Per yearly customs, the New York Mets are having bullpen problems. While it’ll be difficult for this aspect of manager Luis Rojas‘ roster to right the ship, right-hander Dellin Betances returning to his old ways would help the Mets make some headway.
Betances is one of the new faces in the Mets bullpen this season, as he inked a one-year deal that could be worth as much as $14.5 million in the offseason. Unfortunately for the Mets’ sake, Betances is off to a rough start this season, as he sports a 10.80 ERA and a 2.10 WHIP across five appearances (3.1 innings).
The noted struggles come after Betances made just one appearance out of the New York Yankees bullpen in 2019 due to a shoulder injury, September 15, where he then suffered an Achilles injury.
In short: Betances is coming off a discouraging season.
But don’t let the right-hander’s recent struggles take away from his past success with the Yankees.
From 2014-18, Betances was one of the premier backend relievers in the sport. Across those five seasons he recorded a 2.22 ERA, a 2.26 FIP, a 1.02 WHIP, and 607 strikeouts in 373.1 innings.
At his best, the 6-foot-8 reliever has thrown an overpowering, upper 90s fastball, gotten phenomenal movement on his curveball, and been a sturdy force in the late innings. This is the pitcher the Mets signed up for.
To this point, velocity has been a severe shortcoming for Betances, as his fastball is registering in the low-to-mid 90s. Health prevailing, the velocity should increase, as Betances throws more and is presumably healthy.
The towering right-hander is the most proven reliever in the Mets bullpen and their best chance to achieve bullpen stability.
Edwin Diaz has been shaky closing but better over his last two appearances in non-save situations; Jeurys Familia sports a 3.18 ERA but is also surrendering a lot of baserunners; Justin Wilson sports an 8.10 ERA; Paul Sewald sports a 5.06 ERA; even Seth Lugo has been a bit shaky, as two of his last three appearances have been pivotal components to Met losses.
Lugo’s efforts lead to another alarming issue with this bullpen: it goes as Lugo goes.
The Mets can’t hold out hope that Diaz and Familia will become consistent forces. Every time they take the hill the team and its fan base is holding its breath in fear of catastrophe even when it seems like they’re cruising. Whatever they get from the two in a shortened 60-game season is a bonus.
The Mets need someone else they can lean on, and Betances has a history of getting crucial late-inning outs and not giving into hitters. Again, he didn’t get a monster one-year deal for nothing. Lugo is this bullpen’s backbone, but he can’t do it alone.
New York’s starting rotation has been decimated by injuries. Noah Syndergaard is out for the season with an elbow injury, and Marcus Stroman is on the injured list with a calf injury. It seems Stroman could pitch at some point this season, which will alleviate some pressure on the bullpen to provide length. Outside of Jacob deGrom and David Peterson, it has been a struggle.
To Rojas’ credit, he’s doing something Mickey Callaway never did: try something different.
The Mets lost way too many games last season at the hands of Callaway being stubborn with the way he used his relievers; Diaz had to pitch the ninth, and Familia had to be the bridge that got them there. Had Callaway been more open-minded with his bullpen, the Mets could’ve been in the National League Wild Card Game.
Rojas seems to have revoked Diaz of his closing duties, and he has continued to shake up the starting lineup, as the Mets continue to brutally struggle driving in runs.
Being 5-8 in a 60-game season where two teams from each division plus the two best records outside of that parameter in the respective league make the playoffs isn’t awful; it’s manageable. The Mets are losing games because of simplistic baseball: defense, baserunning, and not seizing opportunities at hand, specifically closing out games and driving in runners in scoring position with one or no outs.
To expect the Mets bullpen to become a well-oiled machine over the next month/before crunch time is unrealistic. It improving and/or another steady force emerging, however, is feasible. No one is a primer candidate than Betances to do as such.
Betances can only pitch better in the wake of his slow start. Teams can get around their bullpen deficiencies with reliable starting pitching, which the Mets get a step closer towards with a healthy Stroman. That said, you need some relievers who can get three outs on any given night.
Two years ago Dellin Betances was perhaps the best non-closing reliever in Major League Baseball. If 90 percent of that reliever returns, it takes the Mets bullpen from lackluster to respectable; he’s the wild card.