Friday, July 17, 2020

Bullpen Thoughts

Nice piece in the New York Post yesterday about Jeurys Familia's attempt to bounce back from his awful 2019 campaign. Familia is trying to recapture the effectiveness of his splitter. Back when Familia first emerged as the closer for the Mets that was a very effective pitch for him, generating a lot of swing and misses.

Interesting, though, is the note that Familia is working at taking something off the splitter, to use is more as an off-speed pitch. If you remember back when he first started using the splitter, he threw it quite hard. One of the things that made it work for him was that it looked so much like his fastball, but had a lot of late dive to it. The article didn't mention whether he had abandoned the hard split completely or was going use it both ways. Last year he didn't have much success at all with the pitch, so I assume he's going for the complete makeover.

One of the stories from spring training 1.0 was all of the weight that Familia lost over the winter. Familia dropped 30 pounds, getting down to 240 from 270. He's hoping that he can stay healthier and also be better balanced in his delivery. The Mets have a lot of "ifs" in their bullpen this season, but if things work out right they could have a pretty solid 'pen. They're going to need one if they're going to compete this year, given the difficulty of the schedule and the pressures of a very short regular season.

Last year the Mets had some pretty bad luck with their bullpen, given that both Familia and Edwin Diaz both had such terrible seasons together. Diaz especially had such a weird season. If I told you before the 2019 season that Diaz was going to strike out 99 batters in 58 innings, you would probably guess that he was going to have a solid season. It takes pretty good stuff to rack up that many strikeouts. Of course, if I told you that he was going to give up 15 home runs in those 58 innings, you'd probably guess that things weren't going to go all that great.

Last year was such a weird year for home runs, with the ball so obviously juiced during the regular season, that you might think Diaz giving up a lot of home runs was a bit of a fluke. He only allowed 5 in 73 innings with Seattle the season before. The season before that, however, Diaz allowed 10 homers over 66 innings, so being somewhat home run prone isn't completely out of the blue for the guy.

I wouldn't be surprised if Jeurys Familia pitched much better this season, as long as he stays healthy. When that sinker is working he can be pretty damn effective. He also got bit a little by that juiced baseball in 2019. The 7 home runs he allowed in 60 innings pitched was a real outlier. This is a guy who allowed 5 home runs combined in the three seasons from 2016 - 2018 over 174.1 innings pitched.

Not that homers were Familia's only failing last season. He's always given up some hits, but he allowed over a hit an inning last season. He also allowed 42 walks in 60 IP, ensuring there were plenty of men on base when he gave up the long ball. Maybe that was a function of his theory that the extra weight was throwing him off balance. If he can get back to normal home run and walk totals, that alone would guarantee a better season. If he can throw his splitter effectively again, he can easily get back to being an effective reliever again. Also in his favor is that he has shown the ability to live up to the pressure of pitching in New York in his first go-round in Queens.

Diaz, I just don't know what to think. A guy who strikes out 99 batters in 58 innings definitely has the stuff to succeed in late relief. He just looked so overwhelmed at times last season, it's hard to not feel some doubts about him this year. He might be one guy who benefits from not having fans in the stands this season. If he has a bad game early on there will be nobody there to shower boos down on him. Either way, just for his own confidence he would seem to need some early success to build upon. I'm curious who gets the first save opportunity this season, it would tell us a lot how Luis Rojas feels about him.

The Mets have some good arms in that bullpen, the most they've had in as long as I can remember. The 2006 bullpen was good, but in sheer talent it wasn't even close. If, by some miracle, Diaz and Familia can bounce back to form, Dellin Betances can regain all of his velocity, and Seth Lugo's elbow continues to hold up, the Mets have a chance to be really, really good this year. Maybe the best bullpen in terms of pure stuff since I've been a Mets fan, and that's a long time. No guarantees, but it's fun to think about.

I'm looking forward to this season much more than I thought I would. There are just so many interesting story lines with this club. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all comes together.


I decided to take today off from writing about the ongoing saga of the Mets sale, but I had one thought occur to me later on after I finished my post yesterday. As I'm sure you know, Alex Rodrigues is getting a lot of grief over saying their should be revenue sharing and a salary cap in baseball.

I attributed A-Rod's rather hypocritical remarks to his infamous knack for being oblivious to saying things that come across as insincere and self-centered. Later on it occurred to me that he might have intentionally made those remarks to assure existing MLB owners that he would be on their side, not the players', if he took control of the Mets.

He did walk it back somewhat later, but there was a lot of blowback from players. Even if I grant the possibility that he said it on purpose to prove something to MLB owners, it was still remarkably tone-deaf. He could have let MLB owners know how he felt without shooting himself in the foot with the players. But that's always been an A-Rod trait. If his group does successfully purchase the Mets, this will come up from time to time. It's part of the package.

Okay, I'm out for today. I'll be back tomorrow. Please stay safe, be well and take care. Thanks for stopping by.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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