Despite some turbulence along the way, including a two-hour loss of electricity that struck fear in the minds of infrequent flyers and world travelers alike, the plane managed to land safely in the city of Hanoi, where I was born 20 years ago. The first thing I did upon landing was, yes, you guessed it,...
After the convincing sweep, however, the Mets' performance in the next week left a lot to be desired. Two ninth-inning bullpen meltdowns drastically changed the outcome of the Miami series from yet another sweep of a division rival to a disappointing series defeat. The brief subsequent homestand was so-so, with the Mets splitting two-game series with NL Central foes Brewers and Reds. The bullpen, once again, proved to be a liability, handing a late-inning lead to Cincinnati and spoiling yet another Johan Santana's excellent start.
Sure, the offense and Dillon Gee were to blame for the shutout at the hands of Zach Greinke and the Brewers. But other than that, the uninspiring 3-4 record in the past week was largely due to these "sparkling" pitching lines out of the bullpen:
Frank Francisco: 2 2/3 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 1 K
Manny Acosta: 2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
Jon Rauch: 2 1/3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
D.J. Carrasco: 2 2/3 IP, 4H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Collectively, that amounts to a 13.97 ERA and four blown saves in a stretch of seven games. That's simply unacceptable. As fans, these gut-wrenching late-inning defeats are killers, as they often lead us to overreacting, which then leads the front office to panicking and ultimately, overreacting as well. Under our previous regime, we might have probably seen Acosta released, Francisco stripped of his closer role with Jenrry Meija and Josh Edgin on their way to the big club.
But as he has proved throughout his career, Sandy Alderson is a very capable general manager. He's very patient and certainly not prone to knee-jerk reactions. We can see that again this time. His only move following the bullpen's continuous meltdowns is the DFA of D.J. Carrasco. The only reason why Carrasco was given another shot this season was his two-year MLB contract signed last season. It was a short leash, and his three-plus subpar innings were enough for Sandy to pull the trigger on Carrasco and used him as the PR scapegoat to let the fans know that "Hey, I made an attempt to fix this bullpen." In reality, though, Carrasco's replacement Robert Carson can't be seen as a savior. His left-handedness should help, though.
The Mets don't have much in terms of viable bullpen pieces in the minors; and It's too early to look at the trade market for relievers, not that anyone better than in-house options is made available at this point. So staying put is definitely the right thing to do.
Meanwhile, according to Terry Collins, Francisco, the main culprit of the recent bullpen debacle, is still the first in line for save opportunities. There have been cries for Parnell, the most impressive bullpen arm thus far, to be inserted into the closer role.
That's overreacting, folks. Let's not forget that Francisco is on a two-year deal -- he's set to earn another $6.5 million next season. His contract status and track record warrant him a few more opportunities to redeem himself. If he does indeed rebound, the Mets have the flexibility to either look to move him -- an effective closer at a reasonable price could net the Mets decent pieces in return, or hang on to him for another season. If he continues to struggle, the debate will be revisited. For now, it's best to remain patient. It's only mid-May.
For a relief pitcher, stuff in most cases is the best indicator of his effectiveness and thus the deciding factor of his role in the bullpen. Based on stuff alone, Parnell, owner of a sterling 17/3 K/BB so far this season, is by far the most suitable to handle the closing duty. But while we usually poke fun at the so-called Proven Closer™ label, closing out games does require mental toughness to a certain degree, though not as overblown as most people have made it out to be. Last season, Parnell was dominant out of the 'pen with the exception of a brief stint as the team's 9th-inning man following K-Rod's departure. He blew six saves in the month of September, including four in the same week. Small sample size, no doubt, but six blown saves in a month is not something I want in the resumé of my team's closer. In the midst of the relief corps' struggles, it's hard to overlook Capt. Fastball's performance so far. Having said that, making the immediate jump from middle relief to closer is not a wise thing to do to Parnell at this point. If I were Terry, I would utilize him more oftenn in high-leverage situations and then ease him into late inning roles should Francisco and Rauch's struggles continue at this alarming rate.
Kudos to Sandy Alderson and Co. for ruining the theme in this installment of "This Week in Mets' Overreaction."