What Happened To The Mets Bullpen?

Hot Stove New YorkSenior Writer IJune 22, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 19:  Bobby Parnell #39 of the New York Mets reacts after surrendering two runs against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 19, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In the blink of an eye the Mets bullpen went from the best in the National League to a weakness on a team filled with weaknesses. The rotation has had trouble staying healthy and each starter has traded turns being hot and cold. Fernando Nieve is now their best starter (OK, it’s really still Johan Santana, but it sound more dramatic this way). The Mets’ punchless offense can’t rely on Brian Schneider to hit a three-run homer every game. The team’s fielding has been horrible all season. The bullpen had been their one saving grace, but not anymore.

J.J. Putz was not effective at all before going on the DL, but since he’s been gone Bobby Parnell has completely fallen apart. Parnell taking over the eighth-inning role seemed like an upgrade at the time, but it hasn’t exactly worked out like that to put it mildly.

What happened to him? He’s a one-pitch pitcher who’s struggling with that one pitch is the answer. His last seven games have been downright ugly. In four-plus innings pitched, he’s allowed 10 runs, given up 12 hits, walked three, and only struckout three. In three of his last five appearances he didn’t record an out. Who does he think he is, Aaron Heilman? He now has a 5.00 ERA and 1.93 WHIP for the season. Parnell is the biggest culprit in the bullpen’s recent ineffectivesness, but others have helped to lose games too.

Frankie Rodriguez blew his first two games of the year recently (well, maybe only one should count), but he should be alright going forward. A closer being perfect only comes along every so often, and it’s really a magical season if that happens (see Lidge, Brad).

Pedro Feliciano is on pace to pitch in 225 games this year, and even he had a hiccup in Baltimore. He’s pitched six games in a row, but still can be counted on in crucial situations. And he’s the only one not named K-Rod who can get lefties out.

Sean Green has turned his disastrous season around when he appeared in 15 games without allowing a run. But in his last two, he’s thrown one inning and let in three runs. He didn’t record an out yesterday following Parnell’s lead.

Brian Stokes and Ken Takahasi are interesting cases. Neither one can get lefties out. Righthanded batters are hitting a measly .111 against Takahashi (lefties an astounding .429), while Stokes’ number are: righties .230; lefties .357. Stokes had horrible outings against the Red Sox and Yankees but was rusty in both games, not having pitched for a long stretch before each appearance. And poor Jon Switzer can’t get anybody out. Why is he on the team? I can’t remember.

Jerry Manuel has admittedly overworked his bullpen. The inconsistency of the rotation doesn’t help, but he probably needs to use Stokes and Takahashi more, at least against righties. So far he doesn’t really seem to trust either one of them.

The collapse of Parnell is what really killed the team. John Maine and Oliver Perez are rumored to be coming back soon, which could mean the bullpen will be bolstered by Nieve and Tim Redding. But how much can you trust Maine and Perez to be healthy and effective? Nieve’s a nice story so far, but he’s still Fernando Nieve, the one with a 4.29 lifetime ERA. But a 4.29 ERA is still better than Parnell’s, Green’s, Redding’s and Switzer’s this year. So we can look at it from that perspective I suppose.

The Mets need their bullpen to be the strength of the team again, and if Parnell can overcome his struggles and at least one of Maine and Perez can come back healthy for the rest of the season, this recent bump in the road for the relievers may just be temporary. Adding another lefty who could get lefties out would be helpful, too. I can hope and dream, can’t I?