By Rich Coutinho
Every day Terry Collins marches into the interview room and must explain why his bullpen once again failed to get the job done. Sometimes it is lack of control, other times lack of execution or in the case of last night’s game, inability to throw the ball accurately 60 feet to the plate.
Whatever the reason, this bullpen is dragging the Mets down and for a club filled with question marks, this issue might top the list of concerns for the team. In today’s baseball, a good bullpen can cover up many weaknesses, whether it be an anemic offense, inability of starting pitchers to go deep in games, or even a defensive deficiency or two.
Conversely, a bad bullpen takes every team blemish and makes it an eyesore and in the early going of 2011, that is exactly what is happening in Flushing. From top to bottom every single reliever, with the possible exception of Pedro Beato, has been the main culprit in a Met loss. The most troubling of those pitchers is Bobby Parnell, who was supposed to be the team’s 8th inning bridge to K-Rod but has been anything but. The flame throwing righthander lights up the radar gun, but unfortunately also tends to light up the scoreboard which could make Terry Collins unsteady about using him in that very important role of set-up man.
I would be shocked if that job is not given to Jason Isringhausen in short order because he is now healthy and has a wealth of experience in late-inning pressure cooker situations. Still, Izzy can not be expected to pitch every night and someone else must step forward whether it be DJ Carrasco, Ryota Igarashi, or Parnell.
The other part of this equation is the starting pitchers who are simply not pitching deep into games. When you consider that in the team’s first 10 games, only twice have their starters gotten into the 7th inning that is just too many innings for your bullpen. Even in games where the starter is effective – like last night – the 100 pitch mark is being reached in the 5th inning and that is a recipe for disaster.
And the irony is the offense has been pretty good – only the Phillies and Reds have scored more runs than the Mets so far in 2011. It will get even better when Jason Bay returns to the middle of the lineup. The pitching, on the other hand, has been awful, with only the lowly Houston Astros giving up more hits and runs than the Met staff so far in 2011. Even more distressing is the amount of walks this staff has surrendered which is doubly inexcusable in the spacious surroundings of CitiField.
The last two nights the Mets have suffered through bullpen meltdowns that a team with this many question marks can simply not afford. You wonder how much energy it has sapped out of them. Only time will tell, but what this team needs in the worse way is a tidy pitching performance by Jonathan Niese tonight that needs minimal support from the Met bullpen.
Otherwise, the 2011 season could spiral out of control in a hurry.
What can the Mets do to fix the bullpen? Leave your thoughts in the comments.