Diaz in the 8th inning to face the heart of an opponents’ lineup, rather than solely using him in the 9th. Adam Ottavino having a career year and Seth Lugo returning to his old form certainly helped aid this decision, but the point remains that Showalter’s bullpen management wasn’t all bad.
However, Showalter has made questionable bullpen decisions in the past. His most notorious decision was to bring in Ubaldo Jimenez instead of Zach Britton in an elimination game against the Blue Jays in the American League Wild Card game in 2016.
With the National League East set to be a gauntlet in 2023, the Mets will need to capitalize on every opportunity throughout the season and it would behoove Showalter to manage his bullpen with a sense of urgency throughout the year.