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Is The Mets' Bullpen As Bad As It Looks?

Frank Francisco has five-point-five-five ERA.
Frank Francisco has five-point-five-five ERA.

The Mets' bullpen had another brutal series against the Yankees over the weekend as the team was swept. In each of the Mets' three losses, the bullpen allowed at least one run, and earlier in the week it was unable to hold several late leads in an ugly extra-inning loss against the Nationals.

On the season, the Mets' bullpen has a 5.59 ERA, which is the worst mark in Major League Baseball. The Brewers' bullpen, which ranks 29th in the league, has a 4.45 ERA. The gap between the 12th-ranked Red Sox, with a 3.55 ERA, and the Brewers is smaller than the gap between the Brewers and Mets.

There are some signs that the bullpen deserves better results than it has generated thus far. Its 4.09 FIP is still 26th in baseball, but it is well over a run lower than its ERA. Perhaps that doesn't sound all that encouraging, but bad results would be preferable to the abominable results that the bullpen has produced over the first two months of the season.

The bullpen's .330 batting average on balls in play is the second-highest mark in baseball, which means at least some of the balls that have fallen in for hits against it — think Alex Rodriguez's bloop single to no-man's land yesterday — will not always be hits. That number might be lower, of course, if Mets relievers were inducing more ground balls. Their collective 41.2% rate ranks 27th in the league.

It's worth noting that 22 of the bullpen's 174 innings this year were pitched by Manny Acosta, who is now pitching in Buffalo after clearing waivers because he was awful. Elvin Ramirez, however, has looked like an Acosta clone in his first few appearances in the big leagues, and Jeremy Hefner and Miguel Batista are probably not suited for high-leverage situations.

So the Mets' bullpen is bad, but it's probably not quite this bad. There are no signs that this bullpen can be great, but even the current group of pitchers should be better in the future. As for reinforcements, the Mets are awaiting the return of Ramon Ramirez, who was not that great before his injury, and could call up Josh Edgin or Jenrry Mejia from Buffalo sooner than later. There's no guaranteed way to make the bullpen better, but at least it can't get much worse.