New York Mets' Bullpen Is a Bigger Question Mark Than Starting Rotation in 2011

James Stewart-Meudt@@JSMeudtCorrespondent IIDecember 29, 2010

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 14:  R.A. Dickey #43 of the New York Mets pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 14, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

As the offseason continues, the Mets continue to make little noise. They've made some quiet moves—some quality, some questionable.

However, it would take some big changes to actually improve the team for 2011 because they've lost more than they've gained.

Johan Santana will be out recovering from shoulder surgery until at least the All-Star break, leaving the Mets' starting rotation in a state of flux.

As it stands now, we know the rotation consists of Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese and most likely Dillon Gee.

Despite the lack of a fifth starter, those names aren't unknowns or inexperienced prospects.

Mets fans have been watching Pelfrey for over two years now. The big right-hander will need to step up big and keep his sinker down to fill Santana's shoes as the No. 1 starter. But at least we know who he is.

Dickey was the brightest spot of the Mets' 2010 campaign, and the idea of him repeating his performance, or perhaps even improving on it, gives the fans something to watch.

Niese, coming off his first full season as a starter, was up and down but certainly showed promise. In 30 starts, he went six innings and gave up three runs or less 13 times. Not too shabby for a first full season in the majors.

Gee only made five starts after a September call-up last season but was impressive, going 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA. His two wins were against divisional opponents Washington and Philadelphia, and he certainly should have won his September 18 start against Atlanta.

So out of their current rotation, though a man short, the Mets don't have a lot of question marks. We know what Pelfrey is. We saw enough of Dickey to understand his abilities. Niese proved he can pitch a full season of starts, and Gee proved he can beat teams in the NL East, granted in a limited sample size.

At least Mets fans can name four out of five starters heading into 2011. Can we name the guys who will make up the bullpen?

Probably not.

The loss of Hisanori Takahashi and Pedro Feliciano hurts...a lot. Takahashi was excellent as both a starter and reliever last season, and the Mets definitely needed to retain him but failed to do so.

The loss of Feliciano, who had been the Mets' most reliable reliever for years, leaves them with just Oliver Perez (gulp) and Pat Misch as left-handed relievers.

Think of this: bottom of the seventh, tie game, bases loaded in Philly. Ryan Howard coming up. Terry Collins walks to the mound, gestures to the bullpen with his left arm...and out trots Oliver Perez?

No thanks.

There are a ton of lefties in the NL East. Atlanta's entire outfield is left-handed, not to mention Brian McCann.

Philly, of course, has Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez and Domonic Brown (and don't forget the dreaded Brian Schneider).

Last season, the Mets were actually fifth in the NL in bullpen ERA (3.59); it was a strength.

But should fans expect similar production next season?

Feliciano obviously led the team in appearances (92) last season, but he's gone.

Takahashi led all relievers in WHIP (1.13) last season, and he's gone.

Looking over the Mets' bullpen arms last season, they had a ton of guys with sub-3.00 ERAs, but much of it was the result of one good season after a string of poor ones.

Elmer Dessens had the second most appearances (53) for the Mets last season and posted a 2.30 ERA, the lowest, by far, of his 14-year career.

Manny Acosta made 41 appearances last season. His 2.95 ERA was almost two full runs lower than his ERA the previous season (4.34 ERA with Atlanta).

Bobby Parnell is another example. His 2.83 ERA was a huge drop from the previous season (5.30).

Dessens, Acosta and Parnell combined for the most appearances out of the bullpen now with the loss of Feliciano and Takahashi. If they're going to be called on as much, or more, next season, what kind of production can the Mets expect? Was it one good season, or can they be counted on to do as well next season? It's a huge question mark.

Then, of course, there are Raul Valdes (5.23 ERA), Ryota Igarashi (7.12 ERA), Fernando Nieve (5.18 ERA) and Oliver Perez (9.00 ERA as a reliever) lurking in the bullpen.

Is that more of a concern than the starting rotation? I'd say so.


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