The Mets are playing meaningful baseball in August for the first time in three years, yet there are still concerns with the bullpen, specifically closer Edwin Diaz.
The big prize in the blockbuster offseason trade with the Mariners that cost top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, Diaz was the best closer in baseball when acquired off the back of a 59 save, 1.96 ERA season. In the space of nine months, Mickey Callaway is being asked whether he should even be used in close games, let alone save situations.
He has already given up 11 home runs this season, six more than last which has made his ERA balloon to 5.60. Diaz has a HR/flyball rate of 23.9%, up from 10.6% last year. According to Fangraphs, an average rate is about 10% which suggest there is an element of misfortune about Diaz’s struggles, which may also be due to the juiced ball.
The fact of the matter is that, bad luck or otherwise, the Mets’ supposedly shut down closer cannot be trusted in close games. Although Seth Lugo has been elite, it is difficult to lean on a pitcher with a partially torn UCL that Callaway is reluctant to use on back to back days.
The trust that Callaway has in his bullpen is limited, as shown by his post-game interview on Sunday (11/8) where he ruled out giving Diaz lower leverage situations due to a lack of alternatives. The only fully trustworthy arm in the pen at this stage is Lugo, who pitched the final two innings of Saturday’s win.
Justin Wilson has also been mostly good since his IL stint, but he gave up the go-ahead two-run double to Asdrúbal Cabrera on Sunday. Jeurys Familia has a 6.50 ERA and lost his 8th inning role to Lugo months ago, but he struck out the side in the 8th on Saturday, showing the sinker that made him a $10 million per year reliever in the first place.
The Mets go into a crucial three game series in Atlanta with a deep line-up and rotation, which is what Brodie van Wagenen envisioned when trading for the best closer in baseball. It is time for the Edwin Diaz that the GM thought he was acquiring to make an appearance, or the Mets do not really have much of a chance to get to October.