The bullpen in Flushing, New York has been subject to a lot of finger pointing over the years. But with names like Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran at the top of the order, and Johan Santana at the top of the rotation, it made Aaron Heilman and Luis Ayala look all the worse.
With 29 blown saves last year (third worst in the majors), the pen left us with some bitter memories. Worse, it caved more then ever down the stretch as the Mets narrowly lost their playoff spot to the Phillies for the second straight year.
With Billy Wagner, seemingly the only competent pitcher of the relievers, out for most of this year, GM Omar Minaya sought to address this problem head on.
The offseason brought in Seattle closer J.J. Putz and Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez—two huge names that have been able to dominate late innings in recent years. Problem solved, right? Let's look again.
K-Rod's peripherals are way down over the years. While he still maintains a good ERA and certainly a good save percentage, he may be overdue for some blown saves. His WHIP was way up around 1.30 last year, his fastball velocity is down a couple MPH, and his strikeout to walk ratio has gotten worse.
Also, for those expecting 65 more saves this year, you simply won't get it. Look for something closer to half that. Maybe 40. But the Mets' other relievers just aren't as good as the Angels' were last year on a team that registered a ridiculous 89 save opportunities.
Putz's health is a question mark as well. While he's looking good in the World Baseball Classic, Putz had injury problems all last year. Putz more than doubled his ERA from 2007 to 2008, where he was on and off the DL. Putz looks to have those problems past him for now, but only time will tell.
There's still the matter of the other guys. Though many have been removed, the list still remains unproven. Can Pedro Feliciano, Brian Stokes, Bobby Parnell, and company erase the damage down by the pens of recent years?
I think they can, though don't expect everything to be roses for the Mets pen, especially down the stretch. While I have more faith in these younger newcomers than I did in Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis, Jorge Sosa, etc., I still would much rather see the box score read
J Santana 9.0