Ask anyone why the Mets finished in second place last year and the immediate answer is “the bullpen stunk”. People are quick to point out the 29 blown saves as evidence supporting that claim. Also buying into that theory was the Mets’ front office, who sought to band-aid the problem by acquiring the AL West’s two best closers. Problem solved, right?
Not so fast. Before we assume that J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez slamming the door on innings 8 and 9 are the “final ingredient” for the Mets’ entry into the postseason, let’s continue to follow the data.
Blown Saves: Putz and K-Rod
Question: who blew more saves last year, J.J. Putz or Billy Wagner?
Answer: You may be surprised to find out that Putz blew 8 games, to Wagner’s 7. But Putz was injured in 2008, so we’re willing to give him a pass. Right?
Question: who blew more saves last year, Francisco Rodriguez or Aaron Heilman?
Answer: K-Rod, who blew 7 to Heilman’s 5.
Granted, K-Rod converted 89.8% of his save opportunities, finishing with 62.
But still, 7 blown saves is 7 blown saves. Add Putz’s 8, and the Mets acquired 15 blown saves this offseason — more than half of the 29 they blew in 2008.
Fans will find out quickly that despite their skills, Putz and K-Rod are not “automatic”. In fact, of K-Rod’s 68 innings pitched last year, he went one-two-three only 22 times (FYI, the Royals’ Joakim Soria led all of MLB with 36 “clean” innings). Also of note: K-Rod never pitched more than one full inning in 2008.
Breaking Down the Mets’ 29 Blown Saves
A few numbers to consider regarding the 29 blown saves that supposedly ruined the Mets season:
– 9: the number of games that were WON by the Mets, in games they blew a save
– 13: the number of blown saves that came after Billy Wagner went on the DL
– 11: the number of blown saves that occurred BEFORE THE 8th INNING
That last number is most intriguing. Many people don’t realize that a pitcher can be assigned a blown save as early as the 6th inning. The big deal about getting Putz and K-Rod is that the Mets can now “shorten the game” to 7 innings. However, the Mets will still have to find a way to bridge the gap in the 6th and 7th, a time when more than one-third of their blown saves occurred.
Subtract those 11 “early blown saves” from the 29, and you’re down to 18 blown saves. Subtract the 9 games that were won, and you’re down to 9 blown saves that occurred in the 8th or 9th inning, that resulted in a loss.
Suddenly, the Mets’ bullpen doesn’t look so awful, does it? Now, consider again that Putz and Rodriguez combined for 15 blown saves last year, and ALL of their blown saves occurred in either the 8th or 9th frames, and you tell me whether the bullpen is definitely improved over last year.