Mickey Callaway's bullpen has faced the fifth-most batters in the National League since May 1.
They have faced the second-most batters this week thanks in large part to Jacob deGrom, who was pulled after just one inning during his most recent start due to throwing 45 pitches in the first inning. The next day, Noah Syndergaard pitched only five innings, and Zack Wheeler could only get through four innings Wednesday.
This is bad. It's only a three-game stretch, but it's not a new issue. Even when the Mets were playing their best baseball this season they were at best middle of the pack in this category.
The Cubs and Rockies were the only teams to make the postseason out of the 15 teams whose bullpens faced the most batters last season. No team among the bottom 10 made it to October, including the Mets.
Meanwhile, last year's individual leaders, Corey Knebel and Juan Nicasio, led the National League by each pitching in 76 games. This season, Jerry Blevins is on pace to pitch in 75 games, Robert Gsellman and Jeurys Familia are on pace to each pitch in 79 games, and AJ Ramos is on pace to pitch in a whopping 96 games.
The above means two things will soon happen. Either 1) Callaway will need to start using Blevins, Gsellman, Ramos, and Familia less, which means someone else will need to pick up those innings, or 2) he'll keep using them, burn them out, and have a disaster on his hands.
To solve the first option, Callaway can start pushing his starting pitchers to go deeper in games. The thing is, that's easier said than done because there is no guarantee the rotation will return better results than the relievers in those later innings.
Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are not the issue, as both pitchers are on pace to throw at least 180 innings this season. On the other hand, at the rate they're going, neither Steven Matz, Wheeler, or Jason Vargas is likely to exceed 140 innings.
Replacing one of two of these guys might help, but who gets the call?
In 18 career starts, Seth Lugo is averaging between 5-6 innings each start, so he's not necessarily the answer since he isn't going to provide much of an improvement compared to Matz and Wheeler, which is who he would theoretically be replacing.
Gsellman hasn't lasted much longer when starting, plus he's already overextended having pitched so much in the bullpen.
The Mets are not soon trading for Clayton Richard (Padres) or Trevor Williams (Pirates) or anyone else able to add talent and length to the starting rotation. Sandy Alderson also doesn't have the necessary talent in the upper levels of the minor leagues to accomplish these results.
R.A. Dickey, who was among the league leaders in total innings as a starting pitcher last season, is a free agent. The consensus around baseball during the offseason was that he intended to retire, but he never made an official announcement. I suppose it's possible he could pull a half-season contract, but -- if he were to do that -- I'm not sure why he'd choose the Mets over a more stable team with a better record that is more likely to make the postseason.
In other words, instead of beefing up or getting more from the rotation, the answer may need to be mixing up the bullpen to -- at the very least -- add fresh arms to the mix and cut down on the workloads of the relievers above so they can be more productive later in the season.
It would be great to have Anthony Swarzak in the mix, but a lingering oblique and rib issue has delayed his return, though he had been set to throw off a mound on Wednesday.
In Triple-A Las Vegas, Corey Oswalt and Jamie Callahan are both on the 40-man roster and worth considering, as are Double-A relievers Gerson Bautista, Marcos Molina, and Tyler Bashlor. However, these younger guys are green and possibly not ready for the jump, and Oswalt and Callahan have only limited success pitching against big-league hitters.
The point is, swapping bullpen arms is probably the best answer. However, to do it, Sandy Alderson and Callaway will need to choose wisely.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!