The Unpredictable Relief Pitcher


Wait...this isn't what I ordered.

If you could trade for a 30 year-old relief pitcher who posted a sub-3.00 ERA each of the last 4 years, would you make that deal?  If you could acquire a pitcher who had a WHIP less than 1.30 and a K/9 ratio over 10 in 3 of the last 4 years, would you bring him onto your team?  How about a veteran with a career ERA of 3.84 and a career WHIP of 1.25?

If you said yes to any of these deals, then you would have acquired Ramon Ramirez, Frank Francisco, and Jon Rauch, respectively.

Bringing those 3 pitchers aboard is exactly what GM Sandy Alderson did over the offseason.  So far, the returns have been a disappointment.  So much so, that Alderson is once again in the market for a relief pitcher to reinforce the late innings, and possibly even close until Francisco gets back.

This year, Ramirez, seemingly the best of the group stat-wise coming into the season, has a 4.30 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP.  A dramatic fall-off after 4 straight solid seasons.  After 11 straight scoreless appearances to start the year, Rauch is 3-7 with a 4.20 ERA.  His WHIP is still a respectable 1.17.  Frank Francisco got off to an abysmal start as closer, but has shown great improvement since he nailed down the cardiac save against the Blue Jays in Toronto.  He’s throwing harder, and has better command of his offspeed pitches.  Of course, as he was beginning to figure it out, he landed on the 15-day DL with an oblique strain.

It goes to show that, as everyone says, you really can’t predict relief pitchers, no matter how consistent their track record is.  And the Mets are yet again in a position to try to make a deal to shore up their bullpen.  There’s even a rumor that New York is looking to bring back Francisco Rodriguez.

Apart from his penchant for punching out in-laws, K-Rod wasn’t bad as the Mets’ closer from 2009-2011.   But like any relief pitcher, who knows if K-Rod can repeat his past success?  On top of that, he hasn’t exactly been dominant in a setup role for the Brewers this year (1-4, 4.00 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 8.0 K/9).  When He was with the Mets, his fastball velocity began to fade, and there’s a good chance he’s on the downslope of his career here in 2012.

K-Rod aside, the Mets could look for someone like Huston Street, but his K/9 ratio is down this year as well.

No matter how good a relief pitcher’s track record looks, it’s always a gamble to bring one aboard.

Do the Mets need bullpen help?  Yes.  Would a new reliever be the magic bullet the Mets have been looking for?  Who knows?

Opinion and Analysis

About the Author

Paul is a freelance writer, blogger, and broadcast technology professional residing in Denver. A New Jersey native, he is a long-suffering Mets fan, a recently-happy Giants fan, and bewildered Islanders fan. He's also a fair-weather Avalanche and Rockies supporter. In his spare time, he enjoys the three Gs: Golf, Guitars, and Games.

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