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Mets Game 10 Commentary: Won’t someone please think of the Bullpens! April 14, 2017

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In 16 innings, the Mets defeated the Marlins to extend their record to a division-leading 7-3. This is especially promising because the Mets went 1-2 in their first series against the Marlins last week, including losses to last night’s starter (Wei-Yin Chen) and losing pitcher (Adam Conley). Both teams depleted their bullpens, with the Mets using starter Jacob deGrom to pinch-hit and the Marlins using Conley, who started in all 25 of his appearances last year, as emergency relief. Neither team had any relievers left in the bullpen or any hitters left on the bench.

Surprisingly, neither team has made a roster move as of the time of writing.  EDIT: The Mets called up lefty Sean Gilmartin  several minutes after this posting. The Mets sent reliever Pat Sewald down before the game to make room for center fielder Juan Lagares, so Sewald wasn’t eligible to come back up, but New York had relied on Sewald and reliever Corey Taylor for saves in the spring. Taylor is pitching in Binghamton with an ugly 7.71 ERA in 2 1/3 innings over three appearances. Making a roster move would also rely on having a player to send down, but the bench is thick with players and few if any of the bullpen pitchers are expendable. However, Hansel Robles has pitched in four straight games and is undoubtedly unavailable tonight; Fernando Salas has pitched in two straight, and Addison Reed in three (2 innings last night). Meanwhile, Jerry Blevins has pitched in the last 2, totaling only 17 pitches. With three innings last night, Josh Smoker is likely to be unavailable, but Josh Edgin is well-rested despite a difficult appearance last night and a 4.15 ERA. Rafael Montero may make a second consecutive appearance tonight, although he’ll have all Mets fans biting their nails if he comes out of thrower jail. I’d be unsurprised to see Jacob deGrom make an appearance in relief, although it’s early in the season to play that game. (It’s times like this that I wish we still had Bartolo Colon.)

In a head-scratcher, the Marlins used a starter (Conley) while leaving reliever A.J. Ramos on the bench. Ramos had, as Marlin Maniac points out, pitched in the two previous games, tossing 2 innings and allowing one run. Every other bullpen pitcher pitched, including Brad Ziegler in his third straight game. Sadly, the bullpen seems to be well-rested enough that we won’t get to see Ichiro Suzuki pitch tonight.

Late in the game, I realized I don’t know who the Mets are likely to use in emergencies: Rene Rivera came in to play first base in a double switch in the 12th, so the backup catcher was in the game. Generally the emergency catcher would be a backup infielder, so T.J. Rivera would be the logical choice, but he’d come out of the game in a platoon maneuver to make room for Lucas Duda at first. Rivera or Jose Reyes might be a logical emergency pitcher, but it seems the new Blue Jay Ty Kelly might have filled in those positions. Judging by the state of the bullpen, we may find out tonight who Terry has slated to pitch in an emergency.

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Bullpen Bullets for September 30, 2015 September 30, 2015

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With the playoffs approaching, pitchers are making their cases to be included on the shortened roster for the National League Division Series.

  • Jonathon Niese made his first trip out of the bullpen last night, pitching 1 2/3 innings and giving up one earned run and 3 hits. He left Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera on base, and Eric Goeddel let Galvis come home. Niese allowed a hit to leadoff batter Cody Asche and looked to me like he might not have been totally warm. I expect Niese to get more comfortable in the ‘pen as he gets more work; expect Terry Collins to try him out as a situational lefty, although I think he’s more valuable as an ecumenical long relief option.
  • Speaking of ecumenical long relief options, Logan Verrett starts tonight in place of Steven Matz, who will start tomorrow instead after sleeping on a sofa and getting a stiff back. Bartolo Colon was favoring his neck last night, too; it sounds like the boys might have had a bit too much fun over the past few nights.
  • Hansel Robles hasn’t pitched since throwing a third of an inning in relief of Tim Stauffer on the 25th. Bobby Parnell closed the Understudies game on the 27th. The bullpen trio of Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard, and Jeurys Familia have been idle since the 26th. Expect to see them in relief of Verrett for any lead tonight, particularly since Niese will need to rest after throwing almost 2 innings..
  • Sean Gilmartin had been used in a long role; with Niese being tried out, there may not be room for Gilmartin on the playoff roster, particularly since they both tend to be better against righties. Gilmartin allows a .214/.287/.282 line to right-handed batters vs .272/.330/.359 to lefties; Niese’s split is less pronounced at .274/.340/.421 against righthanders vs .293/.331/.495 to left-handers. Niese’s comfort level getting ready quickly may determine whether he’s used in long relief or as a stuational lefty, but frankly neither of them is a strong pitcher against left-handers. By comparison, the right-handed Robles is pitching .169/.217/.251 to left-handed batters.

