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.