Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mets' Bullpen Is Becoming Their Best Asset

Photo Courtesy Of Michael Baron
When any team enters spring training, there are always a collections of ifs, worries and concerns. The 2011 Mets were certainly no exception to that rule, as they entered spring training not knowing what to expect out of their starting pitchers and relief unit.

First and foremost the starting rotation, which was without ace Johan Santana, was bound to struggle. Through the first 45 days of the season, it just didn't seem as if it was meant to be. Any hope that Mike Pelfrey would take that role soon set sail, the revitalized career of RA Dickey has seemed to take a step backwards and the team soon found itself without Chris Young. Even to this point in the midst of a long stretch of good play, with Mike Pelfrey boasting several successful outings in a row and Dillon Gee performing admirably in the absence of Young, the starting five are still this organization's biggest concern.

Photo Courtesy Of Michael Baron
Enter the relief unit, undoubtedly the strong portion of the team. The teams front office brought in more players than I can ever remember to compete for a spot in the pen this spring. As a result, whether it be by smart decisions or maybe just dumb luck, Sandy Alderson may have the premier pen in Major League Baseball.

While the efforts of the team's middle relievers and loogys shouldn't be discounted, the best this group has to offer comes later in the game. Despite his recent bought with tendinitis, Pedro Beato was virtually flawless throughout the first month of the season. And while he is just returning to form, and has not been put back into the seventh inning high pressure spot, there is no reason to think he won't be.

The eighth inning is now firmly in the grasp of Jason Isringhausen. His arm may very well be a bomb waiting to go off, but this 38 year old right can still hurl the rock. He has provided the Mets with a level of eighth inning stability they envisioned when Omar Minaya brought in J.J. Putz in 2009. Izzy's performance, when combined with his experience may be best tool on the Mets' roster so far this season.

Photo Courtesy Of Michael Baron
Finally, Francisco Rodriguez has been absolutely dominant of late. After blowing his first save opportunity of the year, although he flirted with danger, Krod has just gotten better and better. His most awe inspiring statistic is that he has not surrendered a run in well over a month, lowering his ERA to a paltry 0.76. His 15 saves land him second in all of baseball and he is thriving under his recently increased workload.

The back end of the bullpen has the potential to hold on to any lead they are saddled with. Last night was a great example, as Mike O'Connor replaced Beato in my aforementioned 7-8-9 combination and the group set down nine consecutive Yankees to finish the game. Plain and simple: Beato, Izzy and Krod have combined for 55.2 IP on the season and in that time have allowed only 5 ER for a 0.81 ERA. This Mets' bullpen is a weapon capable to locking down games, if only the Mets starters can get to the seventh with a lead. It will be the close games, just like last night, that Mets need to win if they're going to remain in the contention as the season progresses forward.

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