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A Look At The Mets' Bullpen Problem

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As you may have heard, the Mets' bullpen did not have a good weekend. Frank Francisco, the highest paid pitcher of the bunch, has not only failed to live up to expectations but has been downright awful. As a group, the Mets' bullpen's 5.01 ERA is the third-worst rate in the National League after blowing late leads in two of three games against the rival Miami Marlins.

They probably aren't this bad. Even though the results so bad this season, the bullpen's 3.71 FIP, 4.15 xFIP, and .333 batting average on balls in play suggest that the group is due for some improvement. On top of that, Francisco (8.56 ERA) and Manny Acosta (9.53 ERA) are simply better than this. Ramon Ramirez could just be what he's been so far this year, a decent middle-innings relief pitcher.

Tim Byrdak, Bobby Parnell, and Jon Rauch have been good. Rauch has yet to allow a home run and hasn't struck out many opposing hitters, but he has kept his walks to an absolute minimum. Byrdak continues to dominate left-handed hitting, and Parnell has easily been the best pitcher in the bullpen.

Let's have a look at how Terry Collins has deployed his bullpen thus far. Fangraphs' gmLI measures the leverage of the situation in which each pitcher enters the game. (The table below is sortable.)

Pitcher gmLI K% BB% K/9 BB/9 FIP
Frank Francisco 1.72 21.7 10.1 9.88 4.61 4.23
Tim Byrdak 1.57 41.0 7.7 13.94 2.61 2.02
Ramon Ramirez 1.34 18.6 11.6 7.45 4.66 3.55
Jon Rauch 1.25 11.5 4.9 4.11 1.76 2.66
Manny Acosta 1.05 16.5 11.8 7.41 5.29 6.51
Bobby Parnell 0.96 22.5 4.2 9.00 1.69 2.36

It seems obvious that Parnell should not be relegated to the least important situations. Byrdak's use has been fine, but Francisco and Ramirez should probably get some work in less lower leverage spots while they straighten things out. There's really no need for a team to define a specific closer, but if Terry Collins feels like he has to name one, Rauch or Parnell would make sense.

In a month or so, the bullpen could look just fine, with each pitcher performing in his expected role. For now, though, it looks like the Mets should at least get their best relief pitchers into the most important game situations until things settle down a bit.