For the Philadelphia Phillies, it was a season to remember. The strongest aspect to the World Champion Phillies season was their bullpen, which blew just 15 saves out of 62 opportunities. Their closer, Brad Lidge, went a perfect 41-for-41 in the regular season.
For the New York Mets, it was, as Yogi Berra once said, deja vu all over again, even if that does not make sense. Very little of what he said made sense, anyway.
The Metropolitans blew 29 saves out of 72 opportunities. That does not sound like the formula for success to me. Does it to you?
The bullpen's earned-run-average (ERA) was a different story. Wait, no it wasn't. Oops.
The Phillies finished second in the major leagues with a 3.22 bullpen ERA. The Mets finished a full 1.05 behind them with a 4.27 bullpen ERA.
Both teams were about even in the rest of baseball's wonderful statistics, trading some back and forth. But the two most monumental areas in which a bullpen needs to be successful in are both in favor of the boys in Philadelphia.
During the offseason, the Mets signed free-agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez, while trading for J.J. Putz just a few days later.
Rodriguez, or K-Rod, set the major-league record for most saves in a season (62) in 2008, while blowing seven saves. He also recorded a 2.27 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. A great season, most would say.
Putz converted 15 saves while blowing eight, while posting a 3.38 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP. A very mediocre season, everyone would say.
Over their careers, Rodriguez has been the better pitcher, recording at least 40 saves in each of his last four seasons. Putz has only made over 40 saves once, yet did save 36 games the year before.
Obviously, these two closers are top notch.
Yet, are they enough to put this abysmal bullpen over the top? Not yet.
The major factor involved with this is depth. The Phillies have it, the Mets do not. Plain and simple.
The only current reliever the Mets have besides Putz and Rodriguez to pitch for an ERA of less than 4.00 last season is Brian Stokes.
The Phillies have just one reliever that had an ERA of over 3.26 last season, and that guy was Scott Eyre. Yet, Eyre pitched for the Chicago Cubs for half of his season last year. With that said, his ERA with the Phillies was 1.88.
That leaves Ryan Madson as the current reliever with the highest ERA last season. His ERA was a terrible 3.05. Horrible, isn't it?
Three pitchers who pitched with an ERA under 4.00, or all six relievers who pitched with an ERA under 3.05? Which group do you take?
So obviously, the experience and talent is much better surrounding Brad Lidge than it is surrounding K-Rod and Putz.
This depth proves to be pivotal in championships, as we saw last season.
The additions of the two will certainly help the Met's 9th inning woes, yet, the 6th and 7th innings duties are still questionable. The Mets let up 97 and 92 runs in the sixth and seventh innings last season, and another 91 in the eighth.
Only 59 runs were given up in the ninth, but if at-bats were equal between the four innings, there would have been more runs allowed in the ninth for the Mets. So yes, I will not ignore that stat. The ninth inning is definitely the thorn in the Mets' side, but those 97, 92, and 91 runs are still a concern for the team.
In contrast, the Phillies allowed just 76, 51, and 78 runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth, much better than that of the Mets.
Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz certainly will push the Mets to the brink of the postseason this season, and possibly into it. Yet, there is still no reason to declare the Mets' bullpen stronger than the Phillies'.
With the only major loss being J.C. Romero for 50 games, the second-best bullpen in Major League Baseball last season shall reign again in 2009.
The Mets and their bullpen, even with a strengthened back end, will not be able overthrow the World Champions.
But do not worry, Mets fans. I mean, it is pretty hard to beat the World Champions at what they do best, is it not?