Today in Part 2 of my Met Season Preview series we look at the bullpen which in modern day baseball is such an important aspect of the game. A good bullpen can cover up weaknesses while a poor bullpen can take a blemish and make it an eyesore. So how does the 2021 Met bullpen look?
All bullpen questions for the Mets begin with Edwin Diaz who has been appointed as the Met closer by manager Luis Rojas and all signs point to the fact that he will great in that role. His 2019 season was a disaster after coming over in the Robinson Cano trade but last year we saw the real Diaz. A 1.75 ERA coupled with 50 strikeouts in 25 innings pitched tell the story but upon closer look it was the late movement that returned on both his fastball and slider that made the difference. “Late movement is always key for me”, says Diaz. “and getting that when the ball is right on top of the hitter was a big difference for me in 2020.”
And watching Diaz in spring training I saw that dominant hurler that I watched in 2020 with an explosive fastball coupled with a biting slider. The Mets are in very good hands with Edwin Diaz but the question always remains in today’s baseball–how do you bridge to the closer?
Coming into spring training I believe the Mets felt Seth Lugo would be a part of that but an injury forced him to the sidelines. This brought the duo of Trevor May and Aaron Loup to the forefront and both have great resumes in the “Bridge Game” May had a 2020 season in which he struck out 38 hitters in 23 innings while only giving up 20 hits while Loup pitched to a 2.52 ERA giving up only 17 hits in 25 innings while striking out 22 hitters. This duo also gives the Mets a great right lefty exacta in that bridge role. Once Lugo returns it could be a quartet of Lugo, Loup, May and Diaz making late innings tough for any opponents when the Mets are holding a lead.
But there also is another wildcard in this bullpen and that is Miquel Castro. Little by little the Mets have taken this player to a new level as his stuff is off the charts and he has shown the ability to get big outs. He has clearly raised his status in the bullpen pecking order as both Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia had sub par springs. They both have ability and stuff and their roles bear watching in the early going of the season. Lack of velocity has hurt Betances and lack of control still haunts Familia.
This Met bullpen is deeper than it was a season ago and the evolution of Diaz makes it a real strong part of the team. With additions like May and Loup coupled with both the emergence of Castro and the return of Seth Lugo during the season this group has a chance to have a great season. The depth inside the pen helps to combat the issues we see with a bullpen when certain pitchers do not live up to expectations. This group also has multiple people that have closed with success in their careers and that gives Luis Rojas maximum flexibility.
Flexibility that he will certainly need in a 162 game marathon season as opposed to the truncated 60 game season of a year ago.