Mets' hot start marred by bullpen struggles
Mets manager Mickey Callaway displayed poor judgment throughout the week and in effect created a hole for his bullpen.
It began during the second game of the season, when the Mets defeated the Washington Nationals by a score of 11-8.
Callaway decided to pitch Seth Lugo deep into the game, rather than use All-Star closer Edwin Diaz.
Diaz had only thrown 14 pitches just two days prior against Washington, and his former team, the Seattle Mariners, won every game that they trusted him to close-out.
Generally, managers and pitching coaches tend to have more patience with their starters. Each type of pitcher has a specific set of primary skills. Starting pitchers rely on their stamina, and their ability to hit spots around the zone.
That’s what keeps games moving along quicker. Lugo has shown success at different bullpen roles, but he relies on his fielders to get more outs than an electric pitcher like Diaz.
The problem with closers, is that their arms generally tire out quicker than their starting counterparts. Seth Lugo is clearly not a closer, but a valuable relief arm and a strong option to start games.
The Mets played the Nationals on March 31. It was a one-run game in the 8th inning and Diaz was unavailable. Left-hander Justin Wilson, who has 15 saves in over 300 major league innings pitched, was sent out to relieve specialist Tim Peterson.
The Mets had just scored three runs in the top of the 8th, and to start the 9th inning, Callaway spurned former closer turned set-up man Jeurys Familia. True Mets fans will remember the long balls he gave up throughout crucial moments in his career, including Game 1 of the 2015 World Series, the 2016 NL Wild Card game. Ironically, Familia is averse to giving up the long ball.
What makes these decisions terrible is the fact that 19 of the 29 games the Mets play in April are against National League East division rivals.
The NL East is expected by many to be the tightest race for the playoffs. In May, they play the Nationals a total of seven times in 10 days.
To succeed in baseball, teams must be built for the long run, and a crucial part of that means allowing players to settle into their roles. This type of hybrid-reliever is especially crucial for the Mets, as right handers Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz have both been struck by the Tommy John epidemic.
Perhaps this is just some feeling around, or Callaway is just using some unorthodox measures to fire up his pitchers for the new season.
After all, he did help put together a great pitching staff in Cleveland.
Hopefully, he can make the most of the plethora of talent available for him in New York.