This might sound familiar: the Mets' bullpen has been the worst in baseball this season. After last night's debacle against the Dodgers, the bullpen's 5.46 ERA ranks dead last in Major League Baseball.
That, of course, was the case for much of last season, which ended with the Mets ranked next-to-last, better than the Brewers' league-worst bullpen by 0.01 in ERA. And Mets relief pitchers were third-worst in baseball in ERA the year before that. The Mets haven't had an above-average bullpen ERA since 2010, when they actually were the ninth best in the game.
ERA isn’t a perfect way to measure pitching performance, and it can be particularly unfair to individual relievers depending on the context in which they enter a game. So we turn to FIP — Fielding Independent Pitching, for the uninitiated — to try to isolate pitching performance from the inherent noise in ERA.
The Mets’ bullpen has a 3.70 FIP this year. Its pitchers have reasonably good strikeout, walk, and home run rates, the three components upon which FIP is calculated. That number suggests the Mets’ bullpen should have a significantly lower ERA than it does, but the discrepancy is wide. If that sounds familiar, too, it might be because it came up here last year.
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.
That was written on June 11, at which time the Mets’ bullpen had a 5.59 ERA. That number improved by season’s end, but not by much.
So here we are again, looking at a bullpen that has been terrible through the first few weeks of the season, wondering if better performance is on the way. The Mets have used eleven different pitchers out of the bullpen in just eighteen games.
Aside from Parnell — who has unsurprisingly been excellent — and Atchison, every pitcher has a big gap between his ERA and FIP. In time, those numbers will more often stabilize than not, but it can be tough to be patient now when it looks like the Mets’ 2013 bullpen is playing out the story of the Mets’ 2012 bullpen.
As currently constructed, this Mets bullpen should get better, but there is no guarantee that time will fix its flaws.