Not too long ago, Seth Lugo was one of the better relievers in all of baseball, especially among those who were capable of pitching more than one inning per appearance. While that isn’t the case anymore, the 32-year-old righty finished the 2022 season with a 3.60 ERA and 3.76 FIP.
Given the major league averages of a 3.86 ERA and 3.86 FIP among relievers this year, Lugo’s numbers were pretty solid. His 95 ERA- and 108 ERA+, both of which are adjusted for league and park, support that notion, too.
Having made his major league debut back in the 2016 season—the Mets’ most recent postseason appearance before they made it this year—Lugo made at least a handful of starts in four of his first five years in the big leagues. But as much as he’s always said to have preferred starting, the numbers over the course of his career have undoubtedly indicated that he fares better as a reliever. In 194.2 innings as a starter, Lugo has a 4.35 ERA, but in 300.0 innings in relief, he’s rocked a 2.91.
Over the last two seasons, though, the Mets used Lugo exclusively out of the bullpen. The results in 2021 looked a lot like they did this year, as he finished that season with a 3.50 ERA and a 3.77 FIP. Despite the numbers having been slightly better in 2022, though, it is worth noting that Lugo’s strikeout rate dropped a few percentage points. His velocity, however, remained at his norm, with his four-seam fastball averaging just shy of 94.5 miles per hour as it often had in the past.
Lugo pitched in all three of the Mets’ playoff games in the Wild Card round, totaling two innings with three strikeouts, one walk, and no runs allowed. It was an admirable performance in a series that didn’t feature many others.
Having been in the same organization since he was drafted in the 34th round back in 2011, Lugo is finally eligible for free agency. And although there are other pitchers who should be higher priorities for the Mets as they build their bullpen for next season and beyond, the team should at least consider keeping Lugo in the fold. Once free agency officially begins, Drew Smith would be considered the closest the team has to a sure thing major league reliever to start the 2023 season.