For the upcoming 2011 season the Mets have decided to carry seven relievers in the bullpen. With only a few days left until opening day the Mets have six of the spots secured by Francisco Rodriguez, Taylor Buchholz, Bobby Parnell, Tim Byrdak, D.J. Carrasco and Pedro Beato.
The competition for the final spot has seemingly become a two-headed race between the former All-Star closer Jason Isringhausen and the journey man reliever Blaine Boyer.
Before writing this I was dead set on the Mets bringing on Izzy, but now I am not so sure. Both pitchers didn't make it any easier by throwing a scoreless inning in today's game against the Cardinals.
One major factor Izzy has over Boyer is the experience.
Izzy has pitched in the playoffs on five different occasions even making one World Series appearance in 2004. In postseason play Izzy has logged 26.2 inning and gone 1-1 with 11 saves in 12 opportunities in 23 games with a flashy 2.36 ERA.
Experience is one thing you can not teach to someone and Izzy has already felt and succeeded in those moments when it feels like the weight of the world is one your shoulders, while Boyer has yet to experience postseason play.
Even with all his credentials most people, as I know I did, did not think too much of the move when the Mets invited Izzy to spring training. I saw just another older injury-riddled player trying to get lucky and latch on to a team.
Izzy has shut up all the doubters pitching to the tune of a 1.29 ERA despite struggling with his command, walking three and striking out just three. His success is mostly due to giving up just two hits.
The negative side of his spring, Izzy has already had to be shut down briefly with a sore elbow. Not a good for someone who has already undergone three Tommy John surgeries.
His counterpart, the 29-year-old Blaine Boyer, was brought into camp on a minor league contract with an invite to spring training after a mediocre season with the Diamondbacks who had claimed him off waivers the year before.
Despite the low strikeout totals Boyer is equipped with a nice fastball that averages 94 MPH that enables him to get a lot of ground balls averaging 56 percent GB for his career and 66 percent last year. If you are looking for a reliever to come in and try and get that ground ball double play that the Mets have been missing since Chad Bradford then Boyer is your guy.
Boyer has shown a lot this spring giving up just one run in 10 innings for a 0.90 ERA while walking three and striking out seven. While he has shown good command so far in spring, over the last two seasons he has a 49:58 K:BB. That's not a good number for someone coming out of the pen who could come in with runners on base and need to get a big out.
Isringhausen has already stated he will not accept a minor league assignment so the Mets will lose him if he does not make the team. On the other hand Boyer has an opt out clause in his contract for Thursday. This essentially means if he does not make the team he has the opportunity to opt out instead of going to the minor leagues. The odds are the Mets are going to lose the pitcher who does not make the team.
While both pitchers have pitched admirably, if I was Sandy Alderson I would be taking the guy who has been around the block a few times with me on opening day. Marcel projections have Boyer pegged to pitched slightly better in 2011, but it is the intangibles that Izzy brings that give him the edge.
It is a bit of a risk to take Izzy because his elbow could give out any day now, but it's a risk that has a good enough of a reward for me to take. After the way Boyer has pitched, I would not be disappointed if the Mets decide to give him the last spot, however, he is also a talent that I think could be replaced with a AAA call up or a pitcher who is DFA. This is a great position for the Mets to be in having too many arms for the pen after trying to piece pens together for the last couple of years. And come on, who wouldn't love to see Izzy succeed in a Mets uni after all these years?
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