Mets Keys To Bullpen Success In 2024

Mets Keys To Bullpen Success In 2024

By: @PeterPiperReady

2024's Mets squad has a quietly strong bullpen that even Mets fans are unaware of. Fans shouldn't be surprised at this given who the new president of baseball operation is for the Amazins, as David Stearns built quality bullpens for almost a decade in Milwaukee. For those unaware of what this means, Milwaukee's best strength as a team was their pitching, especially in the bullpen. Players such as Devin Williams and formerly Josh Hader need no introduction to why they were so good for the Brew Crew. When Stearns was hired in October, Twitter user Jolly_Olive posted just how dominant the 2021 Brewers bullpen was, despite the names past Hader and Williams being a hodge-podge of castaways and former greats like Brad Boxberger, Hunter Strickland, Jake Cousins, and Trevor Richards. In this article, I want to discuss how this year's Mets squad can replicate that same blueprint that gave those 2021 Brewers an NL Central division title with four pitchers who can make them a great bullpen. I'll be using each player's Baseball Savant page and baseball reference for each player, and what made them a strong reliever as a result.

#1-Jorge Lopez

Projected spots: 7th/8th inning

Last year was a down season for Jorge Lopez, a former All-Star for the Orioles who was traded for Minnesota during 2022 and saw himself traded to the Marlins last season in part of their postseason push. Lopez himself has been a journeyman, also seeing time with the David Stearns Brewers back in 2017-2018, before subsequently being traded to the Royals in a package for Mike Moustakas. Lopez at his best can be a solid 7th-8th inning reliever, reaching a sub 3.00 ERA and a strong ERA+ that reached up to 234 with his All-Star campaign in Baltimore. However, his biggest challenges came with his family and his command being off as told by this SNY article. Looking at his Baseball Savant, the biggest change was a significant drop in how often he used his sinker, especially with how strong of a pitch it was. Jeremy Hefner's biggest challenge going into the year is trying to get a proper balance for sinker and changeup right, as both are crucial to his repertoire. If the Mets want a dominant bullpen, then getting that Lopez from Baltimore is a must. It also could mean a lot of relief for bullpen players like Ottavino and Diaz, providing more options for Carlos Mendoza to close games out with. 

#2-Sean Reid-Foley

Projected spots: Long Relief

Making a return from Tommy John surgery, Sean Reid-Foley is finally back in the mix after a very short 2023 campaign that saw him pitch just 7.2 innings during August and September, which was mostly solid save for one mediocre outing against the Twins, before being shut down for the season. Sean is the final player still in the Mets organization from the Steven Matz trade. Despite Sean being a pitcher who averages a sub-100 ERA+, his metrics in a short sample size in 2023 proved that he was able to be a decent reliever. If the Mets need someone to do dirty work for games that are already long gone, or someone to mop up a poor outing by any starters, having Foley become that pitcher is a must. Looking at Baseball Savant, his biggest problem is making sure that one of his slider or changeups can be effective enough on those two-strike counts, especially since he's a primarily fastball-heavy pitcher. Another key factor for him is to stay healthy, as he's been victim to pitching fewer than 20 innings pitched every season under the Mets, and even suffered arm fatigue during spring training. He also is on the bubble of the roster fighting Yohan Ramirez and Michael Tonking for the final two bullpen spots and may not even make the final cut at the time of writing this article. Foley might not be the first name Mets fans think of in this bullpen, but he certainly can be a name that Stearns would've had on his Brewers squads that won the NL Central.

#3-Jake Diekman

Projected spots: 7th/8th inning, High Leverage at-bats against Left-Handed hitters

2023 was a renaissance for the 37-year-old southpaw, who went from an abysmal 7.94 ERA on the White Sox to an absurd 2.18 ERA on a Tampa Bay squad that earned the 1st wild card spot with 99 wins. The biggest change in Diekman's repertoire was his 4-seam fastball being fixed in Tampa Bay, as its run value reached +5, and was also thrown more often in Tampa Bay, increasing by 13% compared to 44% in Southside. Baseball Savant also showed that his ERA+ in Tampa also went to a remarkable 192 as well thanks to the findings from Tampa Bay. For Mets fans however, this also means that there will be another southpaw in the bullpen next to Brooks Raley, and in an NL East full of left-handed hitters like Harper, Schwarber, Acuna, and Riley, you're going to need as many lefty relievers as you can that strike out said hitters. Another strength of Diekman is his ground ball percentage, where Diekman had 46% of his outs from groundballs. This should bode well for Mets infielders also provided the infield defense is improved upon. Should they get the same Diekman in Tampa Bay, then it can provide a crucial addition to their bullpen on days when Ottavino, Raley, and Diaz cannot pitch. Versatility matters a ton, especially for those late innings with higher leverage. After all, that was another trick that came from those Milwaukee bullpens that Stearns built by having more than just flamethrowers in the bullpen. Diekman was a signing that felt like years in the making, and now it finally happened for the Mets

#4-Edwin Diaz

Projected spot: 9th inning.

You should've expected this name when reading this article, but the Mets cannot stress just how important a healthy Edwin Diaz can be to this bullpen. In his 2022 campaign, Diaz was one of the most dominant closers in the game. Even if Diaz is a primarily two-pitch pitcher, his slider and 4-seam fastball are lethal. In 2022, his slider was being thrown more than his 4-seamer, yet his K% was at absurd 17.1 per 9 innings, and he even received Cy Young votes as a reliever. Should the Mets get Diaz back in form, they should be in a much better position in the NL Wild Card chase, especially after last season's poor form in 1-run games, but also not having a set closer for the 9th inning after David Robertson was traded. The Mets missed Edwin's electricity last season, as something was missing without those blaring trumpets from "Narco" last season. Just switch those mind-bending sliders that Williams throws to the heat of Diaz's fastball. If David Stearns can get the same strength from his bullpen in New York as he did with Milwaukee, then there should be postseason baseball for Queens again.

 

For the 2024 Mets, a lot of fans should be a lot more optimistic about the pitchers that are here, and there are plenty of options upcoming in the minor leagues should they continue to develop. David Stearns also brought in Adrian Houser this offseason, who can also project to be in the same role that Trevor Williams played in during the 2021-2022 season as a swingman. There are also players such as Shintaro Fujinami, Michael Tonkin, and Yohan Ramierez whom may make appearances throughout the season should players go down with injury. Pitching shouldn't be as much of a worry for fans, given how much depth has been shown off during spring training. A potential wild card series in October should not be off the books if the bullpen performs as strongly as it could. Kodai Senga's return only means more versatility to this bullpen, and a few pitching prospects like Nate Lavander, Christian Scott, Mike Vasil, and Tyler Stuart could also be making their major league debuts sooner rather than later in this bullpen as well.

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