The Mets Bullpen As A Strength

If you spent all winter reading headlines, you might think that the Mets are in a bad position now. The stories that defined the team’s off-season — Johan Santana missing at least the first half, two injury-prone pitchers inhabiting the back of the rotation, ownership’s financial situation — don’t paint a pretty picture. But quietly the Mets’ new front office has assembled a team that might surprise those who haven’t dug deeply enough. Particularly impressive is the bullpen. It contains a number of underrated pitchers who together could form one of the stronger units in the NL.

Despite the turmoil surrounding him, Francisco Rodriguez remains one of the game’s elite relievers. He had something of a rough transition to New York, producing a 3.71 ERA and 4.01 FIP (4.23 xFIP) during his first season. But last year he returned to normal levels, and even displayed more control has he had a 2.20 ERA and 2.63 FIP in 57.1 innings. If he remains healthy he’ll again anchor the bullpen. This year he figures to have a strong supporting cast.

The names Bobby Parnell, Taylor Buchholz, D.J. Carrasco, Tim Byrdak, Blaine Boyer, and Pedro Beato might not seem impressive at first glance. Yet they all bring skills to the table that can be invaluable in creating a quality bullpen. Among them you’ll find strikeouts, control, ground balls, upside, and left-handedness. But don’t just take my word for it. Check out the projections. We’ll use ZiPS for this exercise.

If we were to plug these numbers into last year’s rankings, that would have placed the Mets 14th in ERA and 10th in FIP. The 2009 team finished a bit better in ERA and at the same level in FIP, but that’s kind of the point. The general perception is that the Mets got worse, but the reality doesn’t match up. The guys slated to break camp with the team represent a quality cadre of relievers by any standard. There are reinforcements, too. Jason Isringhausen looms as a possibility once he recovers from injury. Beato, too, could beat his projections — at least, that’s the idea behind keeping him on the 25-man roster.

One testament to the strength of the Mets bullpen came today, when the team designated Manny Acosta for assignment this morning. Acosta is no great shakes. In his 153.2 MLB innings he has produced a 3.40 ERA and 4.47 FIP. Last year, though, he was one of the Mets best relievers, with a 2.95 ERA and 3.63 FIP. Relievers with those types of results who can strike out more than a batter per inning are normally valuable; it would be surprising to see a second division team claim Acosta on waivers. But the Mets have enough confidence in their other guys that they felt the right move was removing another one of its top relievers from 2010.

The real surprise from the Mets bullpen comes from its complete makeover. Of the seven relievers, only two, Rodriguez and Parnell, pitched with the team last season. During the off-season they lost Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi, both of whom provided more value last season than any Mets reliever not named Francisco. Yet they’re coming back with a unit that projects to be only slightly worse. If they catch a lucky break with Beato and Parnell pitches like he did during his time in the majors last year, the bullpen could be even stronger.

The 2011 Mets have plenty of weaknesses. Yet one area where they figure to excel is the bullpen. It took a near-complete off-season makeover, but the new administration has apparently assembled a group of fine, underrated pitchers to handle relief duty. They might not represent the best group of relievers in the NL, but they’ll finish in the top half. That might not seem like high expectations, but given the general perception of the Mets in 2011, it certainly will surprise some people.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

36 Responses to “The Mets Bullpen As A Strength”

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  1. Jon Presser says:

    Great post Joe.

    The Mets are flying under the rader, with Sports Illustrated even predicting them to finish dead last in the NL East.

    I think the Mets can win ~85 games this year. They have much better depth than in years past both at the MLB and AAA level.

    I love it when people sleep on the Mets. They will thrive on the disrespect.

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    • Mr. Met says:

      Truth ^


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    • mjets says:

      Rex Ryan hopefully will be our coach if there is a lockout.

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    • MrMet says:

      FRod has a strong upper cut. Body Blow Body Blow. Knock him out.

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    • John Gaines says:

      If the Mets thrived on disrespect, they would be playing in the World Series every other season.

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    • CaseyB says:

      Totally agree. The Mets are being underrated and marked down because of all the bad press surrounding the team the last year and a half, especially from the Madoff situation.

      If they can avoid the heavy injuries which plagued them the last two years, I see an 85+ win team.

      As for the bullpen, I see both Beato and Boyer beating that projection. Boyer has a newly refined slider in his arsenal and he’s been pitching great, though it;s only spring training.

      Thanks to Pawlikowski for having the courage to write an objective story about the Mets and not simply act like a sheep the way the rest of the national sports media have been doing.

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      • David K says:

        “As for the bullpen, I see both Beato and Boyer beating that projection”.

        I don’t see it. And as a Dback fan that saw Boyer pitch quite often, I REALLY don’t see it with him.

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      • BlackOps says:

        Yeah, but I do see it, and as a Met fan, I’ve seen them pitch quite often during spring training.

        That’s a winning argument.

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  2. NM says:

    I think 85 wins is a bit optimistic, however, if things break right, I could say them contending for the WC. But a lot needs to go right; like Reyes returning to his 2008 form, Beltran playing a decent amount of games, Bay returning to his pre-2010 form, Santana returning by July, etc .. its not like that is impossible by any means, but its probably best to hedge bets against it all occurring.

    They should be a fun group to watch. Their lineup is actually quite good from top to bottom, and not giving ~1000 PA to The Black Holes (Cora, Francoeur, GMJ, Jacobs, etc) will help.

