Yeah But, The Relievers Have Been Lucky

It's nice to get all excited. Even I've been removing the hater goggles given out to all sabremetrically-inclined writers in favor of some of the rose-colored variety. There's something to this team with their mix of upstart youth and still-strong veterans. There's even more help in the pipeline. There are rumors of acquiring talent from other teams. It's good to be a fan right now.

But one must be realistic. So in the name realism, let's take a look at the bullpen for a second, and expound on some of the stuff that Alex Nelson just showed us in the Month in Review. The pen has been doing well enough for what could only be described as a question mark (at least beyond the closer) going into the season. The 3.73 is eighth-best in the National League, but there's a little more going on. By at least one measure, they are the third-luckiest relief corps in the league. Check the list below sorted by FIP - ERA.

Team K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 WHIP BABIP LOB% ERA FIP E-F xFIP
Cardinals 7.1 3.17 2.24 0.86 1.23 0.277 77.70% 3.27 4.03 -0.75 4.2
Nationals 7.61 4.09 1.86 0.87 1.4 0.3 74.30% 3.61 4.14 -0.53 4.58
Mets 8.21 4.65 1.76 0.79 1.45 0.308 77.90% 3.73 4.14 -0.41 4.43
Padres 9.61 2.49 3.86 0.7 1.02 0.275 79.40% 2.62 2.89 -0.26 3.09
Phillies 7.4 3.7 2 0.69 1.37 0.306 76.50% 3.64 3.87 -0.23 4.31
Rockies 7.57 2.8 2.7 0.59 1.19 0.29 73.60% 3.2 3.36 -0.16 4.11
Giants 8.66 4.44 1.95 0.7 1.44 0.318 76.70% 3.63 3.79 -0.16 4.24
Cubs 8.52 4.29 1.99 1.01 1.42 0.307 68.30% 4.24 4.29 -0.06 4.43
Braves 10.01 4.05 2.47 0.68 1.28 0.306 75.10% 3.27 3.32 -0.05 3.59
Dodgers 7.52 3.59 2.09 0.68 1.28 0.289 70.90% 3.8 3.74 0.07 4.2
Pirates 8.39 4.36 1.92 0.91 1.4 0.302 69.10% 4.53 4.18 0.34 4.28
Astros 6.58 3.39 1.94 1 1.52 0.33 71.40% 4.88 4.32 0.57 4.52
Reds 7.7 4.39 1.75 0.79 1.59 0.339 71.90% 4.74 4.1 0.64 4.47
Marlins 8.06 4.28 1.88 0.6 1.46 0.322 68.70% 4.48 3.79 0.7 4.35
Diamondbacks 6.8 5.05 1.35 1.75 1.81 0.337 61.40% 7.33 5.88 1.45 5.16
Brewers 8.33 4.02 2.07 0.96 1.63 0.363 65.10% 5.86 4.13 1.73 4.36

 

So yes, despite having the eight-best bullpen ERA, the Mets have the twelfth-worst bullpen FIP in the National League. You do that by having the second-worst walk rate in the majors and the third-worst K/BB ratio. Take a look at the relievers in our pen, sorted by ERA-FIP. Looks like almost everyone's been lucky!

Name K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 WHIP BABIP LOB% ERA FIP E-F xFIP
Mike Pelfrey 9 2 0.262 100.00% 6.11 -6.11 7.48
Sean Green 9 1 9 2 0.355 100.00% 9 14.11 -5.11 3.84
Manny Acosta 10.5 6 1.75 1.5 1.33 0.232 90.90% 3 4.94 -1.94 4.14
Oliver Perez 5.06 8.44 0.6 3.38 2.25 0.293 78.40% 8.44 10.24 -1.8 7.41
Elmer Dessens 4.05 1.35 3 0.75 0.202 66.70% 1.35 3.11 -1.76 4.95
Pedro Feliciano 8.14 4.81 1.69 0.37 1.64 0.358 88.40% 1.85 3.56 -1.71 3.93
Jenrry Mejia 5.4 4.39 1.23 0.68 1.58 0.313 85.30% 3.04 4.69 -1.65 4.68
Francisco Rodriguez 11.07 3.24 3.42 0.54 1.11 0.303 88.40% 1.89 2.69 -0.8 3.51
Fernando Nieve 6.12 5.76 1.06 1.08 1.36 0.219 72.30% 4.68 5.47 -0.79 5.55
Tobi Stoner 3.86 1.71 0.313 75.00% 3.86 4.4 -0.54 4.98
Hisanori Takahashi 11.42 4.85 2.36 0.35 1.38 0.342 78.00% 3.12 2.69 0.43 3.5
Raul Valdes 10.01 3.94 2.54 0.61 1.52 0.372 64.80% 5.16 3.18 1.98 4
Ryota Igarashi 3.09 6.94 0.44 1.54 1.97 0.293 49.50% 10.03 6.97 3.06 6.73

 

The good news is that there are a couple relievers that, despite some regression to the mean, will still be valuable. Elmer Dessens, Pedro Feliciano and Francisco Rodriguez have been lucky, yes, but they also sport good FIPs. The bad news is that this analysis highlights how bad of a decision the Fernando Nieve and Jenrry Mejia decisions have been. Mejia is no better than replacement right now (4.18 FIP Is the ML average), with an upside of a mid-rotation starter that is currently being stalled... for a replacement-level reliever. He's not showing anything that say, someone like Pat Misch, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee couldn't show us. And even Gee probably has less upside as a starter with his flyball ways. Nieve has been bad, and really it can only get worse from here on out with that walk rate. While Rodriguez has been lucky but is still good, Igarashi has been unlucky and bad. Raul Valdes gives us hope that he may yet step forward and be a valuable addition to the bullpen.

And lest you go wondering how ERA and FIP matchup in general, the average reliever ERA-FIP is plus 0.5 this year and was plus 0.76 last year. (Yes I know that this is jenky math, but I'll let it serve as a quick-and-dirty check.) Also, while xFIP regulates for home run rates across the league - and so therefore might not give credit to Citi Field and its home-run suppressing environment, FIP cares not about home run rates. So it really does look like every regular pitcher in the Mets bullpen save Raul Valdes has been either lucky, terrible, or in the case of Fernando Nieve, both.

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