By Joe Rini
Is the New York Mets bullpen good enough to help win a World Series in 2022? It isn’t awful; in fact, it’s very good. However, for fans dreaming of a championship, every bullpen hiccup causes them to toss and turn at night. On the positive side, the Mets bullpen boasts Edwin Diaz, arguably the best closer in baseball. Twenty-seven saves, and 96 strikeouts in 48 innings highlight his dominance. Fans in the stands booed Diaz in 2019. In 2022, they joyously blow mock trumpets to “Narco” as he emerges from the bullpen gates.
Veterans in the Bullpen
Backing up Diaz in the bullpen are a number of proven veterans. The resurgent Adam Ottavino at age 36 is having his best season since 2019. His 2.35 ERA is nearly two runs better than last season, and his WHIP of 1.064 is his best since 2018. Seth Lugo performs multi-roles from the bullpen. Depending on the circumstances, the Mets lean on Lugo to close, set up for Diaz, and pitch multiple innings.
Veteran Trevor May returned to active duty on August 3 after three months on the IL and Buck Showalter has quickly moved him into more leveraged situations. For example, Showalter pitched May in the ninth inning of two non-save victories against the Atlanta Braves to spare overusing Diaz. He also pitched a scoreless eighth inning in the Mets’ 1–0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on August 13. Trade deadline acquisition Mychal Givens is a proven veteran reliever. Like Ottavino and May, he has postseason pitching experience.
Thanks to Trevor Williams thriving in multiple bullpen roles, the Javier Baez trade may someday be known as the “Trevor Williams” trade. Mostly a long reliever and spot starter, Showalter experimented with Williams in a different role on July 29. Williams pitched a scoreless eighth inning that night against the Miami Marlins in a 6–4 Mets win.
But Is Bullpen Good Enough
Overall the bullpen has pitched well. It ranks fifth best in “SCOT%” in the National League. Diaz is a dominant closer. Showalter spreads the work to avoid overuse. For example, the Mets continue to have no pitchers among the league leaders in appearances. Diaz, Ottavino, and Givens are tied for 14th in that category. However, questions remain about the bullpen because the Mets did not significantly improve it at the trade deadline. Observers expected the Mets to add a lefty specialist and/or a more reliable set-up man for Diaz. The veteran Givens provides depth but he basically replaces Colin Holderman who was traded away in exchange for Daniel Vogelbach. Joely Rodriguez remains the lone left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. Lefties are hitting .180 against Rodriguez despite struggles lately. Left-handed starter David Peterson will likely provide depth in the bullpen in the postseason.
Lugo has pitched better in the second half, but he’s not the dominant force he was in 2018 and 2019. Ottavino has been the most reliable bridge to Diaz in 2022 but struggled in the postseason with the Yankees in 2019 and 2020, perhaps due to fatigue. He, Lugo, and May experienced rocky outings against the Atlanta Braves this week.
Is the Mets bullpen good enough to help win a championship? Perhaps, yes, if Diaz continues his dominance and the starters pitch deep into games. Ideally, the Mets will get a first-round bye in the postseason, and the bullpen won’t be overused. However, Ottavino, Lugo, et al will need to get big outs and could be the decisive factor in whether City Hall hosts the Mets for a ticker-tape parade in November.