Feb 12

Analyzing Mets’ Bullpen After Jose Valverde Signing

For each of the past three winters New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has tried to construct a bullpen. Until Bobby Parnell showed signs of being the first reliable closer since Billy Wagner was traded to Boston in 2009 in a salary dump, it has been a ninth-inning adventure.

Francisco Rodriguez and Frank Francisco were tried, but their best days were in the rear view mirror. Alderson brought in another retread today with the signing of Jose Valverde to a minor league contract.

PARNELL: Lead domino in bullpen.

PARNELL: Lead domino in bullpen.

He’ll compete against the masses for a spot in the bullpen. Alderson said he other day the Mets had money to spend, but after striking out on Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney, he hopes to catch an encore from Valverde.

Valverde, 35, was on the top when he converted 49 of 49 opportunities in 2011 for Detroit, but spit the bit the following year in the playoffs. He had an unimpressive nine saves in 12 opportunities with a 5.59 ERA last year.

The construction of the Mets’ bullpen depends on Parnell, who saved 22 of 29 games before undergoing surgery last September to repair a herniated disk in his neck. Parnell lost 30 pounds after the surgery, but told reporters in Port St. Lucie he’s doing fine.

“Everything is feeling great, no pain,’’ Parnell said. “I mean, I haven’t done it yet, so obviously, you want to know. But we’re doing little things every day to get to that point. I’ve had no setbacks or pain or anything like that.’’

Parnell won’t be cleared for two weeks, and there is reasonable doubt he won’t be ready for the start of the season. There hasn’t been an announcement of how many innings manager Terry Collins wants to give him this spring. Normally, starters hope to get 30 innings with relievers nearly half that amount.

Vic Black, whom the Mets acquired from Pittsburgh last year in the Marlon Byrd-John Buck deal, is first in line after Parnell. Black is 25 and throws in the mid-90s, which is a lot to like.

If Black doesn’t make it, presumably Kyle Farnsworth and Valverde are next. Assuming Black pitches well and wins the closer job, Valverde and Farnsworth will compete for the set-up role, vacated when LaTroy Hawkins left as a free agent.

In large part because of Parnell’s emergence and Hawkins’ resurgence, the Mets’ bullpen finished 22nd in the majors with a 3.98 ERA in 2013. They ranked 29th and 28th in Alderson’s first two years.

Alderson has built on the cheap, but that approach would have changed had he signed Balfour or Rodney. Joel Hanrahan is available should Alderson have the urge to spend.

Truth is, you can’t have too many pitchers – starters or relievers – in the system because there are always injuries and pitching slumps. In addition, a guy like Valverde, if he shows something, could be a July trade chip.

You never know.

Outside of the 29-year-old Parnell, Farnsworth and Valverde, we’re not talking about significant experience. The rest of the pen includes Jeurys Familia, 24, who throws in the mid-90s, Gonzalez Germen, Carlos Torres, Ryan Reid, Jeff Walters and Cory Mazzoni, all whom throw from the right side.

The Mets’ left-handers are Josh Edgin and Scott Rice, the latter whom was a 32-year-old rookie last season after 14 years of knocking on the major league doors. The Mets also invited prospect lefty Jack Leathersich to compete for a spot.

That makes 13 relievers competing for seven slots.

“We’ve got a lot of good young arms that we like; they just don’t have much experience,’’ Alderson said. “Acquiring someone with some experience would give us some comfort going into Spring Training, but we don’t want to preclude some of our younger pitchers from getting a solid opportunity either.’’

How much comfort Valverde gives remains to be seen. He certainly didn’t make Jim Leyland’s job easier the past two years.

But, that’s what you get when you shop in the bargain bin.

Feb 03

Mets Still Looking For Bullpen Help; Add Kyle Farnsworth

How much money the New York Mets have left to spend during what is left of their offseason is uncertain, but as recently reported here, it is earmarked for the bullpen, specifically a closer as Bobby Parnell’s status is questionable.

FARNSWORTH: Added to pen.

FARNSWORTH: Added to pen.

Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Hanrahan have been mentioned on this site. ESPN added Kevin Gregg and Ryan Madson to the table.

Farnsworth, who has pitched for the Yankees, was signed to a minor-league deal Monday and given an invitation to spring training.

At 37, he was a combined 3-1 with a 4.70 ERA last season with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Farnsworth’s role with the Mets, assuming he makes the team, will be not as a closer but to provide depth.

