Sandy Alderson speaks often about the volatility of relief pitchers, and he's right -- even for professional evaluators, it's hard to tell from one year to the next how any reliever will perform.
After stumbling earlier in his tenure as Mets GM by offering multi-year deals to duds like D.J. Carrasco and Frank Francisco, Alderson later took to acquiring bullpen help via August trades. This was a clever way to catch the proverbial lightning on a bottle, and brought the team Addison Reed and Fernando Salas (the fact that Salas was ineffective the following year further underscored the point about volatility).
The team's agreement on Wednesday, pending a physical, with reliever Anthony Swarzak to a two-year, $14 million deal presents an interesting attempt to find a reliever on an upswing. Swarzak, 32, has had good years and so-so years, but a deeper look at his pitching style suggests that he could be trending in the right direction.
Mets officials could not comment on the signing because it had not yet been announced, but team officials privately pointed to patterns in Swarzak's pitch usage, which you can see here on Fangraphs.
Earlier in his career, Swarzak used a wider repertoire, throwing four-seam fastballs, sinkers, change-ups, and sliders. In his rookie year, heeven threw a curveball.
In 2015 -- when he was with Mickey Callaway and the Cleveland Indians -- Swarzak cut his arsenal down to just a fastballs and sliders. The adjustment made him more of a power pitcher, giving him the stuff to match his reputation as a fierce competitor.
If that strategy continues to work for him, Swarzak could be a key weapon for Callaway. The new Mets manager wants to use analytics to find the best matchups for his relievers, regardless of the inning and situation.
With Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins, AJ Ramos and now Swarzak, Callaway has four appealing options -- unless, of course, one or more of those guys has a down year.
As Alderson himself said Tuesday night, relievers are a "crapshoot." But in Swarzak, the team at least has reasons other than hope and faith to predict a strong season.