In Part 3 of of my Met 2020 Season Preview we look at the Met bullpen which may in the long run define how successful this team will be in 2020.
2019 was an awful season for the Met bullpen with Edwin Diaz being the poster child for the ineffectiveness of the Met relievers. He came over from the Seattle Mariners primed to repeat his glorious numbers as a closer in Seattle in 2018 but from the start he seemed out of sync. I watched him closely all year and studied game tapes during the off-season.
And watching him I was left scratching my head to try to discern what went wrong because his fastball is a pitch he can throw past any hitter in baseball. But he seemed insistent on throwing his slider which is a good pitch but NOT his best pitch/ In charting his appearances, I quickly came to the realization that he simply did not throw his heater enough and when he did he usually had successful appearances.
So I am sure newly hired pitching coach Jeremy Hefner stressed this fact with him because in this summer camp he has shown that explosive fastball which is an eye popping pitch to watch. And throwing it 80% of the time will make that slider better using it as a change up more than anything else. I expect Diaz to rebound in a big time way.
The other pet project in this camp is Jeurys Familia whom I also think appeared lost on the mound at times last year. This was due to 2 factors in my opinion: He decided he could just blow away hitters and forgot a simple fact: his years of success were dictated by his hard sinking fastball that was impossible for the hitter to lift and secondly when throwing the slider Familia short armed the ball and forgot he must get proper extension from both his arm and his legs to give the pitch the late movement it needs to control power bats. He hung this slider all year because he was short arming the ball and not extending his lower part of his body when releasing the pitch. I have talked to Familia this off-season and he is hell bent on bringing back his arsenal on the mound to pre-2019 and I can tell you I was very convinced with his statements.
The third member of the bullpen that has tons to prove is Dellin Betances who had an injury riddled nightmare of a season in the Bronx before signing with the Mets as a free agent. But make no mistake he has overpowering stuff that we have seen manifest itself as a Yankee to such a high level he earned All Star selections when he was not even the team’s closer. That speaks volumes about him and despite the fact his fastball seemed diminished back in March in Port St Lucie, this summer camp we have seen the old Betances and that could be a huge weapon for the Mets.
Despite the bullpen meltdowns last year, 2 pitchers had great seasons and both provide depth in that Met pen. Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson gave the Mets a great 1-2 punch in the bullpen late last year. Lugo has a GREAT spin rate on his curveball and combines that with an assortment of great fastballs while Wilson proved he is MUCH more than a lefty specialist as his cut fastball made right handed power threats feel real uncomfortable.
So how will this Met bullpen perform in 2020? Bullpens are very unpredictable in this sport but my sense is you can count on Wilson & Lugo and if 2 of the three coming off substandard years–Betances, Familia, and Diaz-rebound–this could be a dynamite bullpen.
And in this truncated season bullpens will have a big impact especially in the beginning of the season. Starters may only go 5 or 6 innings at the most and the Mets will need to get 10-12 outs from their bullpen on a regular basis. Betances could be key here as I believe he and Lugo can give the team multiple innings of effective hurling.
But the biggest key is Diaz–he has shown he could be an everyday closer and if he reaffirms that role, the other pieces in the pen will likely fall into place very neatly.
In many ways, how well this unit performs could dictate the Met season and I have a hunch Met fans will be real pleasantly surprised how well this unit pitches night in and night out for Luis Rojas.