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What Happened To The Mets Bullpen?

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Things started well for the Mets bullpen this season. It wasn’t all that long ago that Edwin Diaz had returned from his 2023 injury, Reid Garrett was a newfound star, Brooks Raley was unscored upon, and Adam Ottovino looked great in his setup role. Jorge Lopez looked strong and solid as a late inning option, and even Drew Smith seemed to have found his groove. The Met bullpen through April was among the best in baseball. Ok, it seems longer ago than one month. May was a different story for the team and the Mets bullpen. 

The bullpen in April had the most strikeouts of any bullpen in April (141). It also had the lowest BA against, (.183), and allowed the second fewest hits (74), as well as the sixth lowest ERA (2.85) in MLB. Of the 15 wins the Mets posted in April, the bullpen carded 11 of those wins, which was second best in baseball. The calendar turned in May, as did the fortunes of the Mets bullpen. 

Injuries to the bullpen played a major role in its demise. Brooks Raley came up injured and later worse than that, as he had UCL surgery and is out for the remainder of the 2024 season, after which he’s no longer under contract with the Mets. It’s probably bye-bye Brooks. Drew Smith also was injured and has not pitched since April 23rd. Edwin Diaz lost his job as closer and is now himself on the 15-day injured list with a shoulder impingement injury.  

The bullpen does not deserve all the blame. The weight of having to carry a sputtering offense became too much to bear. The starting pitching as a group was decent overall, but too often starters could barely make it through the fifth inning much less go deeper into the game. As a result, we saw a parade of relievers including Jake Diekman, Sean Reid-Foley, Josh Walker, Cole Sluser, and Grant Hartwig.  Remember Tyler Jay? He pitched two innings for the team in April. This month the Mets ran out Danny Young and Dedniel Nunez who also pitched for the team in April. 

Free agent signee and hopeful contributor Shintaro Fujinami has languished at AAA Syracuse and is himself on the IL. It’s more and more possible that Fujinami may never pitch for the Mets. Deposed starter Adrian Houser has been moved to bullpen where he seems more fit to contribute, something he’s done already. 

A key culprit for the bullpen, (as well as the starters), has been too many bases on balls. The Mets as a pitching staff, walk more hitters than any other team in baseball. In addition to the bevy of baserunners created by too many free passes, pitchers must throw more pitches than they should. This hampers the reliever’s ability to pitch multiple innings as well how often they can be used in future games. 

Relief for the relief corps

Moving Houser to the bullpen was both necessary and might be a blessing in disguise. As a reliever Houser has had two outings in which he’s pitched four innings. They have been effective innings AND have helped cut down on what was general overuse of the bullpen. Losing Raley was a bigger blow than many realize, and Diaz’s struggles had the entire Met bullpen in disarray. Smith’s return is imminent, and Diaz should be back before mid-June provided the injury is as minor as the Mets have made it seem. The return of Tylor Megill and David Peterson to the rotation, and the eventual return of #1 starter Kodai Senga will afford the Mets more quality arms that can fortify the bullpen. 

A starting three rotation of Senga, Luis Severino, and Sean Manaea, will be supplemented by a combination of Jose Quintana, Megill, and Peterson. Rookie Christian Scott who’s pitched very well so far, has been optioned to AAA to manage his season total innings pitched. But he will be back and some of those starters will be tapped as relievers. 

The Met bullpen may not be as good as it displayed in April, but it’s also not as bad as it has pitched in May.  Provided Diaz returns and pitches closer to what he was in 2022, the bullpen will hold up its end of the bargain. That might be a big if, but it’s the linchpin to the bullpen’s success. Other units on the team are and should be of more concern. That’s a topic for another day.

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