J.J. Putz's Status in Limbo Thanks to More Walks, Fewer Strikeouts

Kevin McCarthyContributor IJune 2, 2009

How many Mets fans thought that J.J. Putz easily could have been the better closer that the Mets acquired in the offseason? 

Many thought he had a good chance to put together a better season than Francisco Rodriguez. At the time of the trade that brought J.J. to New York, Keith Law said, “If the Mets get the healthy J.J. Putz—he missed time with rib and elbow injuries in 2008—they might actually have acquired the best closer of their offseason, one even better than their new closer Francisco Rodriguez.”

After 50 games, however, it’s evident Frankie is the elite reliever of the two. Fans envisioned a shortened seven-inning game every time the Mets had a lead, but after Putz blew the game against the lowly Pirates, something is clearly wrong.

After looking healthy in Spring Training, he has had some setbacks already in the season. On May 14, an MRI showed inflammation in his elbow as a result of a bone spur. After getting treated with a cortisone shot, Putz was back on the hill, and about a week later he was day-to-day with a stiff neck.

Most recently, his arm slot has been off, causing his ineffectiveness. Or is it because he is missing that extra shot of adrenaline that he had when he used to pitch the ninth inning?

Whatever the reason may be, he must be used with caution. His walk rate has skyrocketed in comparison to his best years (6.04 BB/9, compared to 1.49 and 1.63 in 2006 and 2007), and his strikeout rate is terrible (6.04, compared to his career average of 9.12).

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Eight percent of his pitches have been swung at and missed this year, while in an injury-plagued season in '08 he got 11 percent. In 2006 and 2007, he registered 16 percent and 13 percent respectively.

An increase in walks and a fall-off in strikeouts is a bad combination for any pitcher.

Obviously something is off. If it is simply mechanics, then he should be kept on the team and worked sparingly until his bullpen sessions look great. If the Mets believe that he may be injured, then a trip to the disabled list is in order.

Until Putz is figured out, however, expect Bobby Parnell to play a much bigger role on this team at the end of games.