HomeTeamsMets2024 Mets Not Learning From 2023 Pitching Carousel

2024 Mets Not Learning From 2023 Pitching Carousel

Last night, rookie Dedniel Nunez made his major league debut for the Mets. He was called up after the team designated veteran pitcher Julio Teheran after just one single appearance in orange and blue. Nunez was the Mets 18th different pitcher in the first 11 games of the season. That means that the team has been averaging more than a 1.5 new pitchers per game. This might be novel trivia for some teams. After last year’s parade of Mets pitchers, however, this is an early warning of potential trouble to come.

Earlier in the day, the Mets traded reliever Michael Tonkin to the Twins for cash after being DFA’d last week to make room for Teheran. Tonkin’s Mets tenure lasted 3 appearance (4 innings) and resulted in 2 extra-inning losses. Tonkin was one of sixteen relievers the Mets signed (or re-signed, in Adam Ottavino’s case) this past offseason, in hopes of being better prepared than they were in 2023.

As you may recall from last season, the Mets didn’t make any significant moves after losing closer Edwin Diaz to a season-ending injury during the World Baseball Classic. Instead of potentially overspending for a new closer, they adjusted some of their players’ roles. David Robertson who was brought in to be the setup man became the closer, Adam Ottavino was given another shot to be the setup man from the right side, and newly signed lefty Brooks Raley was brought in to serve a similar role. Other pitchers filtered in and out, and for a little while it worked. However, the Mets starting pitchers’ inability to go deep in games soon taxed the bullpen and by midseason they were mostly burnt out, or at least well on their way. At that point in the summer, the Mets had already dipped into their relatively shallow pool of pitchers more than they had anticipated, and they were using pitchers who may not have been ready to throw in the majors. Or perhaps more accurately, may not have been ready to throw that much and that often in the majors. By the time they traded Robertson away to the Miami Marlins, they had gotten just about everything they could out of his veteran arm. His age, and his wear & tear was starting to show, and seemingly within minutes of landing in Miami, he was nowhere near as effective as he had been in the first few months of the season. There were many other Mets pitchers who had similar experiences, and most of them stayed on the Mets.

Through the first four series of this season, things don’t seem to be all that different. In 2022, reliever Jorge Lopez pitched well enough in the first half of the season to earn the honor of representing the Baltimore Orioles at the All-Star Game. To that point in the season, he had appeared in 40 games, had 17 saves, and a 1.62 ERA. Those 40 first-half games were already more than he had ever pitched in a full season (he logged 39 games for the Kansas City Royals in 2019). Following the Midsummer Classic, Lopez’s effectiveness started to dwindle. The emergence of Felix Bautista as a reliable closer allowed the Orioles to adjust his role, and they ultimately traded him to the Twins. Much like the Mets experience with Robertson, Lopez’s was not the same pitcher with Minnesota that he had been Baltimore. Last year, even though he spent some time on the Injured List, Lopez still appeared in 61 games, albeit for three different teams (the Twins, the Marlins, and a return to the Orioles). So far this year, Lopez has been the most popular man out of the bullpen, having pitched in 6 out of the Mets first 11 games. That’s 55% of their games. That puts him on pace for 88 games this year. While I realize 11 games is a small sample size, after the team’s issues last year, it no longer seems so small.

Lopez is merely the prime example of the brewing issue for New York; he’s certainly not the only example. Because of the injuries to Kodai Senga (yet to appear so far this year) and Tylor Megill (injured in his season debut), the Mets have already used 7 different starters in their 11 games. Of those, only Sean Manaea and Jose Buttó have been able to complete 6 innings in a start. Six innings is not terribly much, and right now, it seems like a lofty goal for this pitching staff. Simply put, the Mets starting pitchers are going to need to figure out how to stretch out some more before they stretch their bullpen to thin.

Even though he struggled with his first few hitters in his major league debut, all in all, Dedniel Nunez looked pretty sharp. If the Mets don’t stop taxing their bullpen, there’s a strong chance they’ll have to bring up some other pitchers before they are ready.

Shai Kushner
Shai Kushnerhttps://mlbreport.com/
Shai Kushner, is a seasoned sports journalist and versatile professional deeply embedded in the world of baseball. Since 2014, Shai has been a trusted voice covering the New York Mets for BaseballDigest.com and GothamBaseball.com. Before his journalism career, he served as a video engineer for the Mets Baseball Operations department.


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