Diminutive Danny Herrera became the shortest pitcher in Mets history when he climbed up to the rubber in Washington, D.C. (without the help of a step ladder) on September 2nd. Amidst the catcalls of “hey, somebody left a hat on the mound” and “where’s the rest of the pitcher?”, little Danny began his Mets career auspiciously, retiring 17 of the first 18 batters he faced.
Eventually, though, Herrera did allow baserunners – too many, in fact, as 8 of the last 15 batters he faced reached base. Herrera displayed a plethora of pitches, including the rare and ancient pitch known as the screwball, all delivered at random speeds. He changed speeds well, and when he was able to keep pitches down he was effective. However, he ran into trouble when his offerings floated higher in the strike zone and caught too much of the middle of the plate. Without much velocity and lacking a vicious breaking pitch, Herrera is more reliant on pristine command than most other MLB pitchers, which can be a volatile factor for the small sample sizes that a LOOGY faces. That’s really the difficulty in shoehorning him into such a role; as a specialist, his job is to get one batter, usually in a tight situation, and if he’s not “on”, the results could be disastrous.
Statistically speaking, the 2011 sample size was too small to create any kind of fair evaluation. As for what my eyes saw, it’s equally difficult because, similarly, I didn’t see enough of him to get a gauge on his strengths and weaknesses.
Danny Herrera should get an opportunity to win a bullpen spot next spring. Personally, I don’t know that the LOOGY role is best suited unless he can either find consistent command or take one of his breaking pitches to a new level. I’d rather see him in a middle or long-relief role, where he can start innings with the bases empty, and have room for error. As recently as 2009, he appeared in 70 games for the Reds and posted a 3.06 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 61 IP, facing 266 batters — which is a pretty decent sample size for a reliever. Although I don’t know enough about the situations he entered in ’09, it does suggest that Herrera might be a valuable asset in a MLB bullpen. Though, he could also have benefited from being unknown at the time (it was his rookie year); I believe the mystery factor is significant and underrated in regard to relievers. At this point, I don’t know if he can be mysterious again — or if he can adjust to batters who adjust to him. There’s only one way to find out, and at this moment the Mets don’t have many LOOGY options beyond Herrera and Tim Byrdak.