A good bullpen is a vital part of any good team-just ask the 2008 New York Mets. The Mets have been a below average team over the last five seasons. While their hitting and starting pitching has fluctuated, their relief pitching has been consistently poor. The at times horrid relief pitching isn’t the sole reason the Mets have failed to reach the postseason in each of the past five seasons. A disturbing trend of futility in each season has emerged, and it has cost the Mets. Mets bullpen rankings (2008-2012)
|Season||MLB Rank ERA||MLB Rank WHIP||MLB Rank K/BB|
|2012|| 29|| 25|| 29|
|2011|| 28|| 28|| 18|
|2010|| 9|| 15|| 22|
|2009|| 12|| 21|| 27|
|2008|| 23|| 18|| 14|
The numbers in the chart show the Mets bullpens futility in three prominent pitching categories the Mets relief pitchers have only been in the top ten, ONCE over the past five seasons. They had an MLB 9th best ERA in 2010. The Mets relievers have been ranked in the bottom third of the league over the past five seasons 60% of the time in the categories I researched. Over the years the inability of the Mets pen to hold leads and contain deficits has undoubtedly taken its toll on the rest of the team. To put the Mets numbers into context, I analyzed playoff teams relief pitching over the past five seasons. Of the 42 teams that made the playoffs during that span, 33 of them were ranked in the MLB top ten in at least one of the three categories (ERA, WHIP or K/BB). That comes out to a percentage of 78.5. Of the nine teams whose relievers didn’t rank in the top ten in one of the three categories, only the 2011 Detroit Tigers and 2009 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had very poor bullpens. Of the 33 ranked in the top ten in at least one category, 24 were ranked in the top ten in at least two categories (72.7%). In addition, the World Series Champions over the past five seasons had good bullpens. The 2009 World Series champion New York Yankees were ranked number one in WHIP and number two in K/BB and the 2010 World Series Champion San Fransisco Giants were ranked in the top ten in all three categories. Baseball statistics can be deceiving at times, and while five seasons is a relatively short sample size, I believe the analysis of these three significant pitching statistics tell an interesting story. For example; the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles both came out of nowhere to grab playoff spots and were led by excellent bullpens. The Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles had bullpens which were ranked in the top five of MLB in both ERA and WHIP. It’s not surprising that good teams have good bullpens, but I believe bullpens have more of an impact on a team's success than what is perceived. The 2013 Mets bullpen picture is starting to come into focus and will most likely look similar to the bullpen of the last few seasons aside from a few new fresh (albeit old faces). The Mets staff is likely to consist of veterans such as Scott Atchinson and LaTroy Hawkins whose performances fluctuate from year to year. However, in addition to the usual veterans, the Mets have begun to bring in young and talented hard-throwing relief pitchers. This influx of pitchers like Bobby Parnell, Josh Edgin, and Jeurys Familia is the best way for the Mets to improve their awful bullpen. The Mets front office and coaching staff must continue to draft and develop these high end arms who tend to move more quickly through the minor leagues, and often have a more immediate impact in the majors. Keep an eye on names like Cory Mazzoni, Darin Gorski, Erik Goeddel, and Jack Leathersich in the coming years.