In the early going to the 2011 season Terry Collins has had trouble managing the Mets bullpen because of the ineffectiveness of just about every pitcher in it. The problems started from the get go with a blown save in the second game of the year by closer Francisco Rodriguez and seems to have had a trickle down affect on everyone else. By just taking a look at the statistics one will see the full picture on their bad performance. What's not even shown here is the league leading three blown saves already.
Some would argue this was bound to happen with a bullpen that was pieced together off the scrap heap (Pedro Beato, Taylor Buchholz, and Blaine Boyer) and with just two real known quantities (K-Rod and D.J. Carrasco). By using statistics, however, some said the Mets' bullpen was going to be one of the strengths of the ball club and was severely underrated going into the season. Seeing the problem, the Mets have already taken steps to fix it by designating Blaine Boyer for assignment and calling up Jason Isringhausen. One step in the right direction. Here are a few more things they need to do.
Is it too early to be concerned about the bullpen?
1. Take Bobby Parnell out of the 8th inning role
After following his career throughout the minors for three or four years I have developed a great liking for Parnell, but he is simply not ready for this role. He had some success last year in 41 games with the Mets and has great stuff leading me to believe he will one day be able to lock down the 8th inning, just not this year. He has too many problems with his command and composure for the high pressure situation of bridging the gap to K-Rod.
2. Give the 8th inning role to Izzy
After over twelve years apart Jason Isringhausen finally made a return to the first bullpen he ever called home in a major league ballpark. His reunion with the Mets went as perfect as one could have scripted with Izzy coming in a tough situation and stranding the runners on base. Izzy has been around the block more than a few times with playoff experience and over 290 career saves so it is no question that pressure is not an issue for the veteran. At this stage of his career he should be more than willing to become that vital, experienced setup man who not only performs on the field, but brings leadership to teach the younger pitchers like Parnell and Beato off the field, similar to a Trevor Hoffman in his last year. I have no doubt in my mind Izzy would thrive in this situation.
3. Use Tim Byrdak stricly against lefties
With only one lefty in the pen this year it will be more crucial than ever to use Byrdak sparingly. Byrdak can not be managed in the same fashion as Pedro Feliciano was under Jerry Manuel and Willie Randolph. At the very most Byrdak should be used to face three batters in an inning if it is to get a second lefty in a lefty-lefty match up (L-R-L in the lineup). So far Byrdak has been managed pretty well having only faced more than three batters twice in his six appearances and hasn't thrown more than 18 pitches. At 37 years of age, it is going to be important to keep his arm as fresh as possible for the later parts of the season. An easy way to do this I would say to use him to get out just one batter and no more every three or four appearances.
4. Give Pedro Beato more responsibility
After never throwing a pitch above AA, Pedro Beato showed good enough stuff and pitched well enough in spring training to earn a spot in the bullpen, and not just win one by default being a Rule V draft pick. So far Terry Collins has used him just in situations when the game was out of reach, making him pitch meaningless innings. He has performed as well as anyone in the pen thus far and looked fantastic in his Citi Field debut the other day really catching my attention. His struggles in the minors that caused him to become a Rule V pick were a result of being a starting pitcher and ever since his move to the pen last year he has been virtually lights out. I'm not excited enough to hand him the seventh or eighth inning just yet, but I think he is good enough to handle higher pressure situations in the middle innings when a crucial strikeout or ground ball is needed.
5. The starters must go deeper
The best way to help a bullpen out is to keep them fresh by having your starters pitch deep into games. Through the first ten games only two Mets pitchers have pitched seven innings which was Jon Niese's performance in the second game of the year and Chris Young's last start on Sunday. And as seen with that start nothing will even been a given when going seven strong. Getting starts of just five innings from a pitcher like Mike Pelfrey is just unacceptable when at this stage of his development and with his size he should be a workhorse in the rotation eating innings left and right. And a knuckle baller like R.A. Dickey should be pitching into the seventh with regularity and throwing closer to 110-120 pitches and not 97 and 106.
There are good arms in the pen with potential who haven't pitched all that poorly outside of the control issues. The problems with the control can partially be attributed to early of the season rust and nothing more, but the fact of the matter is the results are going to need to be better or more changes will need to be made.