Last night, the Mets were clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth inning. Jeruys Familia didn’t have it. He gave up a single and a walk to put two men on and then lucked into a double play. Then he walked two more guys to load the bases. With the heart of the Phillies order coming to the plate, the game was on the line. That it was the Phillies — who the Mets figure to be battling all season long in the NL East — means that this game mattered a whole heck of a lot. The Mets needed an out there. The leverage could not have been higher.
This past offseason the Mets swung a blockbuster trade for reliever Edwin Díaz. Díaz saved 57 games last year and, before last night, had allowed only one run in seven outings. He also had not pitched since last Thursday. Díaz is the Mets’ best reliever, he was more than fully rested and he was ready to go in the bullpen. So what did Mets manager Mickey Callaway do?
He put Robert Gsellman in the game. Gsellman issued a bases-loaded walk on four pitches which forced extras innings. The Mets ended up winning the game — and Díaz got the save — but a good outcome does mean that a bad decision was not made. The win notwithstanding, not using Díaz in the eighth was a bad decision.
After the game, Calloway met the press and from the sound of it he and the Mets seem content to make bad decisions in the future too:
“He’s not going to get four outs. He’s going to get three . . . When we get to the playoffs, he’ll be available for more than three outs.”
Díaz is young and has had bone spurs, so perhaps some caution with him is necessary, but who said he had to get four outs in that situation? Why not just bring him in for the one critical out? Or, maybe two if Callaway decided to pull the plug on Familia earlier in the inning? Callaway also added that he has faith in his other relievers. OK, fine. Even better then to use Díaz for one out there and one of his other relievers in the ninth inning, which would’ve started with a one-run lead and no one on base, thereby presenting way lower leverage, right?
This approach to using Díaz is sub-optimal pitcher usage. The “three outs only” thing — and the assumption that, if used in the eighth last night, he would’ve had to get four outs — is about catering to the save statistic.
Callaway says he’ll change all of that once the Mets are in the playoffs, but by mismanaging his bullpen like this, he’s going to end up harming the Mets’ chances of making the playoffs in the first place.