Seth Lugo never figured high in the Mets plans. Drafted in the 34th Round in the 2011 Draft, Lugo is now firmly entrenched as the team’s best reliever…
Seth Lugo has proven to be the most reliable pitcher in the Mets bullpen this season. Replacing a faltering Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz, Lugo now pitches for Mickey Callaway in high-leverage only situations. Shunning the term “Closer,” Lugo pitches whenever and wherever the Mets need him. It wasn’t always that way.
The Mets waited until everyone was asleep to draft Lugo in the 34th Round of the June 2011 College Draft. It took five years for Lugo to work his way through the Mets farm system, Lugo arrived in 2016 to make five starts and two relief appearances. Lugo’s 5-2, 2.67 ERA assured the Mets he was a keeper.
The trouble was, however, the Mets brass couldn’t decide the role Lugo was meant to play with the team. Was he a starter, or a reliever?
In 2017, the Mets took the leap making Lugo a starting pitcher. Lugo responded with a so-so season (7-5 4.67 ERA), leaving the Mets back where they started.
Last year, the Mets reversed course for good Appearing in 54 games, all but five as a reliever, Lugo finished 13 games while turning in a 2.67 ERA. With this year’s performance, Lugo solidified his place in the team’s bullpen. All 53 of his appearances have come as a reliever, and it is fair to say the Mets would be toast without him.
Seth Lugo has developed the mindset to be a relief pitcher. Transforming himself from the mindset of a starting pitcher to a reliever does not come naturally. He had to work at it as he explains:
Seth Lugo: The Cajun “Quarter-Rican”
Raised in Cajun Country in Louisiana, New York Mets right-hander Seth Lugo always joked that he was “Quarter-Rican,” a nod to his paternal grandfather, José “Ben” Lugo.
Clemson Smith Muniz’s excellent piece in lavidabaseball.com explains how Seth Lugo learned how to pitch from both sides of his family while growing up in Louisiana.
“His father Ben taught him to throw curveballs. The Mets’ 34th-round pick in the 2011 draft stands out for his spin rate on a staff populated by intimidating hard throwers like Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom.
In the world of analytics, spin rate is to curves what heat is to fastballs. The more spin, the bigger the break. In 2016, Lugo threw a curve at 3,498 revolutions per minute — the highest spin rate measured in the Statcast era.”
As Fate Would Have It…
Lugo spent most of this season going unnoticed while building his impressive resume with the Mets. Ironically, he was thrust into the limelight on a negative note in a mid-August game his team ultimately lost.
The game featured a questionable decision by Mickey Callaway to remove Steven Matz from a game in which he was pitching brilliantly in favor of Lugo. Lugo promptly had his worst out of the year surrendering five runs in only one-third of an inning.
Lugo entered the game having retired 30 of the last 31 batters he’d faced. Opposing hitters were 2-for-44 off him since the All-Star break.
Callaway immediately came to Logo’s defense with a ringing endorsement of his value to the team:
Today, that appearance by Lugo is a fading memory with almost everyone. In seven appearances since that fateful day in August, Lugo has yet to give up an earned run.
When the vote is taken for the Mets MVP of the 2019 season, with all respect given to Pete Alonso, Seth Lugo, as the backbone of Mickey Callaway’s bullpen, gets my unofficial vote. Without Lugo, where would the Mets be?