And now for the biggest crapshoot in all of baseball, the bullpen.
Aside from the number of mistakes the Mets made in the field during last October’s World Series, a big reason for New York’s downfall in the Fall Classic was its bullpen.
The Mets relief pitching in the postseason wasn’t good. Outside of closer Jeurys Familia, it was an adventure for the Mets to get the ball to him in the later innings. The absence of Jerry Blevins, Sean Gilmartin and Hansel Robles played a big role in New York struggling to find the appropriate bridge to their stud closer.
As a result, Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard and Erik Goeddel all got hit hard last October to the point the Mets best options out of the pen were their own back-end starters Bartolo Colon and Jonathon Niese. Case in point, Reed, who had a fine regular season, had an ERA over six in the playoffs. Clippard, who solidified the bullpen last year during the regular season, also had an ERA over six in the playoffs.
Last year at this time, the Mets expected Familia and Jenrry Mejia to form the back-end of the pen, with Blevins providing that left-handed specialist. Of course, Mejia was injured then suspended, and Blevins last only seven games before being shut down.
This year the Mets know what they have, and on paper might have a deeper pen as a result.
The Mets bridge to Familia will likely come down to Reed and veteran free agent signing Antonio Bastardo now that Clippard is in Arizona. Bastardo is a guy Mets fans are familiar with from his time with the Philadelphia Phillies. Like a lot of relievers, he has had an up and down career, with his second most productive season coming last year with the Pittsburgh Pirates when he pitched to a 2.98 ERA and a 4-1 record. In 2011, Bastardo nailed down eight saves had a 6-1 record and a 2.64 ERA in Philadelphia. It is anyone’s guess if he can pitch as well this season, but history shows that Bastardo has struggled after a big season the previous year.
Reed, who is having a fine spring with a 1.42 ERA, is a guy that really had a checkered career before joining the Mets in 2015. Yes, he nailed down 105 saves in his career, but he had an ERA over four three times previous to his stretch run in New York. Knowing his history and having watched his postseason, Reed wouldn’t be my first choice for an eighth inning role.
The Mets ideally would like to see Robles, who pitched real well in the second half of the regular season come full circle and turn into that bridge to Familia. If he does, it only makes the Met pen that much better with veterans like Reed and Bastardo solidifying the back-end.
Also keep an eye on 25-year-olds in Gillmartin and Logan Verrett. Verrett has pitched real well this spring, and was solid in spot appearances out of the pen last year. If he makes the Major League club he could be a solid right-handed option over Reed and Bastardo who are going to get a lot of use this year.
As for Gillmartin, the Mets really missed not having the lefty in the pen for the postseason. One could argue were he available for the World Series, the Mets could have used him against Kansas City's monster left bats including Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Gilmartin had an impressive rookie campaign in 2015, and it will be fascinating to see whether Gillmartin or the veteran Blevins can pull away as the main lefty-specialist in the pen.
Outlook: On paper the Mets pen is much improved, but as we know with bullpens what looks great on paper doesn’t always translate on the field. If the Mets are going to return to the top of the National League this group must be special.