Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Relief Isn't Coming ... And I Don't Think It Should

Much has been said about the Mets' bullpen woes in 2012.  Their 5.53 ERA is the worst in baseball.  So is their 1.56 WHIP.  They also have the most blown saves (13) in the majors.  That's not exactly something to be proud of.  But it's also not something that I feel should be replaced from outside the organization.

I believe the Mets' bullpen will either correct itself or will have new members courtesy of the team's minor league system.  Why do I feel the bullpen can correct itself?  I think the following numbers will answer that question for me.

The starting staff, which has been better than expected, has pitched 366 innings, which is more than twice as many innings as the bullpen has thrown (174).  But only 18 batters have reached on errors while the starting pitcher has been on the mound.  That's an average of one batter reaching via an error every 20.3 innings.  Meanwhile, ten batters have reached base against a reliever because of the Mets' shoddy defense.  That's one extra runner every 17.4 innings, making it all the more difficult for the bullpen to get out of jams their defense caused for them.

Let's also take a look at a category we don't consider much here - BABIP.  An average hitter will have a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) somewhere in the .290 to .310 range.  The starting staff has kept opposing hitters within that range (.294).  However, the BABIP against the bullpen is a whopping .333, well outside the average range.  That suggests that before long, balls put in play against the bullpen will eventually find gloves, not holes.  Of course, if those gloves have holes...

Therefore, what the Mets really need to do is improve their defense, especially in the late innings when the relief corps is called upon to hold onto leads or keep games close.  The Mets can make a trade for an established reliever to help out.  But what good is he going to be if his defense doesn't help him out?  Is he supposed to strike out every batter he faces?

The BABIP suggests the Mets' bullpen will fix itself.  Improved defense will also help them do their jobs.  Don't give up on the bullpen just yet.  They might end up providing relief to themselves without any outside help.

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