It’s no secret that the Mets’ bullpen has struggled this year. Between their 4.90 ERA and 4.48 FIP, Mets relievers have the third-worst adjusted ERA and the seventh-worst adjusted FIP in all of baseball. While no one expected the Mets’ relief corps to be as dominant as, say, the Yankees’ or the Indians’, most expected better results than this. Perhaps no one embodies this underperformance more than Fernando Salas.
Salas was excellent for the Mets last year. After being traded from the Angels late in the season, the righty had a 2.08 ERA (52 ERA-) and a 3.20 FIP (78 ERA-) in 17.1 innings of work. Most impressively, Salas struck out 19 batters while walking none.
Salas has been a completely different pitcher in 2017. In 22.2 innings, the right-hander has posted just 7.54 K/9, well below his career rate of 8.85. Of equal concern is Salas’s walk rate, which has spiked to 4.76 BB/9, by far the worst mark of his career. Salas’s poor peripherals have resulted in a bloated 5.56 ERA (136 ERA-) and 4.65 FIP (110 FIP-).
Salas appears to be the victim of poor command, rather than reduced stuff. As you can see, the velocity and movement on his pitches are similar to what they were last year.
The location of his pitches, on the other hand, has become far more erratic.
Salas isn’t the only underperforming Mets reliever. Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker, and Rafael Montero have been completely ineffective, and all three have seen time in Triple-A this year. Addison Reed has been solid—although not as dominant as he’s been for the Mets over the last two years—filling in for closer Jeurys Familia, who will miss most of the season to injury. That leaves Jerry Blevins, Josh Edgin, and rookie Paul Sewald as the only Mets relievers to meet or beat expectations so far in 2017.
Of course, it’s hard to read too much into 20 or so innings of work. That said, Mets relievers have struggled badly enough to make the bullpen a legitimate cause for concern. Their struggles also raise an important question: Is this just a bump in the road, or a sign that the bullpen needs to be completely revamped?
For the Mets’ pen to survive in its current form, they’ll need better performances from a number of pitchers. First among them is Fernando Salas. When Familia went down, the Mets expected Salas to slide into the eighth inning and inherit Reed’s setup duties. Unfortunately, Salas’s performance hasn’t yet justified this higher-leverage role. If the Mets’ pen doesn’t improve quickly—and substantially—the team may need to look outside the organization to help turn its season around.