Whenever Seth Lugo pitches poorly, it feels like a betrayal. He has been the team’s most consistent relief pitcher for several years now. Whether he was going one or more innings regularly, New York Mets fans could usually count on him to get them through some tough and late innings.
Now 0-1 with an 8.31 ERA through his first five appearances, Lugo is beginning to feel the wrath of fans.
While exiting the mound in Saturday’s game after giving up a two-run home run and an RBI double, Lugo received a much different ovation than most of the Mets players did at Friday’s opener.
Mets reliever Seth Lugo is a free agent at the end of this season and this isn’t going to help his case
Already 32 and with his first trip to free agency occurring at age 33, Lugo was already in a poor position to get a nice fat contract. His regression from the multi-inning threat he was in 2018 and 2019 is becoming an alarming trend.
We can write off anything he did in 2020 because he spent about half of his appearances as a starter and the other part closing games for the Mets. Last year, Lugo missed significant time and only ended up with 46.1 innings of work in 46 appearances. He wasn’t getting used the same way he had been in the past when two inning performances were the norm. He also saw his ERA balloon up to 3.50 from the 2.66 and 2.70 it was in his two prime seasons.
A 3.50 ERA reliever isn’t bad. I think many of us have the 4.00 marking as a fair barometer setting to determine whether it could be positive or negative. Lugo may still have something left in the tank. But with a lengthy injury last year plus the partially torn UCL ready to snap at any moment, any team that does sign him is already taking a risk.
There was a much different vibe at Citi Field and on social media following the 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The boos Lugo received were also in part because the team didn’t force its offense to step onto the field at the end of the game to take it. The lineup mustered only five hits all day with their lone two runs coming when Starling Marte hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eight. Other than that one swing, you could have spent all day at Citi Field admiring the Tom Seaver statue and not miss a lick of offense.
Days like this will come and go for the Mets all season long. It’s no time to freak out about the team. Lugo, on the other hand, may be worth worrying about.
Looking a little less special these days, it appears Lugo picked the wrong year to break down and become more average. His free agency case could be less about he can offer a contender and more about offering him an opportunity to rebuild his stock.
There is still a lot of baseball left to play. As a fan of his, I’m willing to have a little more patience. How much, though, will depend on what he looks like the next time he takes the mound.