By Steve Keane at 6 February, 2013, 7:51 pm
While Mets fandom awaits a decision on whether Michael Bourn will be patrolling centerfield of Citi Field, leading off and becoming the catalyst for the Mets offense, we also await the official announcement of Brandon Lyon becoming a Met and another contestant on Wheel of Mets Bullpen.
Counting Lyons, I’m looking at 11 candidates for 6 or maybe 7 spots in the Mets pen, a bullpen that I feel was the biggest reason for the second half collapse the Mets found them in last season. When you have a relief core that allows close to 32 % of inherited runners to touch home plate and also finds themselves in 55 save opportunities and blowing 19 of those precious assignments, will break the spirit of even the most strong willed teams so when you have a team like the Mets that doesn’t exactly ooze self-esteem and pluck, the ineffective pen was more a kick in the gut than uplifting last season. Sandy Alderson realizes this as well and has gone out this offseason to assemble relievers to come to Port St. Lonesome to engage in a big time completion to come North and become a strength for the Mets instead of last year’s failure.
Building a bullpen can be a bit of a crapshoot and last year one of the players Alderson went out on a limb on was closer Frank Francisco, signing the volatile reliever for 2yrs/$12mil, a signing I’m sure the Mets GM would love to take back . Between nagging injuries and ineffectiveness it was a lost season for Francisco. Although Francisco did save 23 games in 26 opportunities, when he entered games with runners on base his percentage of inherited runners left on base was a woeful 67.2 % and he’d shoot himself in the foot many time with walks as well.
With the imminent signing of Brandon Lyons, the back end of the Mets pen should be improved over last year (in the words of Sandy Alderson when asked about whether the pen will be better in 2013 said “how could it be worse?”) And what we will see in the camp is a good old fashion open completion for not just bullpen spots but for the very important back end of the pen spots. So looking at the very early morning line let’s see who could or should emerge as the core of the Mets bullpen in 2013.
The guys I look for to make the move to be the 7th inning, 8th inning and closer are Francisco, Bobby Parnell, Brandon Lyon, Josh Edgin, and Scott Atchison. All five look to be Mets for 2013 but who of these 5 will step up to grab the closers job? I don’t see Bobby Parnell getting the job as he is much more effective in innings 6 thru 8 and last year he started to lose a little bit of velocity on his fastball and he has tried to make his curve to be more effective. Edgin has been on a fast track to the big leagues on the strength of using a hard fastball and effective slider that helped the stout lefty rack up K’s at a 10.53 per 9 IP. Scott Atchinson may be the find of the off season. He was the one bright spot in the train wreck that was the 2012 Boston Red Sox. Atchinson relies on a solid cutter that he has under great command and last season he stranded 85 % of the runners on base that he inherited which is why I can’t wait to see him pitch this spring. Brandon Lyon could be the guy that takes on Frank Frank for the coveted closers role. The Mets will be banking on getting Lyon back to his effective D’Backs and Tigers days to solidify the back end of the pen and hope that the blown saves and late inning bullpen meltdowns are a thing of the past.
Jureys Familia and Jenry Mejia are two wildcards in the bullpen completion. Should either or both work as relievers or starters? There are varied opinions on the direction of both pitchers and it could boil down to how each are used this spring and if either pitchers shows more at one spot than the other. I could see Familia sticking as reliever more than Mejia who has a starter’s mentality and is also at a point in his career that the Mets love to find pitchers at, second year after Tommy John surgery.
LaTroy Hawkins comes to camp as a guy whose has seen a lot of big league baseball and could be more of an asset as a sounding board for the younger relievers that his work on the mound. Hawkins looks to be a 6th inning guy or a guy to give a break to an overused reliever that is if it makes the team.
It’s Robert Carson’ job to lose as the LOOGY especially with Pedro Feliciano back from rotator cuff surgery (2nd year after surgery seems to be the Mets pattern of obtaining pitching) and Tim Byrdak back in a minor league deal off of last season’s shoulder surgery.
So if I had to put out an early projection of the Mets bullpen I’d rank thusly:
Whoever is not named closer moves to set up role and to tell you the truth; the Mets have the makings of a pretty decent bullpen. Hopefully between Terry Collins, Dan Warthen and Ricky Bones can work this pen correctly unlike last season when there was a communication breakdown between the relievers and the Manager and Pitching Coach. That’s a post for another day.