It wasn’t that long ago that the Mets bullpen featured such legendary arms as D.J. Carrrasco, Tim Byrdak, Dale Thayer and Mike O’Connor. Then came Jenrry Mejia out of necessity when Bobby Parnell got hurt, but after one solid season he’s been a non-entity due to some bad decision making on his part. Jeurys Familia was thrust into the role as next available man, and he turned in a season for the ages. The cast around him, however, was less than stellar for most of the year. Alex Torres, anyone?
This black hole has turned into something of a strength for the Mets as they learned last year in the second half what a powerful pen can do to shut down games. Watching the Royals who perfected this approach clean up against the team had to reinforce what had already been gleaned through observation. In today’s game it’s not merely about the closer.
Towards that end the Mets made some good acquisitions, betting first on the recovery of Jerry Blevins, the late season audition of Addison Reed and the signing of solid lefty Antonio Bastardo to complement the formidable Familia. However, lose in the shuffle were some of the other arms who turned in a number of quality appearances last year and who hopefully will continue to flourish as the team sets its sites on not just a World Series appearance, but a championship season.
Hansel Robles was a somewhat unheralded starting pitcher in the minors who could never seem to harness his live arm. In 2014 in AA they began his transition to the bullpen and his strikeout rate advanced dramatically. His role in the majors has been exclusively in relief and he’s been able to turn it up a notch or two whenever the situation demands it. He finished his rookie season last year having appeared in 57 games with a respectable 3.67 ERA and an enviable 10.2 K/9 ratio. He’ll start the 2016 season on the suspended list but look for him to get the ball quite a bit throughout the year.
Rule V pick Sean Gilmartin was quite a story last year. He was a starting pitcher throughout his minor league career with 79 of his 80 appearances coming as a starter. The Mets gambled he could be a lefty reliever for them when, at the time, they had none. How did he do? Well, in 50 low leverage games he finished with a 2.67 ERA, a respectable 8.5 K/9 IP, a 3:1 K to BB ratio and a paltry .230 BAA. He’s made everyone forget Brad Emaus of Rule V infamy. The irony is that he may not even crack the pen that goes north given the plethora of options the Mets now have.
Converted starter Erik Goeddel has also flourished since being thrust into the bullpen role. After a 2014 Las Vegas record with a 5.37 ERA, it appeared that he had hit the wall. Still, the Mets gave him a late season look and were encouraged by his 6 appearances that resulted in a 2.70 ERA and a tidy 1.050 WHIP. In 2015 he put in 33 games at the major league level, and the ERA dropped to 2.43 with better than a strikeout per inning pitched, a WHIP of less than one baserunner per inning pitched and a BAA of just .195. That’s pretty dominant stuff, folks. The only problem with Goeddel lately has been health as he’s missed time each of the past couple of seasons due to arm and muscle issues, but he’s showing he belongs in the big leagues.
I’ll leave out the cameo appearances by Logan Verrett, Rafael Montero, Dario Alvarez and others, but it appears that the Mets are well positioned both now and in the future with reinforcements named Josh Edgin and Jenrry Mejia coming down the pike as well. It’s almost enough to make you forget Mel Rojas.