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The Mets’ bullpen was solid, if unspectacular, in 2021

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As a unit, the bullpen wasn’t elite, but it was better than most.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Over the past decade of two, Mets bullpens have generally been very bad. Since the start of the 2012 season, Mets relievers have combined for a 4.20 ERA over the course of nearly five thousand innings, the fifth-worst ERA in all of baseball. There have been a couple of good years sprinkled in, but it’s a part of the team that has been a significant issue for a long time.

So the fact that the Mets finished the 2021 season with a 3.90 ERA that ranked ninth-best in baseball is something of an accomplishment. Only one bullpen finished the regular season with a sub-3.00 ERA—the Giants—and only two other teams finished below 3.50. Given the context, the bullpen was pretty good, capable of keeping the team in contention if other parts of the roster had stepped up. Perhaps the bullpen would have blown some big games down the stretch if that had been the case, but it definitely wasn’t the part of the team that torpedoed the Mets’ months-long hold on first place in the National League East.

Unsurprisingly, the four pitchers who racked up the most innings out of the Mets’ bullpen were all good, but not quite great. Miguel Castro, Edwin Díaz, Trevor May, and Jeurys Familia were the team’s top four relievers by innings pitched, respectively. All of them finished the year with an ERA in the range of Díaz’s 3.45 and Familia’s 3.94.

Castro was tantalizing in the first couple of months before regressing hard and then settling into merely just being decent. Díaz flashed brilliance but had some reliability issues that led to his higher-than-ideal ERA. May was pretty much on brand when looking at his stats over the past couple of seasons, albeit with a big higher of an ERA than you’d like to see. And Familia proved that he is still a major league relief pitcher, just not quite the one who used to be very, very good.

The biggest surprise in the Mets’ bullpen was undoubtedly 33-year-old lefty Aaron Loup. One of the team’s few fresh faces in the bullpen at the start of the year, Loup’s signing wasn’t exactly exciting at the time, but he wound up throwing 53.2 innings with a 1.01 ERA.

Seth Lugo missed a chunk of the season with injury before returning, and he didn’t look like his usual self. Typically reliable and one of the better relief pitchers in the sport, Lugo finished the year with a 3.50 ERA and higher-than-usual walk and home run rates.

As for the rest of the pitchers who threw at least ten innings out of the Mets’ bullpen, Drew Smith was pretty good, as was Robert Gsellman before he went down with an injury that cost him most of the season. Yennsy Diaz and Sean Reid-Foley, both of whom came to the Mets in the Steven Matz trade, looked better early in the year than they did by the end of it. Trevor Williams, Heath Hembree, and Brad Hand, all of whom were added to the major league roster too late in the year to bring the Mets back to life, were fine. Jacob Barnes, one of the few offseason additions, was decidedly not, finishing his brief Mets tenure with a 6.27 ERA.

There were, of course, plenty of others who pitched out of the Mets’ bullpen, with a whopping total of 35 different people making such appearances. To be fair, one of those was Taijuan Walker, who picked up where Marcus Stroman left off in the the previously-suspended game from April that had gone just one-third of an inning before resuming in August. But let’s remember some guys here:

Joey Lucchesi, Jake Reed, Corey Oswalt, Tommy Hunter, Rich Hill, Jordan Yamamoto, Kevin Pillar, Stephen Tarpley, Luis Guillorme, Akeem Bostick, Dellin Betances, Geoff Hartlieb, Nick Tropeano, Anthony Banda, Albert Almora Jr., Trevor Hildenberger, Brandon Drury, Thomas Szapucki, Stephen Nogosek, and Jerad Eickhoff also made appearances as Mets relievers in 2021.

As is always the case with the Mets, the bullpen could use some help this winter. Dīaz is eligible for his final year of arbitration and presumably will be tendered a contract. While he’s shown that his disastrous 2019 season was an outlier, he also hasn’t been good enough since then to just assume that he will return to being dominant. May is under contract through next season, and Lugo is also eligible for his final year of arbitration. All three of those pitchers could be part of a good bullpen, but the Mets can’t reasonably expect any of them to step up into the tier of elite relievers next year.