Bullpen Solution

Much has been made about the inefficiencies of the Mets bullpen this year. In particular, the number that keeps getting thrown out there is 20 blown saves — 13 of which resulted in losses.

I have a brilliant idea, and it doesn’t require the acquisition of a new pitcher:

SCORE MORE RUNS.

Yes, the Mets are already scoring a significant number of runs — their 570 total puts them fourth in the NL and is only 9 less than the Phillies, who place second (the Cubs’ 627 are first). But guess what? The name of the game is to outscore the competition. So, if you’re having a hard time limited the competitions’ runs, then one solution is to increase YOUR run production.

Yes, the Mets have 20 blown saves, but that’s not the worst in the league. The Cardinals have blown 27, the Padres and Nationals have both blown 21, and there are five additional teams with at least 17 blown saves (in other words, more than half of NL teams have blown 17 or more games). The NL average for blown saves is 17, in fact.

What’s more concerning than the blown saves, are the number of opportunities. The Mets have had 50 save opportunities (also fourth in the NL). That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because it means the Mets have been in a position to win after the 6th inning. However, it also means that the Mets haven’t had too many games where they were leading a game by more than three runs late in the game. In other words, there have been a lot of close scores going in to the late innings. So considering that innings seven and eight are handled by the 7th-, 8th-, and 9th-worst pitchers on your team, why is it a surprise that those games are lost nearly as often as they’re won?

You can get on Billy Wagner for blowing 7 games this year — he’s being paid to convert 85-90% and not delivering. But the other 13 blown saves are hardly a surprise. Not one of the group consisting of Joe Smith, Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez, Pedro Feliciano, and Scott Schoeneweis could have realistically been expected to be “automatic”. They’re average relievers with average to above-average stuff. If they were better skilled, they’d be either closers or starters.

The bullpen is what it is, and there’s little chance of someone coming in to save the day (pardon the pun). On the other hand, finding ways to score more runs isn’t impossible. There are bats available in the minors and in trade (Val Pascucci, Nelson Cruz, Gary Sheffield, etc.), there are bats on the team that could give a little more (Carlos Beltran), and there is some offensive potential coming off the DL (Luis Castillo). Perhaps there can be more of a cushion in the late innings.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s always this idea I floated at MetsBlog. Unfortunately, many in the audience there do not share the same open-mindedness and sense of humor we enjoy here.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Micalpalyn August 12, 2008 at 2:28 pm
    I DISAGREE:

    One arm just one could tip the scales. As it is we have too many situational bullpen arms. we have a bunch of loogies and roogies. I think we need someone we thought Heilman could be. Bottomline we needed one out yesterday that we could not get…

    Cut from metsblog: Stats shown are batting average against (BAA) and WHIP.

    vs LH vs RH
    Pedro .310, 1.70 .237, 1.34
    Ollie .168, 0.88 .249, 1.53
    Santana .249, 1.16 .230, 1.16
    Maine .236, 1.55 .233, 1.13
    Pelfrey .322, 1.88 .261, 1.14

    Wagner .220, 1.15 .174, 0.81
    Heilman .330, 2.12 .212, 1.10
    Sanchez .205, 1.33 .232, 1.15
    Feliciano .203, 1.06 .329, 1.88
    Smith .318, 2.06 .214, 1.10
    Muniz .294, 1.80 .250, 1.07
    Show .159, 0.68 .322, 1.94

    Minor league numbers (all levels, cumulative)
    Kunz .276, 1.63 .186, 1.08
    Niese .252, 1.32 .242, 1.22
    Stokes .231, 1.31 .259, 1.23
    Collazo .233, 1.11 .280, 1.26
    Field .379, 2.73 .139, 0.85
    Maldonado .278, 1.93 .300, 1.51
    Figueroa .259, 1.29 .271, 1.31

