The Mets late-game relievers are being overtaxed, thanks to their middle relievers
These are good times for the Mets.
They’re firing mostly on all cylinders, mashing their way to success all while they deal with a little food poisoning with Jacob deGrom, growing pains for Noah Syndergaard, resting Matt Harvey, and dealing with the challenge of succeeding in hitters parks.
But there’s one thing the Mets are having a lot of trouble overcoming, and it is getting consistency out of relievers not named Tyler Clippard, Jeurys Familia, and to a growing extent, Hansel Robles.
Overall, the bullpen has been very good this season. Only the Cardinals and the Pirates have posted better than the 3.14 ERA the Mets have in the National League.
But their bullpen has been a little more pedestrian in August, having posted a 3.90 ERA so far this month, which is the seventh-best mark in the National League.
It’s not terrible, but not particularly good either.
Certainly, that mark was impacted by Bobby Parnell’s ineffectiveness before he was placed on the disabled list, and it’s certainly being bloated by Eric O’Flaherty’s inability get anyone out, whether it’s left-handed or right-handed hitters.
But the ineffectiveness and inconsistencies in middle relief are heavily taxing their steadier relievers, and that could come back to haunt them over the next six weeks.
Robles worked in three consecutive games already this week. Clippard was forced into the game on Wednesday after O’Flaherty and Carlos Torres pulled the plug from the drain to allow four runs in the eighth inning, Clippard’s second appearance in as many games.
Fortunately, Clippard put out the fire and the offense padded their lead in the ninth inning, which allowed Terry Collins to keep Familia out for the second consecutive game. But, Clippard was asked to work the ninth inning as well, meaning he is likely unavailable in Thursday’s series finale against the Philadelphia.
Collins is clearly concerned about the effectiveness of his middle relievers right now.
“We’ve got to get it shored up, no question about it,” the manager explained. “Some of these guys have to step up. We’re going to have some nights where we’ve got to depend on some other people.”
In fairness, Torres is best suited as a multiple-inning reliever and coming in for a fresh inning. He is a far more valuable pitcher in long relief and in low leverage situations. In fact, he’s been nothing short of a disaster in the eighth inning, posting a 5.29 ERA in 25 appearances pitching in the eighth inning of games this season. He’s been asked to step up to pitch in situations close and late, and while he’s taken the ball without hesitation, it’s just not something he’s been particularly effective at.
But, O’Flaherty has just been completely ineffective, leaving the Mets searching for a consistent answer to their problems getting left-handed hitters out late in games.
Left-handed hitters are 8-for-18 against O’Flaherty since he joined the Mets.
The Mets are still weighing bullpen options on the trade market, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported last weekend, but the waiver period concludes August 31, and a player acquired after that date is ineligible for the postseason.
So if the Mets are going to shore up the bullpen for the home stretch – as their manager says they need to – they need to act fast.