By Ed Coleman
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Bobby Parnell notched his first save of the season on Wednesday, shutting down the Phillies despite issuing two walks to protect a 3-run lead at Citizens Bank Park. Parnell has just one other major league save – the other coming two years ago against the Cardinals – but the Mets are hoping this will be just the start of many more to come in the years ahead. But what Parnell’s save couldn’t hide or disguise was a simple fact – that the bullpen had basically sabotaged a Mets’ season that had survived crisis after crisis during a ridiculously high injury-plagued campaign.
The bullpen has allowed at least one run in 11 straight games, posting an ERA approaching 6 – 5.97 to be exact – over that span. The last time that had happened to a Mets’ pen was back in September of 2007 – the fateful year when the Mets blew a 7-game lead with 17 games to play. Even worse – dating back to July 20 – the bullpen has yielded at least one run in 27 of 32 games – good (or bad) for a 5.31 ERA. What’s so disappointing is that despite the late fade in July – the Met bullpen still posted the 7th best ERA in the major leagues at 2.97 for the month. But thus far in August, the bullpen has a 5.71 ERA – the 2nd worst mark in the majors. In addition, the Met bullpen has racked up 6 losses during the month of August – tied for most in the majors – and overall the pen ranks 28th out of 30 teams with a 4.36 ERA.
And it would have been nice if the starters as a whole could have picked up the slack, but that hasn’t happened. The Mets have lost 15 of 21 thus far this month, and Met starting pitchers have posted a 5.61 ERA while going 3-9. Since a 5-game winning streak put them a season-best 4 games over .500 (55-51) on July 29, the Mets have dropped 17 of 23.
It probably speaks volumes that Tim Byrdak – a lefty specialist and the lone lefty in the Met pen – has been the pen’s steadiest contributor. Byrdak has allowed just 4 earned runs in his last 38 appearances – a 1.86 ERA – and has posted a 2.25 ERA since the All-Star break. It would be even lower on both counts if Manny Acosta hadn’t allowed Hunter Pence to knock in Chase Utley on Wednesday. Acosta has been about as up and down as the velocity on his fastball this season, and he’s given up a home run (6) for every 5 relief innings he’s pitched (29 2/3). Pedro Beato has had his moments and is definitely worth keeping, but he may have hit the wall. Beato’s ERA is 6.32 dating back to July 22, and since May 1 it sits at 5.44. He has allowed at least 1 run in 8 of his last 11 outings.
The Mets may ask Beato to stretch out with the possibility of looking at him as a starter next season. D.J. Carrasco has not had a good season, but something tells me there’s more there than meets the eye, and he is under contract for 2012. Carrasco has done one thing very well and that’s strand 20 of 23 inherited runners, the 6th best percentage in the National League.
Then there’s Ryota Igarashi. As I’ve said before, I’ve seen enough. Let’s move on. Jason Isringhausen provided a “feel-good” moment with his 300th career save in San Diego, and he’s done a great job stuffing the opposition with RISP and two outs, holding them to an .095 batting average. But Izzy has 3 of the 6 defeats affixed to the bullpen this month, and is 1-3 with a 15.00 ERA in August.
Nonetheless, he provides invaluable experience for everyone in the bullpen, and is a terrific tutor to the hopeful eventual closer Parnell.
For the type of stuff and electric fastball that he possesses, Parnell gives up way too many hits – 46 in 43 2/3 innings – and walks (19) as well. His 52 strikeouts rank him 7th in strikeouts per 9 innings pitched amongst N.L. relievers, and that will get better over time. But Parnell also must hone the mental edge that is needed to become a top-flight closer, and that is still a work in progress.
The final nail in the bullpen’s coffin is home runs. Acosta, Carrasco and Izzy have each surrendered 6 long balls – almost half of the 38 allowed by the Met pen, which is tied for the 9th most HR allowed in the majors.
There doesn’t appear to be much help down on the farm either. The bullpen at Triple AAA Buffalo has over 20 blown saves this season. We’ll probably see Josh Stinson, a starter recently transferred to the bullpen at Buffalo, along with veterans Miguel Batista and Pat Misch, as well as lefty Robert Carson from Binghamton, coming up soon or on September 1 when the rosters expand.
But there’s very little doubt that there will be some serious retooling to the bullpen for 2012 to avoid what has occurred over the last month’s time.
C U soon,