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?

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.
  1. Eric July 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm
    Based on their performance as of late, it’s no longer the back end of the bullpen that worries me. Rauch has basically been on fire since the yankee series. Parnell has allowed only 1 hit out of the last 20 batters he faced, and before Frank went on the DL, he seemed to have straightened himself out.

    What worries me is the front end. The guys that come in to keep a 4-3 deficit to just one run in the 6th inning so the bats have a chance to catch up. Primarily, I’m concerned about Batista and Ramirez. I like Hefner as the long man, late inning mop up guy. I need to see more of Hampson, but having a second lefty is vital.

    I think Sandy should concentrate on shoring up the 6th and 7th innings and forget about the big name closers out there. Where would they pitch? And please God–do not bring K-Rod back. Just what we need–more uncertainty.

  2. DaveSchneck July 3, 2012 at 5:08 pm
    The Mets defnitely need another big bullpen arm, meaning someone that can handle the high pressure 8th or 9th innings. This will deepen the entire pen and return some to more comfortable roles in the 6th, 7th, or LOOGY. The key is to not give up much from the farm, which should be possible. The price for in season acquistions should be down now since they will not net a draft pick if they walk at the end of the year. The Mets will just need to open up the wallet, and I am very curious to see how deep into the pockets they go.
  3. friend July 3, 2012 at 5:23 pm
    “you really can’t predict relief pitchers”

    Tampa Bay seems to be defying this mantra, over a significant period of time. Try to reverse engineer their formula, and it might lead to success.

  4. jerseymet July 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm
    I don’t think Sandy will be willing to pay for Houston Street or any other top closer. The deeper our starters go…the better our bullpen gets. The key to our success has been starting pitching. Four of our five starters have staminia issues. Now is the time to bring up Harvey and go to a 6 man rotation. We can make the playoffs and Buffilo has lead the way.
  5. Neil Peart July 3, 2012 at 11:26 pm
    There’s been talk of the Mets possibly trading Jenrry Mejia for some immediate bullpen help. I hope Alderson is smarter than that.
  6. Joe July 5, 2012 at 10:31 pm
    Let’s see what Beato has. Hefner was a waste. Why use a AAA starter with potential as a rarely used long man, a role fit for a Batista or Valdes a year or two ago. Relief pitchers are a crapshoot. Some thought Ramirez was a good pick-up. Who’s to know if he still doesn’t have a run in him?