Published on March 11th, 2017 | by Daniel Lagnado0
Which Mets reliever is best suited for the 8th inning?
Major League Baseball seems content to wait until after the World Baseball Classic to announce Mets closer Jeurys Familia’s suspension for domestic abuse charges.
While Familia is out, potentially for up to a month, the Mets are likely to turn to Addison Reed to close games. With Reed pitching the ninth inning, the Mets need a replacement for the eighth.
While the full bullpen picture is incomplete, there are some pitchers who could compete for that role.
The Mets re-signed left-handed pitcher Jerry Blevins to a one-year contract days before Spring Training. Blevins has mostly served as a left-handed specialist in his time with the Mets, and his performance has earned him the trust of Terry Collins. Blevins earned two saves and a career high 16 holds in 2016, and blew only one save/hold situation. He also turned in the highest strikeout-per-nine ratio of his career, which boosted his effectiveness late in games. Given his usefulness as a lefty specialist it’s unlikely he takes the eighth inning full time, but if the Mets are playing the Nationals and both Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper are due up in the eighth, that’s a spot that calls Blevins’ name.
The Mets also brought back Fernando Salas after he was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels late last season. He performed much better with the Mets than he did with the Angels: His strikeouts went up, his walks went down and his ERA dropped by more than two points. He recorded six saves with the Angeles and a career-high twenty holds. The Mets like to have former closers serve as late inning pitchers, as evidenced by acquisitions of Reed and Tyler Clippard. If Salas can continue his strong performance from the end of last season in Queens, he can be a very solid short-term set-up option.
A final, perhaps under-the-radar, option is Hansel Robles. Robles filled many roles for the Mets last season that included a stint as long-man and middle reliever. The Mets like his potential and his numbers improved last year in his second full season. He allowed less home runs and stranded more runners on base while bringing his ERA down and earning 13 holds and one save. The one issue he still has is his control. His strikeout rate dropped slightly but his walk rate spiked by more than one full walk per nine innings. This is perhaps because he had to pitch more innings (77.2 compared to 54 in 2015), but is also something the Mets want him to fix if he is to see higher leverage situations. Despite those potential problems, Robles led Blevins and Salas in WAR last season and was worth one whole win above a league average replacement, which speaks to his value as a relief pitcher.
Only time will tell who Terry Collins trusts most to get the ball and it’s possible that he chooses to go with a committee and change eighth inning pitchers by situation with no immediate and obvious choice.
Photo credit: Michael G. Baron