Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New York Mets Current Bullpen Woes

In the spirt of having diverse postings to this blog and because I am stuck at the Rochester Airport due to the wonderful air travel system that the United States has, I thought a post about sports would be in order. 

As of today, the Mets currently stand two games out of first place behind the Phillies. This is due in large part to the fact that the Mets bullpen appears to be incapable of getting the last 9 outs in a baseball game. For those fans, who like me, had to go through last year's September collapse, the current bullpen woes are eerily similar. In both cases, the Mets starting pitching is able to go 6 to 7 innings, the offense is scoring 4-7 runs a game, and yet regardless of the situation the bullpen appears to find a way to lose the game. The current slide of the bullpen became really apparent when closer Wagner went on the DL and many have said that as soon as Wagner returns all will return to normal. However, one has to wonder whether Mets fans are getting a glimpse of what is ultimately going to happen to this team as crunch time approaches.  

In an effort to confront the bullpen woes, Mets manager Manuel has come up with several creative solutions. The two current approaches appear to be using minor league relievers and moving starting pitcher John Maine to the pen. The use of the former is a sign of the desperation that the Mets are currently facing. Based on their performance so far the Mets minor league relievers are pitching exactly as they should be. The only problem is that means they are pitching like minor league pitchers in a big league game. It is clear that none of these players is ready for the major leagues yet and is only on the big league team because of the large number of injuries the Mets have suffered. As for moving Maine to the pen, in the short term it has many advantages, but I think these are outweighed by the long term realities. Here is the break down:

Positive: Maine has a rotator cuff injury that is best dealt with by either a complete shut down of his throwing activities or a throwing program that tightly controls how many pitches he throws. Thus, a move to the bullpen would suit Maine as it would shift is outings to 30-40 pitches as opposed to his 110-120 he has been averaging thus far. Assuming Maine is effective in the pen, and this is a big assumption, the mets are able to have a go to guy in the bullpen. 

Negative: This is at best a short term solution. Maine is clearly more valuable to the Mets as a starting pitcher than as a reliever. Plus the move is occurring because he is injured. Thus, there is a high probability that Maine could re-injure himself, leaving the Mets in the exact same situation they are currently in. Moving Maine to the bullpen permanently is not an option given the state of the Mets current starting pitching situation. As a result, moving Maine to the bullpen allows the Mets to ignore the realities that they have to add a bullpen arm via wavers if they are going to make the playoffs this year. 

If the Mets are going to make the playoffs they are going to have to find a way to add a bullpen arm, such as B. Fuente of the Rockies, via wavers. This will mean parting with their current prospects such as F. Martinez, but if they are committed to winning this year, fixing the bullpen has to be the highest priority.

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