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In Scott Rice and Greg Burke, Mets have found value in the bullpen

The Mets' pair of under-the-radar bullpen acquisitions have been very good so far this year.

Rice Face?
Rice Face?

Way back in spring training, Terry Collins mentioned that Paul DePodesta had called him over the winter to suggest a couple of pitchers who he thought could help the Mets in 2013: Greg Burke and Scott Rice. At the time, Burke hadn't pitched in Major League Baseball since 2009, and Rice had been in the minors for fourteen years without ever cracking a big league roster.

Even after the Mets acquired the pitchers, neither was a lock to make the team's Opening Day bullpen. But they both did, and they've performed well since then. Judging by FIP—a better metric than ERA in general, but especially for relief pitchers whose ERAs can fluctuate wildly—Burke and Rice have been right up there with Bobby Parnell as the Mets' best bullpen arms.

Greg Burke 14 14.0 2.06
Bobby Parnell 24 24.1 2.16
Scott Rice 31 26.1 2.99
Brandon Lyon 23 19.2 3.42
LaTroy Hawkins 23 23.1 3.58
Scott Atchison 19 18.0 4.12
Jeurys Familia 8 10.1 6.26
Robert Carson 9 13.1 10.19

Rice has, of course, made an astronomical number of appearances. He's on pace for 98 of them over 162 games, a total that would surpass even Pedro Feliciano's busiest years: 2008, 2009, and 2010. In those appearances, though, he has been very, very good.

There's no doubt that Rice is a lefty specialist, but his 1.62 FIP against left-handed hitters is awfully impressive. Against right-handed hitters, Rice has a very bad 6.32 FIP because of an incredibly high 28.2 percent unintentional walk rate. Given how good he's been against lefties, perhaps some of those unintentional walks have really been semi-intentional.

The fact that he's only been effective against that side of the platoon hasn't been too big a deal since he's faced same-handed hitters 62.1 percent of the time. As a result, his overall 2.99 FIP doesn't just compare well to his teammates. Among 108 relief pitchers in the National League who have thrown at least 10 innings this year, it ranks 30th.

Burke has been no slouch, either, albeit in significantly less playing time. After racking up a 7.36 ERA in his first seven appearances of the year, Burke earned himself a demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, but he's been excellent since rejoining the team on May 13. Since then, he's made another seven appearances and hasn't allowed a run while holding opponents to a .367 OPS.

Like Rice, Burke has a significant platoon split, but his 1.22 FIP against right-handed hitters—who he's faced 62.9 percent of the time—is even better than Rice's against lefties. And his 2.06 FIP for the year ranks 9th among the group of 108 National League relief pitchers.

The Mets' bullpen still ranks near the bottom of the league, but through the first two months of the season, it looks like they've found a couple of relatively inexpensive bullpen arms who are easy to root for and just might be pretty good at getting major league hitters out.