It hasn’t exactly been a secret that the Mets’ bullpen has gotten off to a great start, helping the team reach its best start by win-loss record in franchise history. With last night’s win over the Marlins, the ‘pen now has a 1.56 ERA, the third-best mark in baseball, in 40.1 innings. And Hansel Robles, who didn’t earn a spot on the Opening Day roster, has been a significant part of that success thus far.
In five appearances, each of which has last exactly one inning, Robles has struck out ten, walked one, and given up one solo home run—to Bryce Harper, who hit home runs against several pitchers over the first week-and-a-half this season. It’s all small sample size theater at this stage of a baseball season, but add that all up and Robles has a 1.80 ERA and 2.20 FIP. We don’t often mention pitcher wins here, but it’s fun to note that Robles has two of those already, making him one of twenty-nine pitchers—with the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Shoehi Ohtani—tied for the major league lead.
Based on some of the early reactions to Robles’s very good start to the 2018 season, you would think people had never seen him pitch in the big leagues before. He has never come close to keeping up this sort of performance over the course of a full season, but even last year, which he ended with a 4.92 ERA, included some prolonged stretches of dominance. When things get bad for Robles, though, they get really, really bad.
If the Mets were able to pinpoint something that portends those bad stretches, optioning him to the minors or at least getting him only the lowest-leverage work at the major league level, they might really be on to something. But thus far, there haven’t been any major red flags that preceded the awful stretches.
Again, it’s extremely early, but one encouraging sign for Robles is that he’s getting swing-and-misses. His 10.7 percent swinging strike rate thus far this season isn’t elite or anything, but he had dipped down to 8.9 percent in that metric last year, a career-low. And it’s interesting to see that FanGraphs’ pace metric has him working faster, at 22.4 seconds between pitches, down substantially from his usual 26 and change.
It’ll take much more than five good appearances for the overall outlook on Robles to change. But for now, at least, he’s been a valuable piece of the puzzle that has gotten the Mets off to this start. With Anthony Swarzak sidelined by an oblique injury, Robles pitching like this has been incredibly valuable. It probably won’t last all year, maybe not even all month, but if he ends up merely being a decent fill-in until Swarzak returns, that’s a win for the Mets.