The Mets' bullpen started out as a dumpster fire, and that’s probably being generous. After the first game of the season, it had already blown a save at home, lost the closer for the season, and was relying on trash heap signings Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth to stay above water. Nowadays, the outlook is much improved. Jenrry Mejia’s move to the bullpen has been a fantastic decision to date, injuries and recent struggles notwithstanding. Jeurys Familia and Vic Black are translating their killer stuff into results, and Josh Edgin has returned from his spring training humiliation quite strong. Carlos Torres, Dana Eveland, and even Daisuke Matsuzaka have provided good performances as veterans out of the pen as well.
While the bullpen renaissance has been one of several emerging bright spots this season, it’s often good to take a step back and temper our expectations a tad. Perhaps our young, fire-throwing bullpen isn’t quite this good just yet. While projecting bullpens is notoriously tricky, we can use several predictive measures to determine how sustainable this performance is. Below are all Mets bullpen pitchers who are currently on the team and have pitched at least 20 innings this season (Gonzalez Germen fails the former condition, Buddy Carlyle the latter). Included are the pitchers’ ERA, BABIP, strikeout rate, and walk rate, along with the more predictive FIP, xBABIP, xK%, and xBB%, followed by some conclusions about each player:
*Mejia's stats as a reliever only.
**Matsuzaka's stats as a reliever only.
The workhorse of the Mets' bullpen, Torres has almost certainly been overused this season, which is a likely cause of his mediocre results. His ERA is unspectacular, particularly for a reliever, and his FIP is even worse. He’s not getting particularly unlucky in terms of BABIP, and his strikeout and walk rates are right in line with the estimators, which is a decent way of showing his FIP is fairly accurate. Torres was bound to come down from the peak form he displayed last year and is really nothing more than an okay middle relief arm or swingman.
Dice-K (or Dice-BB if you prefer) has delivered a decent 3.25 ERA out of the bullpen this year, but this number is not sustainable in the slightest. His xBABIP is almost 100 points higher than his actual mark, and even though his walk rate is a tad higher than expected, it’s still pretty awful. Daisuke has been a useful tool for eating innings this season, but I do not expect or want to see him on the team next year.
Eveland has been a decent option out of the bullpen since arriving from Vegas, though Collins's continuing insistence to use him as a LOOGY baffles me. Eveland’s shiny 2.74 ERA is almost a full run lower than his FIP, and the disparity in his BABIP numbers backs up this regression indicator. He’s also due to walk some more batters, but his strikeout rate appears sustainable for the time being. To me, Eveland profiles as a lefty Torres, which has some value; but I would hope the Mets could do better than carrying two of these kinds of pitchers next season.
One of the exciting four young arms in the Met bullpen right now, Edgin has been a great option since his return to the parent club. Though his FIP is more than a run higher than his ERA, a 2.99 mark is nothing to sneeze at. The BABIP is definitely low, and the walks can probably be expected to rise. However, it’s not an unreasonable idea that he can continue to induce weak contact by nature of being a LOOGY, and xBABIP is certainly not a perfect statistic. Hopefully Edgin can be the primary left specialist for the Mets in 2015.
Familia has arguably been the best pitcher out of the bullpen in terms of pure results. However, FIP and xFIP (3.78) are not nearly as fond of his work. Furthermore, his strikeout rate seems rather low given the absurd amount of movement his pitches generate (10.6 inches and 10 inches on his sinker and four-seamer, respectively). His xK% indicates that he may be in line for a few more strikeouts, and his xBB% indicates a few fewer walks as well, both of which are encouraging. He’s due for some regression purely based on statistics, but based on his youth and his stuff, I can see Familia improving his peripherals to match his ERA, and providing a near elite late-inning option going forward.
Another pitcher who struggled mightily in spring training, Black has performed very well. The BABIP is not unreasonably far from his xBABIP for a reliever. His strikeout rate is backed up by the metrics, and he may actually be due to walk fewer, which is the biggest question mark regarding his viability as a major league pitcher. There’s no denying that Black has some really impressive stuff, and he’s been able to turn it into some great results—results that appear largely sustainable. He can hopefully continue to be a cog in the back of the bullpen.
Our electric, flamboyant closer has been great since transitioning to the bullpen. His ERA and strikeout rate are right in line with his FIP and xK%. Further, his .357 BABIP is unsustainable even without looking at his .340 xBABIP, and he’s due to lose some walks as well. I’m not sure what happens when Parnell comes back from Tommy John surgery regarding the closer position, but if Mejia continues this sort of performance next year he’ll be very valuable.
The Mets have an exciting quartet of young, hard-throwing relievers, and it’s easy to imagine further improvement given their collective youth. On the other hand, three of the four are outperforming their peripherals and are probably in line for some regression. However, none of this regression is to the point of uselessness, and with the return of Parnell next season, the bullpen appears to be an obvious strength for the next great Met team.