The Mets are winning even without their best weapon getting used as planned

Save situations haven't been plentiful for Mets closer Edwin Diaz this year.
New York Mets v San Francisco Giants
New York Mets v San Francisco Giants / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

When you have the pound-for-pound best closer in baseball on your roster, it’s always welcoming to look at the scoreboard and see a lead of any kind in the ninth inning. New York Mets fans didn’t have this luxury in 2023 although there was very little fear whenever David Robertson was on the mound late. The absence of Edwin Diaz wasn’t the reason why last year was so bad. It’s also not why the team has found itself on the winning side more often than not in 2024.

Because of the 0-5 start, Diaz was thrown off the schedule we’d normally expect from a closer. He had to pitch at some point in the sweep against the Milwaukee Brewers to open the year. There were opportunities to call upon him in the Detroit Tigers series twice but both times were in non-save situations.

Diaz has been perfect thus far in his four chances for a save. Last weekend against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he even picked up a hold when Carlos Mendoza daringly asked him to get outs against the core of the lineup while turning to Reed Garrett for the ninth. It has been more for an adventure at times with Diaz this year, a pair of walks in that Dodgers outing an unearned run in his non-save situation appearance versus the San Francisco Giants.

The Edwin Diaz weapon hasn't had a chance to truly shine this year

The big stretch of Mets wins between their series against the Cincinnati Reds and first leg versus the Dodgers allowed Diaz to get a couple of saves. He would, unfortunately, go from pitching on April 7 to not appearing again on the mound again until April 14. Diaz has had plenty of time to watch baseball this year in part because of Mets losses but also a couple of blowout wins where his services weren’t needed. Diaz, amazingly, didn’t pitch at all against the Atlanta Braves even with the team winning two of three.

It’s not the worst thing for Diaz to get the extra time off. Since April 7 against the Reds, he hasn’t appeared in a series more than once. Just four total appearances in that time with some off-days along the way, Diaz has been well-rested and that’s not such a bad thing for a guy who didn’t pitch an inning the year prior.

Diaz’s season has been a bit strange up to this point. The 1.04 ERA is fantastic to see and yet a pair of unearned runs against him, a strikeout rate of only 12.5 per 9, and a 3.27 FIP would have overly analytic fans a bit nervous about some sort of regression. His velocity has been down this year, too, averaging a 96.7mph 4-seam fastball versus 99.1mph back in 2022.

We may be witnessing an evolution for Edwin Diaz

Freak out time? Hardly. This could be the best thing for him in a quest to stay healthy. Let’s not forget how Jacob deGrom saw his velocity creep up only for it to result in much more time on the IL.

Diaz is supposed to be a hard-throwing beast on the mound. His slider, the only other pitch he has thrown post-2021, is averaging a measly 88.7mph this season. This is down from the 90.8mph it was in 2022. It hasn’t hurt him yet. An average exit velocity of 80.2mph and a hard-hit percentage of 26.3% are both career lows.

Purposeful or not, the Mets haven’t turned to Diaz all that much this season. Garrett, Jorge Lopez, Drew Smith, and Adam Ottavino all have more innings. Jake Diekman is right behind with a matching 9 total appearances. He’s the easiest to plan for except when you hold back on summoning him and the next chance you get isn’t until a game where he has to enter just to get work in.

It’s not as unusual as it may seem. Diaz made 10 appearances in April of 2022 (the season started a little later) and had only 5 save opportunities—one which he blew and would later win. The difference is Diaz pitched in nothing but Mets wins. The 2022 Mets had a knack for winning 2 out of 3 and allowing their best weapon to get used as planned. The 2024 Mets have been streaky and it leaves their howitzer searching for any action he can get.