Figuring Parnell will not be ready for the season, the configuration of the Mets’ bullpen will be Vic Black – the presumed closer – Farnsworth, Carlos Torres, Scott Rice, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen and Jeurys Familia.

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Aug 16

Mets Bullpen Has Surprised This Season

gonzalez germanAfter 3-4 consecutive seasons of bullpen failures and a couple of unsuccessful revamps and overhauls by Sandy Alderson in 2011 and 2012, it looks like the Mets have finally turned a corner and figured things out this season. In doing so they’ve also uncovered a few potential keepers for 2014 and beyond, some of them developed through our system and others who were key acquisitions straight from the scrap heap.

One such find has been Gonzalez Germen, who recorded the final six outs in last night’s 4-1 win against the San Diego Padres to notch his first major league save. It was a big moment for Germen who plans to give the game ball to his mother. Germen stepped in for LaTroy Hawkins who was unavailable due to a sore groin. Hawkins too, has been a key cog in this now very effective bullpen.

Since July 1, the Mets pen has a 2.10 ERA (30 earned runs/128.2 innings), ranking third in the majors. New York’s pen has a 1.83 ERA (seven earned runs/34.1 innings) this month, the sixth-best mark in the majors. The pen’s 3.64 overall ERA, ranks 15th in the majors after two straight seasons of ranking 29th in 2011 and 2012.

Even more telling is that Met relievers have stranded 141 of 189 inherited runners, the fifth-best percentage (74.6) in the majors. The Mets’ bullpen has been coming into games in critical spots and have done a great job of limiting the damage and stranding runners. It’s time to give Sandy Alderson his due for a job well done this season.

The Mets bullpen has endured losses to their close Bobby Parnell who was in the midst of the best season of his career, and also losing second-year reliever Josh Edgin was a significant blow as well. Since his return from the minors, Edgin led the bullpen in BAA and WHIP.

Some player performances of note are that of Scott Rice, who leads the team with 61 appearances and has surprised everyone while limiting opposing batters to a .224 average and posting a 3.34 ERA in his rookie season. The 32-year old late bloomer, has held lefthanded batters to a .162 average and has allowed just one home run all season in 45.1 innings pitched. Boom…

Scott Atchison was another scrapheap signing and all he’s managed to do is post a 3.34 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 31 appearances since joining the Mets.

As a reliever, perhaps the best performance of this season belongs to Carlos Torres whose 0.65 ERA is the best mark among all relievers in the game. His 0.87 WHIP ranks fifth in the NL and he has 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio.

So while not everything has gone perfectly for the Mets this season, there have been some very notable bright spots and certainly the bullpen has been one of them.

Jun 29

Mets Wasting Matt Harvey

It happens. It just happens with more regularity with the New York Mets. Sometimes it is the offense that let’s Matt Harvey down; other times it is the bullpen.

Either way, the Mets are wasting the best thing to happen to them in years.

LYON: Part of the carnage. (AP)

LYON: Part of the carnage. (AP)

Last night it was a little bit of both, with the obvious villain the bullpen which gave up five runs in the last two innings to leave Harvey with his ninth no-decision of the season.

That’s a high number for even a full 34-start season, but shockingly alarming considering last night’s 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals came in Harvey’s 16th start.

In Godfather fashion the Mets pulled us back in to thinking there could be some fun in the second half of the season. During the Mets’ 7-4 road trip, the pen had a 0.52 ERA in 34 1/3 innings. But, it wasn’t all roses as there were several walk-off defeats. Veteran Mets watchers would have noted those losses and waited for the other shoe to fall.

It did last night.

It was a crushing defeat regardless of who started, but moreso because it was Harvey, the best they have to offer as nobody can say for sure what Zack Wheeler will give them and Jon Niese is out indefinitely.

Harvey was magnificent, giving up a run on three hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks in seven innings. He was even better after the game by not throwing the pen under the bus when he had every right.

If the media was waiting for fingers to be pointed, it wouldn’t come from Harvey.

“It’s baseball, it happens,’’ Harvey told reporters last night. “Those guys go out every single day and pitch their butts off. Today just happened to be one of those days.’’

Terry Collins said he could have left Harvey in the game, but he had already thrown 109 grueling pitches on a hot, humid night. It was a close game throughout, so every pitch mattered. Every pitch had some stress attached.

Perhaps Collins over-managed in the eighth by using David Aardsma, Josh Edgin and Brandon Lyon, with the latter giving up a game-tying three-run double to Ryan Zimmerman.

