Reese Kaplan -- Bullish on the Pen

Going into this season the Mets appeared to have a formidable bullpen led by Jenrry Mejia who thrived in the closer’s role in 2014 when given the chance after the early season failures by veterans Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth to get the job done effectively.  After taking over as closer on May 15th he finished the year with 28 saves and a 2.68 ERA out of the pen.  He was a little hittable with a .261 BAA, but all signs pointed to him solidifying what had been a weak link due to Bobby Parnell’s injury.

Fans were further encouraged to learn that Bobby Parnell would be back this year and there might be something of a two-headed closer or a battle for supremacy between the incumbent and the newly crowned top dog in the pen. 

Also encouraging from last year was the emergence of Josh Edgin who, after a brief stay in Las Vegas, returned with a vengeance, posting a miniscule 1.32 ERA as the primary lefty out of the pen.  Vic Black showed his shutdown stuff and routinely froze batters at the plate. 

Carlos Torres turned in another steady year in his long relief/spot starter role for the Mets.  He finished the year with a winning record, nearly a strikeout per inning pitched and a solid 3.06 ERA. 

Finally there was the emergence of Jeurys Familia who had been dragged kicking and screaming from a not-so-effective starter in the minors to evolve into an 8th inning specialist who struck out approximately one batter per inning pitched, kept people off base and posted an impressive 2.21 ERA for the year.  In fact, some were tossing his name around to be considered as part of the closer conversation in the future along with Mejia and Parnell. 

Then a strange thing happened.  Pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  Edgin was lost for the year with Tommy John surgery.  Mejia had elbow issues and after going on the DL was nailed for PED abuse.  Neither Bobby Parnell nor Vic Black made it out of Florida and both have had setbacks in their recoveries.  All appeared to be lost when it came to the bullpen yet again. 

Sometimes scripts don’t evolve the way you expect.  Sandy Alderson made some quick trades at the end of spring training to bring both Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres to the team.  He selected Sean Gilmartin off Rule V waivers to add another lefty arm in the wake of the Edgin injury.  Veteran Buddy Carlyle was brought back out of necessity.  Converted starters Erik Goeddel and Hansel Robles were summoned from Las Vegas.  Jeurys Familia was thrust into the closer’s role by default and is leading the league with 11 saves while striking out 11 per 9 IP.  Only Carlos Torres returned in the role he’d had a year ago. 

When Blevins went down with his broken forearm, everyone thought the wheels would come off but thus far the pen shockingly has a sparkling 2.91 ERA.  Even enigmatic strikeout artist extraordinaire Jack Leathersich made a perfect cameo appearance.    

As the team moves forward and players on rehab assignments continue to heal they have a nice problem to tackle.  Who stays and who goes when Black, Blevins and Parnell are deemed ready to return?  Even Mejia should be back sometime around the All Star break, too.  For now, it’s fun to watch the pen shut down the opponents, particularly when the starters have been equally impressive.  Perhaps the best indicator of how well things are going is the dearth of jokes about Alex Torres’ cap.


Mack Ade said...

Injuries sometimes have silver linings and allow a team to build up depth at a position.

IMO, this is what is happening in the pen.

Famila has been all-star like, but my MVP so far this young season has been Alex Torres

Thomas Brennan said...

Great pen. Just like Thor is much improved, so is Leather Jack. Just needs a real shot.

Thomas Brennan said...

Great pen. Just like Thor is much improved, so is Leather Jack. Just needs a real shot.

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