There would be no surprise if you watched the 2019 Mets, that their bullpen was the detriment that hampered the Mets playoff aspirations.
In 2019, the Mets had the 6th worst bullpen ERA, with a 4.95 era, even behind the 114 loss Detroit Tigers. Two 2019 offseason acquisitions, Jeurys Familia, who signed a surprising 3-year 30 million dollar contract, and Edwin Diaz, who was acquired alongside Robinson Canó from Seattle, were massive disappointments. Familia was a -0.4 WAR player in 2019 with a 5.70 ERA, the highest of his career. He gave up a career-high 7 home runs and 42 walks, 10 more than his previous high.
Edwin Diaz season was even more disappointing, considering the prowess he had coming into the season coming off a 57 save, 1.96 ERA, and 124 SO season. He was a -0.6 WAR player with a 5.59 ERA, and he gave up a staggering 15 home runs, notably in spots that titanically hurt the Mets in big moments.
The Mets 2020 projected bullpen is as follows…
Here are 3 things the Mets need to count on for this group to not only rebound from being one of the worst bullpens in the entire Major Leagues, but to be one of the more formidable units in the National League.
1) Get Familia and Diaz Back on Track
If Familia and Diaz performed up to their projected norms, the Mets would have been in the playoffs. Due to their ineffectiveness, the Mets fell 3 games short of the second wild card at 86 wins. Familia and Diaz left the Mets in a conundrum, but the front office has made strides to correct the issues these players were facing.
In regards to Familia, he was on the record with the NY Post, stating that he put on weight in the 2019 offseason, and it began to disrupt the rhythm in his mechanics. To correct this issue, Familia has been training with David Paladino, owner of Impact Zone Fitness and Sports Performance. To date, Familia has lost 30 pounds, 270 to 230, as seen below. If this allows more mobility and comfort with his mechanics, Familia could become more effective in ball placement, limiting his walk rate.
Diaz, who some think may not have the mental fortitude to handle New York, was notably hurt by the lowered seams in the baseball ins 2019, which saw a massive uptick in home runs across the league. MLB’s investigation of the balls being used concluded that the seams should be raised for the 2020 season is good news for Diaz, who saw his slider movement be limited, allowing hitters to take advantage in a significant way.
Diaz has also been working with new Mets pitching coach Jeremey Hefner, who is known to be analytically driven and is able to relay that information in ways that players find comfortable and manageable in implementing to their game.
2) Lugo and Wilson Repeat Their 2019 Performances
Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson were the most productive contributors to the 2019 Mets bullpen. Lugo continued to be a consistent presence in the bullpen, with a 2.2 WAR season with a 2.70 ERA in 61 games and 80 innings pitched. He, again, reached over 100 strikeouts for the second consecutive season with a 0.900 WHIP.
What made Lugo even more beneficial to the Mets was that he would consistently work more than one inning, although this would limit his availability throughout the week. Wilson, acquired by Brodie Van Wagenen in late January 2019 offseason, had a commendable year. He amassed a 1.3 WAR with a 2.54 ERA in 39 innings pitched. He showed he could handle the late innings, filling in on saving situations late in the season when Diaz was displaced from the closer’s role, and when Lugo required a day off.
The Mets will highly benefit if these two continue to trend towards the seasons they had last year, especially playing in one of the more competitive divisions in the league.
3) The New Guys Build up Quality Relief Innings
Brodie Van Wagenen didn’t stay status quo with the bullpen and brought in some exciting pieces to compliment the players currently situated in the pen. First, the signing of Dellin Betances was the signing Mets fans pinpointed as a next-level piece that could make a deficient part of the team, as one that could transcend into a competitive edge. Betances, while only pitching 0.2 innings last year, has been one of the most dominant pen arms in the league.
While he comes with risk due to health, he comes with a hefty reward if he proves he can start the season with a full bill of health. Brad Brach was brought in after the Cubs released him with a 6.13 ERA. The Mets scouting department saw some adjustments Brach could make to his mechanics that would limit opponents in picking up his pitches.
The noticing worked, as Brach was effective with the Mets, and put up a 3.68 ERA in 14.2 innings. Brach was brought back this offseason and provides a reliable option for the middle innings of a ball game. Lastly, during the winter meetings this offseason, the Mets brought in Michael Wacha. The former St. Louis Cardinal starter was brought in to compete for the 5th starter role. It’s projected that Rick Porcello will get that fifth spot. Therefore Wacha will most likely be the long man in the bullpen and serve as rotation depth.
All three of these components could be the formula for a dynamic bullpen that holds a surplus of quality late-inning relievers that could be mixed and matched in favorable match-ups.
Although this bullpen looks to be excellent on paper, there are still plenty of wait-and-see on the actual performance and health, and it will be the most crucial component that could perpetuate the Mets into the playoffs.
Featured Image: Getty Images/Mike Zarrilli