Whats to be done with the 'Pen?

So far this season, if you asked any Mets fan whats holding us back the unanimous answer would be the bullpen. Only two relievers out of our pen have posted above league average results, and one of those is a left-handed specialist! The Mets have already taken some measure of action, in DFA'ing DJ Carrasco, but the man had 3.2 innings pitched at the big league level, it's a hardf to pin the struggles of the pen on his chest. So what should the Mets do? Do they hold fast and let the ship right itself, make a move on the trade market or look for options in their own minor league system?

First, lets take a quick look at the main culprits of this years travesty. All stats in this article were compiled before last nights (5/18/12) game.







F. Francisco







M. Acosta







J. Rauch







R. Ramirez







It breaks down basically the way you would expect it to with Francisco and Acosta blazing a trail of terrible pitching that Rauch has been meandering down as of late. Now Acosta and and Frankie both have atypical batted ball profiles compared to their career rates. Acosta is struggling with a BABIP of .351, but what has been killing him is his 17.4% HR/FB%. Francisco has a .396 BABIP, but a 27.8 LD% will tend to do that to you. In fact, that's exactly what I expected to find when i went looking at the bullpens numbers. The eye test had been telling me that Francisco had been giving up a LOT of hard-hit balls in play, and a 27.8 LD% is a LOT of hard hit balls; David Wright has a 29.8 LD% so far this year for a comparison. Rauch hasn't been terrible results-wise as of yet, but his inability to strike anyone out makes it tough to use him as a late inning high leverage reliever.

Ramon Ramirez is probably the most likely of this bunch to start a run of scoreless innings. For his career, his ERA is about a full run lower than his xFIP due to a below average HR/FB rate, which erases some of the concern about his 4.29 xFIP (only .02 higher than his career mark 4.27. Career ERA: 3.21). Additionally, he's posted solid numbers in the junior circuit and was dominant last year for the giants (2.62 ERA, 3.47 xFIP). In fact, Ramon Ramirez would probably be the guy I moved into the closer spot at this point. Bobby Parnell has always had some struggles in the 9th, although most of his high leverage innings have tended to come after an elongated stretch of dominance in middle relief, and usually after several weeks of fairly high usage. Still, the idea of easing him into higher leverage situations may be more appealing to those worrying about his confidence, but more importantly, it allows Collins to pour a big 'ol bucket of fastballs on any late inning potential rallies by not locking Parnell into the 9th and never letting him pitch anywhere else.

Of course, the Mets have already started making some moves, DFA'ing DJ Carrasco, who while being an easy scapegoat, really had nothing to do with the bullpens year long struggle. Robert Carson got the call, and I really have to think this is more of a move to get Byrdak a breather more than anything else. Carson probably edged out Josh Edgin on the basis of already being on the 40-man roster, but Edgin probably has the more advanced breaking ball and command and is struggling at triple A, so it's hard to see Carson dominating at the majors. The Mets also called up Jeremy Hefner today, but he's entirely there for his ability to pitch multiple innings and not be Manny Acosta, both him and Carson will probably be back in the minors at the end of this road trip, barring a run of dominance from either.

Our in house options are Elvin Ramirez, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Jennry Mejia and Robert Carson, who's already been called up. I only list Mejia and Familia because so many scouts see them as future bullpen arms, not because I think they should be seriously considered for the role. Elvin Ramirez should be up basically as soon as they can find him a way onto the 40-man. He's currently striking out over 30% of the batters to face him in 2012 over 2 levels (AA-AAA). He works with a plus fastball that can touch 96, a slider and a change up. Edgin will probably stay at triple A until his control improves to the point where he's actually pitchable at the ML level, a 13% BB% at AAA is unplayable at the major league level.

The bottom line of the bullpen situation is simply that Francisco and Acosta simply cannot continue to be this bad. Exploring the trade market simply isn't an option for the Mets, who currently have a -30 run differential, and play in the toughest division in the NL. While Mejia and Familia are both probably ready to take over jobs in a major league bullpen, the marginal improvement isn't worth the damage that would be done to their current development as starters.

What I would suggest is starting to use Ramon Ramirez and Bobby Parnell exclusively in high leverage situations. Even if the decision is made to keep Francisco as the closer, Acosta and Rauch simply aren't as good as Ramirez and Parnell. Elvin should be called up soon, he's been simply untouchable this year as his stuff is simply more than most minor leaguers can handle. I understand why a lot of Mets fans may be eager to see what Familia and Mejia could do out of the pen at the major league level. It's easy to look at our record and the close games that have been blown by the pen and say "we could be way better than this!" The fact is however, we're probably not even this good. If we're still in contention around the trading deadline and Familia is still walking 4 batters per 9 then it might be time to talk about his future in the pen, but right now all we can do is sit still and pray.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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