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Bullpen Has that 2008 Feel

By Mike Silva ~ June 18th, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Mets.

Lost in the Mets winning streak is the development, or should I say regression, of the bullpen over the last few weeks. It’s apparent that Jerry Manuel will eschew traditional bullpen roles and play the hot hand, which has led to multiple eighth inning men and burnt out relievers. Fernando Nieve‘s disappearance is probably just as much due to over usage as ineffectiveness after his start in Milwaukee. Despite Manuel’s bullpen management shortcomings, the construction of the pen continues to be a major weakness and has to be addressed.

I supported the moves that Omar Minaya made this winter. Everyone knocks Kelvim Escobar and Kiko Calero, but it was a reasonable risk to see if you could steal a high reward arm for very little. Calero is the bigger disappointment because of the type of season he had in Florida last year. That leaves you a pen with Francisco Rodriguez and a bunch of situational pitchers. Elmer Dessens, Pedro Feliciano, Fernando Nieve, and Raul Valdes all have situational splits. In the case of Valdes left handed batter hit better against him than right handed leaving this pen with only one true left handed specialist. Overall Igarashi is a mess.  I haven’t even gotten into Jenrry Mejia who is the youngest mop up man in the majors.

Although this crew hasn’t started to walk the tightrope like the 08′ bunch, remember it wasn’t until Billy Wagner went down with the elbow injury did things really implode. You had a bunch of situational relievers trying to piece together the final 6 to 9 outs of the ballgame. Right now the certainty in the ninth inning, coupled with 6 plus innings from the rotation, hide the warts of middle relief. Another concern is that most of that crew walks too many batters and doesn’t miss a whole lot of bats – two recipes for disaster.

The obvious fix is for the Mets to go out and acquire a legitimate eight inning arm and a lefty specialist. I mentioned J.J. Putz for the eighth inning the other day, another name that could potentially become available is Arizona’s Chad Qualls. He has struggled mightily this year as the closer (8.46 ERA, 2.2 WHIP), but for his career has good platoon splits and strikes out about a batter per inning. As for a lefty specialist, Will Ohman is holding southpaws to a .523 OPS down in Baltimore.

Immediate help could come from the farm as Bobby Parnell has regained his 09′ form (4.46 ERA, 41 K’s in 38 innings) after a slow start. Another possibility is John Lujan who pitched well in Binghamton, has struggled a bit in Buffalo, but misses bats as well striking out 41 in 32 innings. From the lefty specialist corner there is Roy Merritt – a favorite of mine in the past when he pitched for Brooklyn- who just got a call up to Buffalo from Binghamton and historically dominates left handed batters. All three would provide better value to the Mets bullpen and allow the team to send Jenrry Mejia down to develop as a starter. I also have my eye on Josh Stinson and Manny Alvarez at Binghamton. Stinson struggled in Savannah for a couple of years, but has jumped two levels and pitched outstanding for the B-Mets (2.66 ERA) this year. Manny Alvarez is a hard thrower, as profiled here by Jed Weisberger, and is having a breakout season as well.

Despite some interesting upside none of those names are the true answer. The Mets need to acquire a legitimate eighth inning reliever so that Jerry Manuel’s flawed bullpen logic is regulated to just the sixth and seventh innings. The less critical decision making from the bench the less chance we will see a repeat of the 2008 bullpen. If not I have a feeling that K-Rod’s ninth innings won’t be the only sweatbox the rest of the year.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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