Earlier this season, the New York Mets‘ bullpen seemed to be the team’s weakest link. Starting pitching looked promising and the addition of Curtis Granderson seemed destined to help the lineup, but the bullpen was a question mark. Besides Bobby Parnell, it was unknown how the group of veterans and youngsters would respond. Then, when Parnell went down with a UCL injury on Opening Day, the situation looked even more dire. But halfway through the season, the bullpen has been one of the team’s bright spots and it’s still improving.
While the starting rotation has been hampered by inconsistency and injury and the lineup searches for timely hits, the bullpen can pretty much be counted on night in and night out. This is a huge departure from the norm for the Mets, whose bullpen has been problematic since the collapse of Sept. 2007. How have they improved? By trimming old branches and allowing new sprigs to grow.
36-year-old Jose Valverde was initially selected to take Parnell’s place in the ninth inning, but his annoying habit of giving up home runs prompted the Mets to drop him from that role (and eventually from the team). 38-year-old Kyle Farnsworth took over and was serviceable at first. As time went on, the league caught up to his now-mediocre stuff, and the Mets released him. Farnsworth vowed revenge, stating he wanted to find employment with a team that would play the Mets. He found the Houston Astros, who were scheduled to play the Mets in the last series of the season. The ‘Stros outrighted Farnsworth a few weeks later, thereby denying him his vengeance.
The Mets committed to their young arms. They moved Jenrry Mejia from the starting rotation to the closer’s role, noting how effective he was the first time through the batting order and how that effectiveness diminished as the game went on. Mejia has a 2.53 ERA and eight saves as the Mets’ closer, and he’s held the opposition to a .232 batting average in that time. Jeurys Familia has matured, learning to throw his 97-MPH sinker for a strike over and over again. Vic Black has kept his walks under control and has been a valuable sixth or seventh inning man, as has Gonzalez Germen. Lefty Josh Edgin was a mid-season call-up, and he’s finally living up to his potential. Veterans Carlos Torres and Daisuke Matsuzaka have also contributed greatly to the ‘pen’s success.
New York’s bullpen ranks seventh in the majors in ERA with a 3.17 mark. They’re also fifth in baseball in left-on-base percentage at 77.7 percent. They’re near the middle of the pack or higher in almost every category, and they’re rising. In a season that seems to be slipping out of control, the Mets’ bullpen is a bright spot for the present and the future.