The past two seasons have been nothing short of a major disappointment for Mets fans and players alike. Missing the playoffs for two consecutive years after having sizable leads in the division left many heartbroken.
That is why the Mets front office made reforming the bullpen priority No. 1 this offseason.
Twenty-nine blown saves is not only unbelievable, it is unacceptable. Had that number been reduced by just two in both 2007 and 2008, the Mets would have made the playoffs and avoided all of the associated embarrassment.
2009 will be different...we hope.
During the winter, the Mets employed addition by addition, and addition by subtraction to enhance their bullpen. The departure of Aaron Heilman was met with nothing but praise by Mets fans. As was the addition of "K-Rod" Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz.
Putz was acquired in the deal that gave Heilman his ticket out of the Big Apple, while Rodriguez was signed as a free agent in December.
The strength of the new Mets bullpen is depth. They have two proven closers in Putz and Rodriguez who will be able to deliver in the later innings.
Feliciano will make most of his appearances during the seventh or eighth inning setting up Putz who will in turn set up Rodriguez. If each pitcher can give one strong inning each outing, the bullpen will be very successful.
Although he has been with the team for three years now, Duaner Sanchez can be viewed as a quasi-addition. He missed much of the last two seasons with injury, but is fully recovered now and will play a critical role in middle relief.
Should a starter run into trouble, Sanchez will be the guy to fill the gap between the starter and Putz and Rodriguez.
A major weakness of the bullpen could be the starting rotation. Besides Santana, who could have easily been a 20+ game winner last season, the starters are not a very consistent bunch. John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Mike Pelfrey have each shown flashes of brilliance and flashes and wretched pitching.
Should these three, who will occupy the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th spots, be unable to go deep into games consistently, the middle relief will be strained.
In his final five starts of 2008, Oliver Perez pitched 3-1/3, 7, 6, 4-1/3, and 5-1/3 innings respectively. Not what you would call consistency. John Maine, whose year was cut short by injury, averaged just 5-2/3 innings in his final 10 starts before being shut down for the year.
K-Rod and Putz are the two go-to guys in the bullpen. In one-run games, especially against division opponents, Jerry Manuel will go to Rodriguez without hesitation. Putz has shined for a mediocre Mariners team. He was 6-1 in 2007 with a 1.38 ERA and 40-for-42 in save opportunities.
Pedro Feliciano will have to show he can contribute on a consistent basis. He has been superb at times at so-so at others. Duaner Sanchez will have to prove his durability, and show he has fully healed from injury.
Since the Mets bullpen has been absolutely putrid in recent years, any change has to be a change for the better. If the offense can produce and the starters are consistent, the bullpen's success will follow, and team success will follow that.