Bobby Parnell, who had been a plus this year, gave up two runs in the ninth.

Of course, it didn’t have to come down to that, as the offense went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine, including the bases loaded in the fourth. They also left runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

When the game was getting away from them in the last two innings, all they managed was a walk by Omar Quintanilla.

Although Harvey has gone longer this year, I can’t fault Collins for pulling him.

“Yeah, I could have left him in, no doubt about it,’’ a defensive Collins said. “I could have let him throw 150 [pitches]. I decided to take him out, I thought he had enough.’’

Harvey did his job, and Collins made the right decision. But, as has often been the case, it wasn’t enough.

Once again, Harvey, the best the Mets have to offer, was wasted.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 10

Mets Might Have Waited Too Late To Save Ike Davis

The first thing to cross my mind hearing about the Ike Davis demotion is:  What grievous thing did he do that he hasn’t done all season to finally cause Sandy Alderson to act?

Seriously, what took Alderson so long? All of a sudden Alderson watched the flailing first baseman and said, “Hey, this has to stop.’’ I find that hard to believe. What I don’t find hard to believe is Alderson and his GM posse started feeling their own heat and acted to deflect the attention from them. Davis’ mounting strikeouts – on a pace for nearly 200 – were too close to home to ignore any longer.

DAVIS: Needs to start over. (AP)

DAVIS: Needs to start over. (AP)

It was a move that had to be made, but should have been done a month ago. I wonder if doing it now will have the roster-wide impact it might have had if made before the season spiraled away.

Davis should have been out of here some thirty strikeouts ago. Sacking him, along with Mike Baxter and Robert Carson, barely registers a yawn, especially when they are to be replaced by Josh Satin, Josh Edgin and Collin Cowgill. Seriously, that’s going to turn things around?

This long overdue move after losing another series to the Miami Marlins – at least with Davis – smacks of knee-jerk panic. What better way to erase the image of last weekend than with a purge of a player who has become a fan target?

The Davis demotion reminds me of Oliver Perez in that two non-producing players became polarizing presences in the clubhouse. When Alderson finally got rid of Perez, it really didn’t matter because under-performing had become accepted.

Reportedly, Davis was kept afloat because he was supposedly “a good guy’’ and David Wright lobbied for him. If Alderson didn’t do something because of Davis’ personality, he’s at fault for not acting in the best interests of the team.

Personality-wise, Davis was the anti-Perez, but was he really? Like Perez, Davis resisted the minor leagues because he insisted he had to learn to hit pitchers on the major league level.

Contractually, Perez was within his rights, but that didn’t win him points in the clubhouse as the Mets continued to lose and others lost their jobs for not producing. It didn’t help Perez that he became sullen and moody and refused to go to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics.

Davis is the flip side; he is a good teammate. Even so, there’s not a lot of goodwill that can be purchased with a .161 batting average. Others, notably Cowgill and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, were sent down after long stretches of ineptitude that barely sniffed Davis’ droughts. Davis has more strikeouts than hits and walks combined, which is incomprehensible. Yet, he stayed?

The stock answer is Davis will be in Triple-A Las Vegas until he shows he’s capable of hitting, but his return can’t be a results-driven decision. The Mets can’t be seduced by a hot weekend from Davis and assume he’s better.

Success must be measured by an attitude and mechanics change, which is exceedingly difficult to judge as Davis is a mess in everything he does at the plate.

When asked Davis about his strikeouts totals this spring, his response was, “I am a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs. There’s going to be strikeouts.’’

That response is garbage on so many levels, beginning with the statement of being a home run hitter. Davis is NOT a home run hitter; he is a strikeouts machine. He is a rally killer. For him, home runs are the product of being lucky.

Davis resists the idea of using the whole field and is consumed by pulling the ball in the air. He knows nothing about patience at the plate and protecting himself. That’s a mental approach that must be torn down and rebuilt.

Mechanically, he’s off-balance and slowed by a horrid hitch. He drops his hands prior to the start of the swing and raises them again before striking at the ball. It’s going to take a long time to reshape his swing. With Davis, contact isn’t the by-product of hard work, but by accident.

I know what hitter Davis wants to become, but it won’t happen with that approach and those mechanics. Davis needs to start over, and if that means staying in Vegas the entire season, then so be it.

I hope Davis packed more than just a carry on bag for this trip.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos