Jason Isringhausen has offered much needed and somewhat unexpected relief to a bullpen that has been forced to log a lot of innings over the first month of the season.
He has tossed eight innings across nine appearances, and he has allowed three runs on four hits and as many walks while striking out six. His ERA of 2.70 ranked third among New York's middle relievers entering the final day of April, but that rose to 3.38 after the last series in Philly.
He has generally pitched well in his first three weeks since filling one of the gaps left by Ryota Igarashi and Blaine Boyer, but on the surface, his small sample size of statistics tell us a few things.
- His control has been excellent, Sunday night aside, even if it's probably unrealistic to expect his walk rate to stay this low the entire year.
- Balls that are being put into play are being hit to fielders rather than falling for hits, as evidenced by his imposible-to-maintain .158 BABIP.
- Once a dominant ground ball pitcher, Isringhausen is giving up a lot more fly balls. A lot more, like two in every three. More than 46 percent of his outs over his career have been grounders. In 2011, it's just 26 percent.
Simply put, balls just aren't being hit hard off Issy yet. Everything has been hit in the air and only one or two balls have been hit on the screws.
He throws two types of fastball—a four-seamer and a cutter—and his trademark curveball. He also has a sinker, although he has been saving that for righty-lefty matchups. The release point and speed of both fastballs is almost identical, which makes the late movement on the cutter that much more effective. His curve, by contrast, comes in around 12 miles slower, keeping hitters way out in front if they're sitting on something hard.
Facing right-handers, Isringhausen has been pitching predominantly away. He uses his four-seamer up and away and his cutter slightly lower in the zone. His curve, which has really been dropping off the table about 15 feet in front of the hitters, has been an effective pitch below the knees.
Against left-handers, Isringhausen has incorporated his sinker much more. It runs away from the batter and provides great contrast from the cutter which breaks later and in the opposite direction.
His cutter inside has been one of his better weapons against the southpaws, while his sinker and four-seamer have been either on the outer third of the zone or away. Going away from hitters, especially with the sinker has been his waste pitch, and it has been helpful in setting up the fastball in on the hands.
This was evident from his Mets season debut. Back in New York for the first time in almost 12 years, Issy showed off his repertoire. On in relief with runners on first and second in the seventh, Isringhausen got Chris Iannetta to ground out weakly to first base on a fastball away. With runners on the corners, he then threw veteran left-hander Todd Helton a sinker away, a big 12-6 curve inside and then a fastball in to induce a shallow pop up to center.
Things haven't been as clean since then, but still okay. Four of his nine appearances have been perfect and he hasn't has to face more than five batters in any of his outings so far.
Issy isn't the answer to the Mets bullpen long term, maybe not even short term, but he offers relief and generally gets the job done. If he can keep the team in games for an inning longer, especially in that role he has in the eighth, then fans will be happy with his work.