Neither team’s bullpen was great in 2015. Both fall to the middle of the pack in the league. The Mets’ bullpen ERA of 3.46 was partly a product of Jeurys Familia turning in a 1.85 ERA over the course of 78.0 innings. Addison Reed was very good in his 17 games with the Mets, recording a 1.17 ERA. The middle relief corps were frustrating and inconsistent at times. Hopefully Jenrry Mejia will spend this offseason not testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. If he can return to pitch well in 2016, the late-inning crew in New York could receive a nice boost. The addition of Antonio Bastardo could also help the bullpen, but his year-to-year results have not always been consistent. At the very least, Bastardo should totally neutralize left-handed hitters as has been the case throughout his entire career.
The Nationals have worked hard to upgrade their bullpen this offseason, but things were FUBAR last summer when Jonathan Papelbon was acquired. Taking Drew Storen‘s job away from him turned the All-Star candidate into a quaking bowl of Jell-o on the mound. The Nationals were forced to trade Storen for Ben Revere. That could turn into a decent move if Revere sets the table consistently. Still, the Nationals lost a potentially elite set-up man/closer in Storen. It’s still unclear to me who exactly will get the ball to Papelbon. Yusmeiro Petit and Trevor Gott are decent arms, but Petit has a career ERA of 4.59 (3.67 last season) and is not a big-time strikeout artist. Gott throws hard, but does not strike out a ton of batters. He pitched to a 3.02 ERA in his rookie season. Felipe Rivero has the raw “stuff” to be a dominant relief pitcher, but his command remains shaky.
Then there’s Papelbon, MVP choker. You cannot dance around the fact that he just was not very good for the Nationals after the trade. He’s 35 and elite closers have a history of flaming out spectacularly and unexpectedly late in their careers. One would have to assume that if the time machine existed in the real world, the Nationals would travel back to last July and undo the Papelbon trade.
It’s hard to choose between the two bullpens, as both still have their fair share of unresolved issues. Familia, with his splitter/sinker/gyro-ball, is better than Papelbon at this stage of his career. That’s enough to tip the scales in favor of New York.
The Verdict: Mets