Edwin Diaz did not repeat the spectacular season he had in 2018. Mets fans won’t be happy until he’s loaded on the next cargo plane leaving JFK. Not so fast…
Edwin Diaz belongs to a volatile class of ballplayers known as relief pitchers. He is not the first to fail in putting together back-to-back exemplary seasons, and he won’t be the last. The Mets need to think twice before sending him on his way. I’ll explain it.
Craig Kimbrel, (right) the Superman of closers last year with the Red Sox, is now a one-person wrecking crew bent on destroying all hope for the Cubs to catch Milwaukee for the final Wild Card spot in the NL.
In his last three appearances in crucial games against the Cardinals and Brewers, Kimbrel has allowed five runs in only 2.1 innings, swelling his ERA to 6.53. The Cubs lost all three games.
Casting them aside, the Cardinals have stitched together a bunch of no-names who are quietly leading the team to an NL Central Division title.
On the opposite side of the spectrum comes Drew Pomeranz, a starter for all of his career, comes along as a mid-season addition to the Brewers – and as a reliever – is now striking out 40.5% of the batters he’s facing as a significant contributor to his team’s surge into the playoffs. Go figure.
One more note before we get to Edwin Diaz.
Generally, relief pitching is getting worse with each succeeding year and even within a year. Consider this from a study done by Sports Illustrated:
Remember that stat from June of this year because it has everything to do with Edwin Diaz. But as a whole, as managers continue to rely more and more on their bullpen and less on their starters, relief pitching, due to overwork is in decline – and the same trend should be expected to continue.
The Yankees are the glaring exception and not the norm, but only because Aaron Boone has five plus-plus relievers Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Zach Britton, Chad Green, and Aroldis Chapman to choose from in mix and match game-to-game situations. And that is without Dellin Betances who was on the shelf all season.
Edwin Diaz: Accuracies And Truths About His Season
Now, let’s make the pointed jump to Edwin Diaz. All stats are sourced through Baseball-Reference and are as of 9/23/2019. Consider the following:
*** Edwin Diaz made 73 appearances for the Seattle Mariners in 2018. 44 of those came with no days rest or one game rest. The Mariners went 64-9 in games Diaz pitched. By the end of June, Diaz had logged 43 appearances.
*** In 2019, Diaz was called on 34 times by the Mets before the end of June, bringing the total to 107 appearances over nine months.
*** In April of this year, Diaz made 13 appearances. The Mets won eleven of those games, and Diaz recorded eight saves while pitching to a 1.54 ERA.
*** In May, his success continued. Appearing in 12 games (total now is 25), with the Mets winning eight times while Diaz picked up five more saves (total now is 13).
The bottom fell out in his final May appearance against the Dodgers when he allowed four runs on five hits, including two home runs, in only one-third of an inning pitched.
On that day, his ERA zoomed from 1.64 to 3.22.
*** Edwin Diaz finished out the month of July with twelve more appearances (total is now 46) and the Mets won nine of those games. Diaz earned seven more saves to reach a total of 23 at this point in the season.
Diaz would record only two additional saves for the remainder of the Mets season.
It’s Not Just Edwin Diaz
*** Overall, the Mets bullpen in 2019 was the fifth-worst in the National League, converting only slightly more than half of their save opportunities (56.45%).
Additionally, the team had 27 blown saves with Diaz accounting for nine. Diaz has 25 of the Mets 36 recorded saves this year.
*** The failure of the Mets bullpen was a team effort, my friends. The differences between 2018 and 2018 are striking. In 2018, for instance, the Mets had the third-best percentage of saves converted in the National League (70.9%).
The team’s relievers were fourth-best in the league in home runs allowed, and fifth-best in allowing batters to reach base.
Ironically, as a team, the Mets bullpen was worse this year, despite (as we’ll see) less of a workload. Team bullpens are descending into nothing more than a crapshoot from year to year.
Diaz Et. Al.: A Case Of Overwork And Overuse
Edwin Diaz is only 24 with four seasons of pitching at the major league level. He has pitched in more than 300 games, to an average of 65 appearances each season. What do we expect from him?
The rest of the Mets bullpen, however, has not has to endure Diaz’s fate. Mickey Callaway (surprise, surprise) has been cautious in the use of his bullpen this season. The Mets have the third-lowest total of innings pitched by relievers in the Major Leagues. In relief appearances, only the Houston Astros used fewer relievers. (Source: Fangraphs)
Don’t let that fool you, though. How many times have you looked to the Met’s bullpen to see two pitchers warming up, sometimes more than once, while never getting into the game being played? Those pitches count for wear and tear also.
Similarly, it’s going to be interesting to see how Seth Lugo bounces back from the spectacular year he has had. Wear and tear, use in multiple innings – you betcha it’s gonna be an issue next year. Especially with the torque, he needs to spin that curveball up there as he does…
Think Twice – It’s All Right
The Mets, as well as their fans, should not give up on Edwin Diaz. Moreover, it’s a mistake to judge him by our latest memories over the second half of the season when he stunk up the joint.
Generally, relievers are being overworked throughout baseball today. The best in the game have up, down, and then up again years.
The only fix lies with starting pitchers, and more of what the Mets got from their staff in the latter months of the season – with starters regularly going six and seven innings into their outings.
Pretty much, you are going to get what you expect from your starting pitchers. If you ask for four or five innings and a rub down afterward, that’s all you will get.
The Mets have the right idea and the right personnel to extend their starters every fifth day. And that will be a benchmark for the team to strive for in April as well as September.
As for Edwin Diaz, do not let this guy go. Use him more strategically and less often – and you’ll see.