Something rare happened the other night: The Mets’ bullpen blew a late-inning lead. After Jacob deGrom gave up a couple of hits to begin the eighth inning, Terry Collins turned to Hansel Robles, who promptly gave up a two-run triple and very shortly thereafter surrendered a game-tying single. He left a runner on base, and Alex Torres and Carlos Torres combined to allow that runner to score and give the Phillies the lead. The Mets went on to win the game, which took the four pitchers who pitched in the eighth inning off the hook.
Even if things had ended poorly, the fact that the Mets’ bullpen has been very good this year would still stand. If that sounds hard to believe, well, it’s at least easy to understand why that’s the case. Under Sandy Alderson, Mets relief pitchers were among the worst in baseball from 2011 through 2014. Their 4.02 ERA over that stretch was the third-worst in baseball, ahead of only the Rockies, who play their home games at Coors Field, and the Astros.
By ERA-, which takes park factors into account and compares pitcher performance to league average, Mets relievers pitched eleven percent worse than league average and were the second-worst bullpen in all of baseball, besting only the Astros in that metric. Their 20.1 percent strikeout rate was the third-worst. Their 9.4 percent walk rate wasn’t quite as dreadful, but it still wasn’t good—and ranked 22nd in baseball. By any objective measure, really, the Mets’ bullpen was certifiably awful.
Things took a turn for the better during the 2014 season, at least. Innings that were being given to Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde early in the year were eventually turned over to Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia, both of whom were very good. Vic Black, Josh Edgin, Buddy Carlyle, and Dana Eveland pitched very well, and Carlos Torres was effective as he led major league relievers in innings pitched. Coming into 2015, things were looking pretty good. Nearly all of the Mets’ best relief pitchers were still under contract, and Bobby Parnell, who missed all but Opening Day last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, figured to return not too far into the season.
Edgin is out for the year after having Tommy John surgery, and Mejia is serving an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug. On the flip side, the Mets acquired two relief pitchers at the very end of spring training to bolster the pen: Alex Torres from the Padres and Jerry Blevins from the Nationals. Blevins has missed a few week sand figures to miss at least a couple more, however, after suffering a broken forearm in his seventh appearance of the season in April. And after making the team out of spring training, Carlyle threw just eight innings before hitting the disabled list with a back issue.
Despite all of that and the blown lead on Tuesday night, the bullpen has been an asset this year. Its 2.64 ERA is the fifth-best mark in baseball, and its 73 ERA- ranks sixth. Mets relievers sit fifth in baseball in strikeout rate, too, at 25.0 percent, and their 8.3 percent walk rate ranks tenth. On the whole, they aren’t the best in baseball, but they’ve been very, very good.
The Mets have rolled out ten different relief pitchers this year, and very few of them have struggled. The average National League relief pitcher has a 3.62 ERA this year, and seven of those ten pitchers have been better than that.
|Avg. NL RP
And by FIP, which is based solely upon strikeouts, walks and hit by pitches, and home runs, all but two of the team's relievers have been better than average.
|Avg. NL RP
Things aren't perfect, of course. Alex Torres has walked an uncomfortable amount of opposing hitters. Erik Goeddel and Hansel Robles have started to look human, though both have been impressive.
At the very least, if and when the Mets activate relief pitchers from the disabled list—Black, Parnell, Blevins, and Carlyle could all be ready at some point sooner than later— they'll have some tough decisions to make. There's some roster flexibility there, as Leathersich, Robles, and Goeddel all have options. But neither Alex nor Carlos Torres has options, and Gilmartin is a Rule 5 pick who would have to be exposed to waivers and offered back to the Twins before the Mets could send him to the minors.