You’re never going to believe this, but things haven’t worked out the way the Mets wanted them to. Their missteps and misfortunes have been plentiful and varied. As is often the case with the Wilpons’ franchise, many of the Mets wounds have been self-inflicted. Entering play on Saturday, the Mets had the second-worst record in the National League, finding themselves a half game behind the Giants. They’ve needed poor decision making and poor planning to fall this far, but even their best-laid plans have gone awry.
The clearest example of this is their acquisition of Edwin Díaz who’s headlining what’s shaping up to be the worst Mets bullpen of all-time.
I cannot stop thinking about this: The highest 'pen ERA in NYM history from 1962-2016 was the legendary '62 club. For over 40 years, they couldn't top it.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) July 6, 2019
They've broken the record *every year since.*https://t.co/couI0tnwR4
5.58 -- 2019
4.96 -- 2018
4.82 -- 2017
4.76 -- 1962
After Friday night’s 7-2 loss to the Phillies which culminated in a five-run ninth inning, the Mets bullpen owns a 5.70 ERA. With a competent bullpen, the Mets might still find themselves in contention. Their offense led by Pete Alonso has been perfectly fine. They’ve had trouble filling out the back of the rotation, but Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard are a fine enough start. The bullpen, though, has been a glaring weakness.
Díaz, who was brought in to shore up a bullpen that had out-Mets’d the 1962 Mets for the previous two seasons, owns a 5.67 ERA after 36 appearances and is looking at being removed from the closer’s role.
The conventional wisdom is that you shouldn’t pay for saves. When a reliever has a sudden jump in effectiveness, it’s rare that they’ll repeat it the following year. Last season, Blake Treinen was an unhittable demigod, but has since turned back into a pumpkin. In his analysis of the trade, my colleague Luis Torres wrote:
“The Mets are acquiring two players with substantial upside, but there is also substantial risk involved. If Canó hits like he did last season while playing over 150 games, and Díaz repeats his 2018 season, this pair could be worth approximately nine wins in 2019. Or Canó could start playing like a 36-year-old second baseman, and Díaz could regress to his 2017 level. It is possible that Díaz is the rare kind of reliever who can sustain his elite performance, but given the historical track record of relievers, I would not bet on it.”
At this point, the Mets would happily take a 2017 version of Edwin Díaz. Díaz’s ERA this year is over two runs higher than it was two years ago even if his peripherals have been much better. Díaz has been one of the unluckiest pitchers in all of baseball. He’s currently rocking a .425 BABIP, and the difference between his .264 xwOBA and .348 actual wOBA is the greatest in the game.
Díaz is still striking out an elite 37.4 percent of batters and his walk rate is still in line with what it was last year. The home runs have been a problem, but he probably won’t give up a dinger on 21.9 percent of fly balls for the rest of the year. The ERA is unsightly, but xFIP, SIERA, and DRA all agree that he should be between 2.58 and 2.88. That’s still a step back from what he was a year ago, but that would still make him one of the best relievers in the game.
The bad news is that even if the Mets can expect better things from Díaz going forward, he won’t be getting much help from anyone aside from Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. The Mets have used 22 pitchers in at least one relief appearance—only the Mariners have used more pitchers—but few of them have stuck. Offseason (re)acquisitions Justin Wilson and Jeurys Familia have been a combination of hurt and ineffective. Wilmer Font is skating by with a .217 BABIP and an 89 percent left-on-base rate. Even Lugo and Gsellman have had their own meltdowns and strings of bad luck.
Unless the miraculous happens, it’s too late to turn the Mets’ season around. If you’re looking up at the Giants in the Wild Card standings, it’s time to throw in the towel.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.