Sunday, February 10, 2013

New York Mets: The Bullpen 2013

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Spring Training - Pitchers And Catchers - 2013

NEW YORK METS - Please Pardon The Appearance.  Bullpen Still Under Reconstruction.

The Mets aren't looking for government handouts to help pay off their debts.  But their bullpen desperately needs relief assistance in the worst way.  Truth is, there are no readily available answers for their dilemma.  While the Mets aren't the only team to suffer this calamity, it just goes to show the value of a good, reliable closer.  This also goes to show how great the Mariano Rivera's in life really are.  Sorry for the cross town reference. 

Sandy Alderson tried renovating the bullpen last season..., remember?  Frank Francisco remains his largest free agent signing to date.  And I do mean large.  The Mets were not happy Frank-Frank showed up in camp last season out of shape.  His two injuries and subsequent surgery only exasperated an already terrible season.  He made forty eight appearances and only recorded twenty three saves.  That's a low save-to-game rate by any measure.  His 5.53 ERA was equally disheartening.  But he's back!  And he says He Is The Closer!  His manager Terry Collins (who's contract status beyond this season is still unresolved), agrees with Frankie.  However, Sandy Alderson, in so many words, expressed a lack of confidence in his 2012 acquisition.

Based primarily because Sandy Alderson signed Francisco to a two year $12 million dollar deal, he gets to survive the purge.  Relieved of their duties over the course of 2012 are - D.J. Carrasco, Miguel Batista, Ramon Ramirez, Jon Rauch, and Manny Acosta.  Tim Byrdak was originally set free by the Mets, but was re-signed to a free agent contract in December.

So if you're Sandy Alderson, how do you rebuild another bullpen?  Well, you put on your mining hat, and start prospecting the baseball landscape for pitchers....again.  The Mets took not one, but two looks at ex-Giants closer, Brian Wilson.  Several teams seemed interested in at least monitoring a private work-out held by Wilson.  But so far he has failed to impress anyone, especially for the guaranteed money he is reportedly seeking.  There were also rumors swirling the Mets could be considering failed ex-Detroit closer, Jose Valverde.  Those two examples are another way of saying - Yes Mets fans, the bullpen will be a source of agitation..., again.

LAST YEAR'S RETURNING PITCHERS:  Frank Rodriguez - Bobby Parnell - Robert Carson - Elvin Ramirez - Josh Edgin - Jeremy Hefner - and I'll include Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia.  All eight are on the active roster.

TRANSACTIONS:  Signed back in November to a free agent contract, Greg Burke is now on the 40-man active roster.  Additionally, Brandon Lyon signed a free agent contract with the Mets earlier this month.  He is on the 40-man active roster as well.

In addition to Burke and Lyon, Sandy Alderson signed six other pitchers over the winter to free agent contracts.  Scott Atchison, Pedro Feliciano, LaTroy Hawkins, and Carlos Torres are all non-roster invitees this winter/spring.  Aaron Laffey, and Tim Byrdak as noted, were also signed to free agent contracts back in December.  In one other free agent transaction, Alderson signed Dario Alvarez who will likely be assigned to low A-ball.

Who is the Closer?

If you're asking Frankie and Terry Collins, we already know the answer.  But Sandy has made his opinion well known.  The GM's acquisition of Brandon Lyon speaks very loudly.  Both pitchers throw from the right side.  So there can only be one - not a tandem.  This looks like a situation where the Mets will just pitch the hot hand, and be satisfied with depth.  Bobby Parnell is still good for the occasional spot save.

Frank Francisco is reportedly healthy now.  Ideally that should enhance his performance over last season.  If he can regain the form he displayed in Texas, the Mets would benefit handsomely.  His ability to strike out batters is still in tact.  He demonstrated that last season.  But he has to get his walks under control.  Last season, his hits allowed per nine innings also sky rocketed.  That needs to change as well if he is to claim and hold the closers role.

Perhaps Brandon Lyon is the more adaptable of the two.  He served as both closer and set-up man on his previous teams.  Make no mistake however.  He was signed to pose a direct challenge to Frank Francisco and the closers role.  Serving in set-up roles in both Houston and Toronto in 2012, he appeared in 67 games and pitched 61 innings.  He posted a combined 4-2 record, one save, with a 3.10 ERA.  Brandon allowed 57 hits, walked 20, good for a 1.246 WHiP, and struck out 63 batters.  He averaged 8.3 hits per nine innings, 3.0 walks, and 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings.  He saved 14 games in 2005, and notched 26 saves in 2008, both for Arizona.  In 2010, he posted 20 saves for Houston.