Is Jeurys Familia’s performance a cause for concern? September 24, 2015

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Following a blown save by Addison Reed and a perfect inning by Tyler Clippard, Jeurys Familia entered last night’s 3-3 game in the 9th. Familia struck out Jace Peterson, allowed a single to Cameron Maybin, and then walked Michael Bourn. Freddie Freeman hit a home run; Familia followed up by striking out Nick Markakis and Met-killer Adonis Garcia, but the damage was done. Pinch hitter Juan Uribe singled, but Wilmer Flores banged into a double play and Curtis Granderson grounded out to second to end the game.

Photo: slgckgc on Flickr

Photo: slgckgc on Flickr

Familia came to prominence during the first half of the season, in which he pitched in 41 games, notching 27 saves, a 3.31 KBB ratio, and a 1.25 ERA in front of a .217 BAbip. He allowed 26 hits including 3 doubles, a triple, and 3 home runs. Since the All Star break, Familia has pitched in 31 games with 14 saves, a 6.50 KBB, a 2.87 ERA, and a .342 BAbip. He’s allowed 30 hits, including 5 doubles and 3 home runs.

Those numbers say a lot about Familia’s consistency. First, his control ratio has increased considerably – by dropping from 13 walks (one intentional) to only 6 in the second half, and striking out 39 compared to 43 in the first half, Familia has shown remarkable command in the second half of the season. Further, that change in batting average on balls in play demonstrates that Familia has gotten a bit unlucky or that the defense behind him has flagged a bit with all of the offensive moves that were made. (Although Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto have been solid defensively, Daniel Murphy and Juan Uribe haven’t been fantastic solutions defensively at second base. Uribe is a fantastic third baseman playing out of position; Murphy might be more useful in the American League as a designated hitter.)

But what about those home runs? Those aren’t picked up in BAbip calculations because they’re not defense-dependent, and they might be tied to some factor that’s increasing his strikeouts.

During the first season, Familia pitched in 166 plate appearances, so those 3 home runs gave him a rate of about .018 home runs per plate appearance. Based on that, we’d expect in his 129 plate appearances since the All Star Game he’d have allowed about 2.33 home runs; 3 home runs is about .44 standard deviations away from his first-half numbers (and since fractional home runs aren’t a thing…..).

The biggest concern is that Familia has allowed more runners to reach base. All three homers in the first half were solos, two of them leading off (one with one out). Since then, Familia has allowed one solo and two 3-run home runs. The bigger issue is that these runners are reaching base – again, possibly due to that BAbip number cited above.

Familia is one of the best closers in the league. Put a solid defense behind him and he’ll continue to perform.

Two ends of the relief continuum September 21, 2015

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The Royals’ Danny Duffy nailed a three-inning save against the Tigers on the 20th. Now, it’s called a three-inning save, but Duffy did something about two to three pitchers do each year – he actually pitched four innings in relief. Recently moved to the pen, Duffy was still in shape to pitch four innings, allowing two hits and no runs while striking out six in relief of starter Kris Medlen. This year, only the Rays’ Matt Andriese has joined Duffy in the four-inning save club.

Four seems to be a soft limit under normal circumstances. There’s a handful of exceptions – Dick Hall recorded an eight-inning save in 1961, and 1920 was weird – but in recent memory, the longest save was a seven-inning effort by Joaquin Benoit in relief of Aaron Myette (who was ejected after four pitches and started the following day as well) and winning pitcher Todd Van Poppel. Ignoring Benoit, and Madison Bumgarner‘s brilliant five-inning save in the last game of the 2014 World Series, the last time a pitcher went 5 innings in a save was Blas Minor saving a game for the Pirates against the Mets in 1993.

On the other end of the spectrum, Huston Street recorded his 38th save for the Angels against the Twins on the 19th. He was called in to pitch only the last third of an inning – why would Mike Scioscia do that? Well, because Street had recorded his 37th save in a full inning pitched earlier that day in a 12-inning win. The Angels had used four other relievers to get to Street, and Los Angeles pitcher Garrett Anderson was crumbling in the ninth inning of game 2, so Scioscia waved for his closer. That doesn’t happen often; Jason Motte, Josh Collmenter, and Mark Lowe have all recorded saves on “negative” rest this year, but never two saves in one day. Jenrry Mejia came close on May 25 of last year, but as always, he was a disappointment; he saved game 2 after winning game 1. Joe Smith is the most recent one: he recorded saves 8 and 9 on July 1 of 2014, also for the Angels.

Sometimes the bullpen just needs some work (Game 145 recap) September 16, 2015

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Photo: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD

Photo: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD

Last night’s loss to Tom Koehler of the Marlins was tough for Jacob deGrom – not in the sense of tough losses, but because two big innings hurt deGrom so much.

