When the 2017 season started, the Mets’ bullpen presented quite a bit of opportunity several pitchers who had either made it or just missed out on making it. There were some locks on the roster at the back end of the bullpen in Addison Reed and—post-suspension—Jeurys Familia, the righties who would handle the final two innings of games. They were complemented by lefty Jerry Blevins, but the rest of the pitchers in the bullpen really had a chance to make a name for themselves.
Hansel Robles was perhaps the most enticing of those arms at the beginning of the year, but his season couldn’t have gone much worse than it did. In total, he threw 56.2 innings for the Mets with a 4.92 ERA and 5.13 FIP. His strikeout rate remained pretty good at 24.3 percent, but for the second straight year his walk rate increased, coming in at 11.7 percent on the season. That increase was modest, however, in comparison to his home run rate, which jumped from 0.81 per nine innings in 2016 to 1.59 this year.
Home runs were, of course, up all over the league thanks to the baseball that Major League Baseball insists isn’t juiced. But Robles’s struggles with the long ball—and the long-running amusement of Mets fans and observers at his habit of pointing to the sky to indicate a fly ball even on clear home runs—were another thing altogether.
A quick glance at Robles’s stuff over at Brooks Baseballs shows that the 27-year-old was down a tick with his fastball. It averaged 95.41 miles per hour this year after averaging 96.06 the year before. His changeup stayed nearly exactly the same, and he threw his slider over a mile per hour faster than he had the previous year.
As has been the case in Robles’s major league career, there were prolonged stretches of success and intense periods of struggle. Through May 10, he had thrown 19.0 innings with a 1.42 ERA. But his next three outings were brutal—2.2 innings, 12 earned runs, 40.50 ERA, 3 strikeouts, 4 walks, 4 home runs—and got him demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he remained for nearly two months.
Once he rejoined the Mets, he put together a stretch of 24.2 innings of a 2.19 ERA, teasing for what feels like the one-hundredth time that he might turn into something great. But four of his final seven appearances of the season went very poorly, and he had an 8.71 ERA in those last 10.1 innings. Add all of that up, and you get his numbers for the season.
Heading into the offseason, Robles is eligible for arbitration for the first time. He has shown enough that the Mets should absolutely tender him a contract and keep him around at a modest salary for 2018. But they should not count on him to be anything more than a potentially pleasant surprise. A bad outing here or there is understandable, but Robles will have to find a way to isolate the funk if he’s going to become a more reliable reliever.