Bobby Parnell is coming off arguably his best season as a pro.  As a small reward, Parnell and the Mets avoided salary arbitration and reached agreement on a one year $1.7 million dollar deal.  Bobby is the Mets incumbent top set-up option.  The difference between being good and great for Bobby Parnell is that darn thing he calls a curve ball.  Let's call it for what it is - when he uses it late in the count, breaking ball is ineffectual and easy to lay off.  His curve is too horizontal - it's a slurve.  His curve is not the more classic twelve to six type curve ball; or even one to seven; or even two to eight.  Batters wait for the fast ball - foul off about four or so, then hurt him.  In other words, his lack of a better curve ball allows hitters to linger in the box.  Therein lies the knock on Bobby Parnell.  He still lacks an out-pitch.

Looking Left:

By default, Josh Edgin and Robert Carson will head north with the club.  They are lefties.  Nuf ced.  But seriously, Josh Edgin looks like a real keeper.  He capped off a handsome three year minor league career with last season's call up to Flushing.  His walks allowed spiked in Buffalo last year.  But on the big club, he actually brought his rate down by a full walk allowed per nine innings pitched.  In 25.2 innings for the Mets, he only allowed 19 hits and struck out 30 batters.

We won't hold Robert Carson's call-up against him.  After a few minor league seasons not really flourishing as a starting pitcher, the Mets converted Carson into a reliever last year.  In a split season between Binghamton and Buffalo, Carson posted a 3.86 ERA, and recorded 10 saves.  He also posted a combined 1.597 WHiP last season.  And after six minor league seasons, his career 1.521 WHiP is still unrepresentative of major league standard.

The third key left handed pitcher in the bullpen equation might again be Pedro Feliciano.  What he has left remains to be seen.  What we do know is that he is coming off a lot of rest at the Yankees expense.  Between 2008 and 2010, the Mets ran this guy into the ground.  He led the majors with 266 appearances over that three year span, with a high of 92 games in 2010.  Heading into 2011, Pedro Feliciano declined the Mets offer of salary arbitration, and signed a two year $8 million dollar pact  with the Bombers.  He got injured before the 2011 season began, and wound up never throwing a pitch for the Yankees.  He subsequently underwent rotator cuff surgery.  He'll be thirty-seven years old in August.

Also lurking around camp seeking employment are right handers Tim Byrdak and Aaron Laffey.

Looking Right:

RIGHT - Frank Francisco; Brandon Lyon; Bobby Parnell; Jeurys Familia; Jenrry Mejia.

Scott Atchison is thirty-six years old but coming off his best MLB season with the Red Sox.  In 42 appearances, he posted a 1.58 ERA in 51.1 innings.  He limited hitters to 42 hits and walked 9 for a stellar 0.994 WHiP, and struck out 36 batters.  Where is the red flag?  He is a fourteen year career minor leaguer, who missed all of the 2006, 2008, and 2009 regular seasons.

There's a reason LaTroy Hawkins has pitched for eight different teams since leaving the Minnesota Twins.......

The Mets brought Jeremy Hefner over from the Padres system.  He is still "only" twenty-six years old with no MLB experience to speak of.  But he has the potential to make LaTroy Hawkins look good by comparison.

Remember Elvin Ramirez?  In 21.1 innings last season for the Mets, he walked 20, and struck out 22 batters.  After five unremarkable years in the Mets low minors, last season was somewhat of a break-out season for the twenty-five year old.  While at Buffalo, he posted a 2.36 ERA in 33 games, and 42 innings pitched.  He struck out 41 batters.

Looking Forward:

So who do you trust?  I think Francisco will be better than people think.  Or at least better than last season.  Brandon Lyon is a fine addition - a very good decision.  And together, the Mets have two viable options to close games.  Depth is good either way you shake it.  Of course, I am still an unabashed Bobby Parnell fan.  And as noted above, Josh Edgin looks like a quality pitcher.  Without delving into the potential future roles of Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia, the list of pitchers I trust stops there.

The rest have some proving to do.


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