  2. isuzudude August 12, 2008 at 2:58 pm
    Mic, sometimes I have a hard time figuring out your logic. Earlier today, you made the following comment on another post:
    “The 16/21 streak masked the BP woes just long enuff to fool Omar into NOT making that kneejerk move at the deadline. AND RIGHTLY so. I for one am glad the festering sore is fully exposed so now surgery can be performed. As i said before, Omar i think is poised and happy with where the Mets are (given the achilles heel). I think he looks like a genius NOT do a 3 for one deal and giving away Parnall, Niese, Murph and Evans who are all contributing or about to.”
    Yet, now you’re seemingly contradicting yourself by saying “One arm just one could tip the scales.” So what is it? Do you trade some prospects and get a guy like Huston Street, or some other proven reliever with ability to get righties and lefties out? Or do you credit Omar for standing pat and keep the youngsters around, gambling on the current cast of bullpen characters? It sounds like you’re speaking out of both sides of your mouth. Additionally, if you are as high on Parnell as you imply, why was he omitted from your list of minor league pitchers above?

    For the record, I would prefer to work on the bullpen than the offense. If the fortunes of good health are finally smiling upon the Mets, it means Castillo and Church should return sometime before the Mets are counted out of the playoffs, which should act as offensive trade upgrades. And as you mentioned, Joe, the offense has pretty much held up their end of the bargain this season. Relatively speaking, with guys like Tatis, Murphy, Easley, Chavez, Cancel, and Evans getting significant playing time, I dare to say the offense has overachieved. But the relief pitching has been the achilles heel since last year, and very little was done to improve it for this year. Hence, it should really be no surprise the bullpen is still the team’s greatest weakness. If Omar continues to shove the problem under the carpet and address other issues, it will only continue to grow and fester until it can no longer be ignored. I’m pretty sure we’re at that point now. Regardless if the Mets have a 1-run lead or a 10-run lead, the bullpen is going to blow them all. Fixing the bullpen should be paramount to all other issues.

  3. joe August 12, 2008 at 3:16 pm
    Agreed that some of the offense has overachieved, but others (Beltran, Schneider, Castillo, Chavez, to name a few) have underachieved — so it kind of evens out.

    Looking at all the numbers (which I generally hate), the Mets bullpen is right around the middle, or slightly above average in all categories in comparison to other NL teams. OK, the team bullpen ERA is on the high side, but they’re right around the middle with everything else — WHIP, K/9, K/BB, HR allowed, Saves, SV%, etc. In other words, EVERYONE’s bullpen stinks, except for the one or two overachievers (Cubs, Philly).

    I’m not sure how one arm can turn the Mets ‘pen from average to lights-out, unless that arm is Sparky Lyle, Mike Marshall, Rich Gossage, or another throwback who can pitch spectacularly, day in and day out, for 2-3 innings at a time.

    But, I’m definitely for the idea of using some guys from AAA. The current relief staff is gassed, and needs a break. I just don’t expect the newcomers to be more than average.

    On the other hand, there are still some bats out there, and sometimes you have to work with the supply, rather than fighting the demand. Finding a quality bat is a lot easier than finding a useful arm at this point.

    In other words, if I have to trade away some AA prospects, bring me back Raul Ibanez rather than Luis Ayala.

  4. Micalpalyn August 12, 2008 at 3:30 pm
    I am not contradicting myself. The list above was from Metsblog and did not include Parnall’s stats.

    My point was to counter Joe. THE BP is the only glaring achilles heel right now. That one arm ‘ could come from within the organization.

    I thought the above Stats really highlight how limited the Mets options are, but that we have SOME options. ie see Stokes numbers HE has the among the best RH/LH splits on display.

  5. joe August 12, 2008 at 8:35 pm
    Strictly from a statistical standpoint, Stokes would seem to be the guy for a bullpen role.

    Except, he was abysmal as a reliever last year with the Rays — after spending a relatively successful minor league career as a starter. Why? Who knows? Could be a mental / emotional thing (see: Heilman). Could be a “too strong” thing. Could be an issue with pitching more than once a week. Could be a “Trachsel-like” “need to be in routine” thing.

    Worth a shot — anything is at this point — but it’s important to realize that sometimes there’s more to this game than the numbers.