Jacob twice allowed 3 runs in an inning. Using the Baseball Reference play index, I dug up a couple of other times that’s happened – once earlier this year against the Marlins, once in April against Nationals, and once in June of last year against the Cardinals. Jacob just usually has a better handle on the offense than that.

Mike Dunn‘s lights-out seventh inning – Koehler allowed two walks, but Dunn struck out Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, and Daniel Murphy in order – took away some momentum. An unfortunate wild pitch by Eric Goeddel to put Miguel Rojas in position to score off a Christian Yelich groundout with Eric O’Flaherty at the plate seemed to put the game out of reach for the Mets, despite a nice showing by Michael Conforto against Koehler and Bryan Morris (2 for 3 with a walk, one strikeout). Dee Gordon is unfortunately unstoppable.

Bobby Parnell acquitted himself well, and I appreciated Terry’s opportunity for Dario Alvarez. Although the game wasn’t out of hand as early as Terry went to the second string bullpen guys, I’m glad to see Parnell getting opportunities, and Dario Alvarez being used in this situation. O’Flaherty had been on ice since September 4, but pitched well, despite allowing a single (to Gordon) and an intentional walk.

Hopefully, that’s out of our system now.

Mets Game 141 – Expect big things! September 11, 2015

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Atlanta scored 2 runs last night, significantly below their season average of 3.59. Even their average is half a run below the National League’s 4.12 run-per-game mark. That’s a fantastic situation for Mets starter Steven Matz, who will no doubt feel under some pressure to maintain his 1.89 ERA; Matz is facing an Atlanta lineup that has produced 30 runs over their last 10 games, including 7 and 8 against the Phillies, who may technically be their own AAA team at this point.

Matz is coming off a finger blister that the Mets say probably wont affect his pitching. Nonetheless, Bartolo Colon, Dario Alvarez, and Addison Reed combined to keep the bullpen fairly fresh tomorrow. That means that if Matz falters early, Sean Gilmartin is available for long relief; Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia are both rested in the case of a tight game. Though Bobby Parnell has had a rough season, I fully expect Terry Collins to use him in case of a big deficit. Hansel Robles is unavailable; no date has been set for his return.

Arodys Vizcaino hasn’t pitched since the 7th. He hasn’t allowed a run on long rest this season and has tended to pitch better on longer rest. Starter Matt Wisler had a stellar throw-day relief appearance on the 6th, though he’s been inconsistent this year. Rested starters David Wright, Daniel Murphy, and Travis d’Arnaud may take advantage of Wisler’s up and down year. However, note that Wisler threw 8 innings of 1-run ball against the Mets on June 19; it was a 1-0 game but for a double allowed by Gilmartin in the 8th. It’s tough to say which Wisler you’ll get, but we’re fortunate to have a tight bullpen in case our rookie starter is just good and not great.

Preview for Mets Game 140, September 10 September 10, 2015

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Coming into tonight’s game against the Mets, the Braves are on a Meh streak: they took two from a terrible Phillies team over the past few nights, with scores of 7-2, 0-5, 8-1. Closer Arodys Vizcaino hasn’t pitched since the first game of that series; over those three games, the Braves bullpen threw 6 innings and gave up 3 runs, but all of those were in the 0-5 loss. The bullpen has thrown 422 1/3 innings this year and has a 4.67 ERA, but expect to see Vizcaino regardless as it’s been a few days since he worked.

Starter Shelby Miller has been hot and cold; he’s coming off a 4 1/3, 6-earned-run outing on September 5th, and he’s allowed 3 or more earned runs in three of his last four. However, when he’s good, he’s good: he has 2 complete games this year, both shutouts. Miller will probably be given a lot of rope tonight, which is fantastic for Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy; Murphy is 3 for 7 lifetime against Miller with a double, and Duda is 3 for 8 with a double and a home run. David Wright is 3 for 6 against Miller, with Juan Uribe 1 for 7; Uribe’s OPS in Turner Field is an anemic .638, so expect to see Juan as a pinch hitter if you see him at all.

The Closer Monkey has Tyler Clippard on the vulture save watch because Jeurys Familia has pitched in the last three games, but Clippard has pitched in three of the last four and allowed runs in two of them; Clippard may come in for emergency firefighting, but with Clippard and Familia both fairly gassed (6 2/3 innings combined since September 6), I think it’s more likely we’ll see Hansel Robles handed the eighth and Addison Reed take the ninth. Again, that’s if we see them at all; Bartolo Colon hasn’t pitched back-to-back complete games since 2003, but the way the Mets have been hitting, Bart may get us seven or eight good innings and a strong lead. In that case we’d be more likely to see Bobby Parnell given an opportunity to win the fans back.