This Week in the Mets Season: The Bullpen

The Mets have started the season exceeding all expectations, they are 5-1 and just beat the Washington Nationals in stunning fashion. The Mets walloped their division rivals 8-2 because of a solid start from deGrom, great bullpen work, and pure power.

Through the first week of the season, the Mets have done just about everything right and Mickey Callaway has been lucky enough to pull all of the right strings to this point. The rotation has been solid with Steven Matz being the only starter to not look good on the mound and the offense has scored enough runs in all but one game so far.

Michael Conforto made his return to the lineup yesterday after starting the year on the disabled list and he hit a solo shot in his third at-bat letting the world know he was back. Everyone else in the lineup has contributed and the team has proven they have an ability to answer back after their opponents put some runs on the board. The biggest win was easily yesterday when they beat the Nationals 8-2.

The most exciting thing that happened this past week was the Mets bullpen showed that they will not be a detriment to the team anymore. For the better part of a decade, the Mets have struggled to piece together a good bullpen. This has been because of a lack of talent and poor bullpen management by past managers.

New manager Mickey Callaway was the pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians who have consistently had one of the better bullpens in the league the past few years simply because they put their pitchers in the best position to succeed. The Mets do not have the talent in their bullpen that the Cleveland Indians have but they have quite a few interesting pieces.

They have Jeurys Familia, who was one of the best relievers in baseball from 2014-16 and is seemingly getting back to form, AJ Ramos a former closer for the Marlins and now a setup/important inning man, Jerry Blevins the lefty specialist, and when he returns from injury, Anthony Swarzak in the back of the pen.

These four will be the guys the team turns to in high leverage situations at the end of the game throughout the season.

Also in the bullpen is Paul Sewald, who was one of the only solid relievers for the Mets last season. Sewald proved that he has the ability to take the ball 2-3 days in a row and pitch multiple innings while still being effective.

Rookie, Jacob Rhame cracked the Opening Day roster after dominating in Spring Training with his electric fastball and willingness to go after hitters, he has only pitched in one game this year but he might be able to turn himself into a late-inning reliever if he develops a bit more.

Another reliever in the pen who has pitched well is Hansel Robles. He has been a mainstay in the bullpen the past three years, however, after an effective rookie and sophomore season he struggled mightily last year and did not make the team out of camp this season. He worked hard in extended spring training which led to him being called up when Anthony Swarzak went on the disabled list. He has had 2 innings of work since and struck out 6 of the 7 batters he faced, making a case to stay in the bigs when Swarzak returns.

Every reliever I mentioned has had a nice start to the season and will contribute nicely throughout the year but there are two guys that I believe will be the x-factor in this bullpen. These two will determine if this bullpen will be great, average, or just plain awful. The two guys I am talking about are Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo.

Both Lugo and Gsellman had an outside shot at making the roster as starters out of spring, but manager Mickey Callaway realized they were too talented to waste at AAA and decided to turn them into relievers.  Lugo actually started the season as the 5th starter outpitching Zack Wheeler but days off and a snow out pushed him into the pen with Gsellman where they both have flourished.

Robert Gsellman has pitched in 4 of the Mets first 6 games and dominated. He has pitched 8 innings allowing just two hits and striking out 8. What makes him so special is his ability to go 2-3 innings, which he has done this season, or just get 1 or 2 outs. He is a former starting pitcher who has no problem going multiple innings and taking a turn at bat if needed.

Seth Lugo has been just as effective pitching in just 2 games but pitching 3 innings and striking out 4 batters in the process. He worked the 7th and 8th innings in Matt Harveys first start and was so effective that he almost went out for the ninth for a 9 out save but Callaway decided to let Jeurys Familia finish it off. Just yesterday he closed off the Mets 8-2 victory against the Nationals in one inning of easy work.

Lugo and Gsellman have the ability to pitch like Chad Green and Andrew Miller out of the bullpen. They can pitch multiple innings while going up to the plate if it makes sense for them to bat or they can come in with runners on base and get out of the jam. Both pitchers have mid to high 90’s fastballs that can strike a guy out but can also go down in the zone with a curve or sinker to coax a double play ball.

Neither guy is likely to lead the team in saves but they might just lead the team in relief innings pitched while bailing out their starter if they fail to get past the fifth and bridge the gap between the middle and end of the game.

If they both continue to dominate out of the pen teams better watch out because the Mets won’t just have one of the best rotations in baseball, they will have one of the deepest bullpens as well. It is early but the potential for a great pitching staff is in place, now time will tell if it will last.

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