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New Bullpen Arms But Thinking Must Change

By Mike Silva ~ February 25th, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Mets.

The Mets won in 2006 because of a strong bullpen. Their relievers that year put up a 3.28 ERA and shouldered the load of pitching 37% of the teams total innings. Since then, especially in 2008, the bullpen has been more of a weakness instead of strength. You could blame it on injuries or poor front office decisions, but the reality is neither Willie Randolph or Jerry Manuel grasped the concept of putting pitchers in situations which they had the highest percentage of success. Routinely situational bullpen arms like Scott Schoeneweis, Joe Smith, Brian Stokes, and Pedro Feliciano were asked to crossover when basic splits indicated they couldn’t. Not all of that was Manuel’s fault mind you, he was dealt this kind of bullpen from Omar Minaya, but in his nearly two years at the helm Jerry Manuel has never developed any roles for his bullpen pitchers.

I am an ardent believer in each member of the bullpen having an idea when they could be expected to get the call. Imagine you’re sitting around and watching a baseball game. You drink coffee, joke, and sometimes just sit back and relax. All of a sudden the bullpen phone rings and within five minutes you are asked to change gears and get the opponents cleanup hitter out. You might want some time to mentally prepare for that. Obviously that is life in the bullpen, but knowing your time of the game is coming up might help with that transition. Pedro Feliciano may be the only member of the bullpen, outside of Francisco Rodriguez, that knows when he will get the call. This quite simply is adding another obstacle in an already challenging role.

Will this change? The early talk from Jerry Manuel appears the answer is no. During the winter he talked about an “eighth inning by committee” which I find patently absurd. See who emerges as your best setup man and give them the eighth. In 2006 Aaron Heilman excelled in this role putting up a WHIP under one after taking over for the injured Duaner Sanchez. Could his improvement be a result of knowing exactly when he would be called into the game?

The current Mets bullpen has some interesting arms. Sean Green and his Chad Bradford reinvention, Japanese imports, young lefty Eric Niesen, Bobby Parnell, and former Toronto closer Kelvim Escobar. Even if this group lives up to expectations they still may be undermined by some of the issues I have talked about in this piece. Does anyone honestly think Jerry Manuel has learned the importance of bullpen splits? If you do, just take his quote yesterday when he told reporters he “hopes Sean Green isn’t just going to be a situational pitcher.” Hello Jerry, left handed batters have an OPS over .800 against Green for his career. Do you think he is anything but situational?

In an era where managing a pitching staff may be the most important task for a big league manager, Jerry Manuel has the biggest question mark hanging over his head this spring.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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2 Responses to New Bullpen Arms But Thinking Must Change

  1. Mark P

    I think we can rest assured that unless something amazing happens, the bullpen will underperform and Manuel will mismanage the pitching staff in general buy going to a questionable pen while a starter is hot through 7 innings.

    Ask not, Mr. Manuel, for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. Especially if you aren’t proactive this year.

  2. R U Kidding

    Manuel gets criticized for using too many pitchers and he gets criticized for wanting guys not to be situational pitchers. Yep, he’s on his way out!

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