Terry Collins Needs An Immediate Reevaluation Of His Bullpen Management
On July 25 this year, the New York Mets manager Terry Collins had seen enough. The Mets were a laughing stock on offense, fielded a lineup dotted with minor leaguers and castoffs and the efforts of the best starting rotation in baseball were largely being wasted.
That was the date that Collins put his players on notice.
In an interview with reporters before the game, Collins said, “Whoever’s swinging the bats is going to play. It’s about scoring runs right now. Listen, we’ve gotta start scoring.”
With Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson in uniform for the first time that day, the Mets went out and trounced the Los Angeles Dodgers 15-2. That day bore the meritocracy that Collins has used to fill out the lineup ever since and the team has been on a path straight to the postseason ever since.
Collins needs to employ that same strategy with the bullpen immediately.
Never one to be mistaken for Tony La Russa when it comes to bullpen management, Collins mismanagement of the bullpen reached maddening heights on Tuesday night in a 14-7 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Mets fell behind 6-0 after a third straight disastrous start by Jon Niese, but with Aaron Harang and his 5-14 record on the mound for the Phillies, a comeback was still on the table. The bats finally woke up in the bottom of the fifth when the Mets plated four runs to cut the deficit to two runs.
With Citi Field rocking and the Phillies on the ropes, Collins inexplicably turned to Bobby Parnell to keep the score there. Predictably, Parnell doused the situation with gasoline so that Eric O’Flaherty and Carlos Torres could come in and and burn the game to the ground.
This needs to stop now.
For as bad as Parnell, O’Flaherty and Torres pitched, they shouldn’t have been in this spot in the first place.
If Collins managed his bullpen with the same meritocracy that he uses when he fills out the lineup, the final three innings would have been covered by Sean Gilmartin, Addison Reed, Logan Verrett and Tyler Clippard. Jeurys Familia was likely unavailable after two high-stress saves the past two nights and Hansel Robles wasn’t available either.
When you examine the situation more closely, that sixth inning becomes even more frustrating. Reed hadn’t pitched since August 27 and Collins even admitted he’d like to get him some work in his pre-game presser. Gilmartin had pitched just once since August 24 and Clippard was rested as well. If the Mets tied the game and were in need of long relief into extra innings, Verrett could have done extensive work out of the pen as he had pitched just two short stints since his masterful start against the Colorado Rockies on August 23.
Instead, Collins turned to Parnell, who was activated from the disabled list earlier in the day. To refresh everyone’s memory, Parnell was placed on the disabled list with a phantom “fatigue” diagnosis on August 18 after he was given the option to be released, go to the minors or go to the disabled list with some invented malady.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) August 18, 2015
If you didn’t see the bus crash of an outing for yourself, Parnell walked the first two batters then fielded a sacrifice bunt and heaved it into right field. Seven of the nine pitches Parnell threw were balls. He exited the field to perhaps the loudest chorus of boos by Mets fans this season.
From that point, O’Flaherty came in to issue his obligatory walk and before you knew it, Curtis Granderson and Yoenis Cespedes were chasing balls all over the outfield as the Phillies danced around the bases.
In his post game press conference, Collins was asked why he chose Parnell there, especially after having said he wanted to use Reed earlier in the day.
Collins responded, “Well, uh, it was the bottom of the order and I thought if you get [Parnell] back out there after what he’s been through it might be a lift for him. That early in the game like that, against that part of the order. He just didn’t throw any strikes.”
To his credit, Collins did say that looking back he could have used Gilmartin there.
Those sentiments are fine in May and June or for a team that isn’t gearing up for the playoffs. Today was September 1, and the Mets were playing a meaningful September game for the first time since 2007. This was not the time to try to baby Parnell back to feeling ok about himself.
Going forward, Collins needs adapt his lineup strategies when managing his bullpen. Unless the game is a blowout, Parnell and Torres should be nowhere near the mound. O’Flaherty should be used to pitch to lefties and nobody else. If the game is within striking distance, the pitchers who are pitching the best need to pitch. The middle inning group includes Eric Goeddel, Gilmartin, Verrett, Reed and Robles. With Clippard and Familia set for the back end of the game, that should be more than enough arms to get Collins through the final three or four innings of close games.
It’s time for Collins to put his bullpen on notice, just as he did with the offense. If that upsets players who have a fragile psyche like Parnell, well then they shouldn’t be pitching in a pennant race anyway.