Mets May Want to Rethink Their Bullpen Strategy

March 30, 2009

One of the drawbacks of looking for employment in New York City is that most of the time there is an ample supply of applicants who are vying for the same position as you. For Mets left-hander Pedro Feliciano, he is fortunate that he won’t be faced with such a dilemma. Glancing at the team’s active roster, the Puerto Rican-born reliever is listed as the only relief pitcher who throws left-handed. Feliciano, who will turn 33 by season’s end, has been with the club since 2002.

In 2006, the Mets began utilizing him in a much larger role, specifically as a left-handed specialist coming out of the bullpen. That season, his best thus far, he appeared in 64 games. Feliciano finished with a stingy 2.09 ERA and a W-L record of 7-2. The Mets were so impressed with his performance that they rewarded him with a heavier workload. The following season, he appeared in 78 games. In those appearances, he reinforced his durability as a strong reliever. However, the more the Mets leaned on the veteran left-hander, the more he began to struggle. In 2008, he appeared in almost ten more games than in 2007. With that, his ERA shot up from 3.09 to 4.05. In other key statistics such as on-base average against (.304 to .366) and slugging percentage against (.306 to .424), Feliciano experienced a significant rise in both.

It’s no secret that Feliciano is at his best when he’s pitching against left-handed hitters. Last season’s splits show a distinct contrast between hitters from both sides of the plate. Against lefties, he was able to command a respectable 2.76 ERA in which opposing hitters managed just .280 against him. Righties fared much better. They produced an impressive .453 batting average which led to a much higher ERA of 5.63.

Heading into the regular season, Manager Jerry Manuel feels comfortable carrying just one lefty, Feliciano, in his bullpen this season. Therefore, the veteran left-hander will most likely be his go-to-guy especially against hitters who reside from the left side of the plate. Having just one left-hander in the Mets bullpen may be a recipe for disaster. As history dictates, the more work Feliciano is asked to take on, the less effective he becomes. To combat this problem, Manuel has stated that he will carry right-handed “crossover guys,” who are successful pitching against both left and right-handed hitters.

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