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  3. filihok says:

    That is a good bullpen. 53 K/9 !!! The BB’s are a little high but…

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    • Julian says:

      wouldn’t it be best to average K/9 and BB/9? And HR/9 too for that matter, though it would be interesting to calculate the FIP of a pitcher with 53 K/9, 26 BB/9, and 6 HR/9… defense wouldn’t do much I suppose.

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  4. Powder Blues says:

    At first glance, their rotations looks kind of poor. Two or three #3 starters and a bunch of 4’s and 5’s.

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    • Anon says:


      this post was about the bullpen, not the rotation. Just thought you should know.


      The Reading Comprehension Skills You Were Supposed to Learn Years Ago

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      • phoenix2042 says:

        He was analyzing the team as a whole. Someone made a prediction of 85 wins, which, to my mind, concerns more than just the bullpen. stop being nasty and trying to start fights on the internet. it’s just sad, man. He was making an observation about the team.

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    • Derek says:

      Zips FIP projections…

      Pelfrey 3.91 FIP
      Niese 3.91 FIP
      Dickey 4.02 FIP
      Capuano 3.83 FIP
      Young 4.67 FIP
      Gee 4.43 FIP
      Santana 3.51 FIP
      Mejia 4.18 FIP
      Bonser 4.07 FIP

      Seems like they have plenty of options to give them more or less league average starting pitching….

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  5. mattinm says:

    Total K/9 and BB/9 aren’t the sum of the individuals. Quick crunching shows somewhere more in the neighborhood of 7.54 and 3.67, respectively.

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    • Joe Pawlikowski says:

      Yeah, wow, no idea how that happened. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that before posting. Those numbers are correct.

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  6. Pachoo says:

    Most team’s projected bullpen ERAs will be better than their real ERA. A few pen arms will blow up and have 10+ ERAs screwing up the ERA for the pen overall. I am not sure this article proves that the Met’s pen has really improved. I see a bunch of question marks in that group actually.

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  7. Pachoo says:

    I guess the way to test this hypothesis is to calculate the projected ZIPs ERA for the bullpens of all the NL teams going into 2011 and compare it to the Mets. I have a feeling the Met’s pen wouldn’t hold up very well.

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  8. Pachoo says:

    Hmm, and actually the Met’s bullpen ERA was 3.59 last year, so the projected 2011 bullpen ERA of 3.95 is kind of a step backwards.

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    • dutchbrowncoat says:

      “The real surprise from the Mets bullpen comes from its complete makeover. Of the seven relievers, only two, Rodriguez and Parnell, pitched with the team last season. During the off-season they lost Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi, both of whom provided more value last season than any Mets reliever not named Francisco. Yet they’re coming back with a unit that projects to be only slightly worse.”

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  9. Big Jgke says:

    Is the Isringhausen line a joke, or is there actual promise there?

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    • vivalajeter says:

      I haven’t seen him pitch, but apparently he’s pitched extremely well this spring. Good velocity, and he’s showing much better ‘stuff’ than he did in his last go-round. He obviously can’t be counted on for a lot of innings, but he can potentially be solid until his arm falls off.

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  10. David says:

    Wow, 53.12 K/9 as a unit. I guess ZiPS is predicting a lot of strike outs on passed balls by Josh Thole. All those passed balls combined with the 26 BB/9 probably means that this group’s going to give up a lot of runs this year.

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  11. Sky Kalkman says:

    Enjoyed this, Joe.

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  12. Dave G says:

    Nice post, but it seems to reveal that the Mets made a mistake in keeping Boyer over Acosta. Boyer had a 4.6 K/9 and a 4.6 BB/9 last year, which is obviously pretty awful. His projections seem extremely optimistic.

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    • Ogre39666 says:

      If you look at last year as an aberration, Boyer looks much better. I liked Acosta too, but it’s not like Acosta doesn’t have a history of high BB/9’s.

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  13. vivalajeter says:

    I’m not sure I’d say this is a strength, as the title of the post says, but I agree that it shouldn’t be a weakness. Their main weakness will be from the likelihood of injuries. Their lineup is very solid 1-8, and every one of their 5 starters can keep the team in the game, but there are too many injury questions. Beltran, Bay, Young, Capuano, Reyes – if all 5 were healthy and performing, then this team can compete, but what are the odds that they’d all stay healthy?

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    • Paul says:

      Bay is already injured.

      Beltran seems likely to DL at some point this season. I really only have confidence in Reyes staying healthy. If one of the two of the Chrises stayed healthy all year, I’d consider it a plus. Gee (and maybe later, Meija) can step in and provide at least a mid-4 FIP. Overall, this starting staff is going to be quite average. The front end isn’t as good as most teams front end, but the back end isn’t as bad, either.

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  14. John Franco says:

    It’s good that their bullpen will be a strength for them. It’s probably the only one they’ll have. Starting pitchers are OK (maybe league average), and other than Wright, their best hope for above average players are Reyes and Ike.

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  15. Sal says:

    How can ZiPS come up with projections for a guy like Beato who has never pitched above AA?

    More importantly, why would anyone think such a projection would be accurate?

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    • Brian Singer says:

      Properly adjusted for things like league strength AA and AAA stats are as useful and accurate in predicting ML performance as are previous ML stats.

      At least, Bill James thinks so.

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  16. smelly shelly says:

    Mets will be lucky to be in 4th place at the end of the year. If Washington’s pitching wasn’t crap too, the Mets would be a done deal for the cellar. Florida, Atlanta, and Philly are all superior. Because I said so.

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