It’s funny how just a couple of offseason acquisitions can make a team and its fans forget about how bad their bullpen was last year.
That was the case for the New York Mets this offseason, as their bullpen had more people coming and going than a truck-stop off of I-95.
With the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez via free agency, and J.J. Putz through a 3 team, 12 player trade with the Seattle Mariners, the Mets bullpen has gone from a group of cast-offs, to a bunch All-Star studs.
Twenty-seven year-old Rodriguez comes over from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, after just completing the best season ever for a closer, with 62 saves. Putz, who turns 32 this month, is a former All-Star closer, with a career 3.07 ERA and 101 saves.
For a bullpen that had a 4.27 ERA last season, these two pitchers alone make the Mets one-two punch in the eight and ninth innings, arguably the best in the NL East, if not the entire National League.
I’m sure that Phillies fans would tend to disagree, seeing as their closer Brad Lidge, and talented group of relievers in front of him, finally brought a World Series title to the city of Philadelphia.
But they can’t deny the Mets are going to be a lot tougher to beat in those late innings than they were a year ago when they blew 33 save opportunities.
That leaves Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, Sean Green, Brian Stokes, Carlos Muniz, Nelson Figueroa, and Eddie Kunz battling for appearances in the sixth and seventh innings.
I know what Mets fans are thinking…not much experience here in clutch situations. If only our starting pitchers could go at least seven innings every day out.
This may be their only weakness going into the season, with only three of these guys having more than 200 innings pitched in their careers. If the Mets are going to compete for a division crown, and make a deep playoff run, they will need a couple of of them, namely Duaner Sanchez and Pedro Feliciano, to step up and play a big role for them in 2009.
I personally think these two will have something to prove this season, after hearing all those ‘boos’ in Shea Stadium last year.
Another possible concern for the Mets bullpen is health. They’re average age is 29, second oldest only to Houston Astros. Obviously, if the Mets are going to win a division title, and compete for a World Series title, their bullpen will need to stay off the DL.
The dark horse in all of this is Billy Wagner. If Wagner’s rehab is successful—he apparently is on schedule to be back by September—and he welcomes the role of being a middle to late inning relief pitcher, this could be the best bullpen in the majors.
Only time will tell how good this NY Mets bullpen will be this year.
The only problem is, this current Mets team doesn’t have much time.