The Jenrry Mejia to the Bullpen Experiment is Off to a Bad Start. Again.

Jenrry Mejia faced five batters out of the bullpen for Buffalo on Saturday night and retired just one. He gave up a couple of singles, a walk, and a home run. His line: .1 iP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR. He threw 50% of his pitches (8 of 16) for strikes.

Compare his performance as a starter and reliever in AAA this year.

Basic


Year ERA G/GS IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WP RA
Starter 1.13 3/3 16 8 7 2 2 4 7 0 1 3.94
Reliever 13.50 0/5 4 9 7 6 1 3 3 1 1 15.75

 

Advanced


BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB HR/9 H/9 R/9 BB% SO% GO/AO TBF
Starter 2.3 3.9 1.8 1.1 4.5 3.9 6.7 11.7 2.15 60
Reliever 6.8 6.8 1.0 2.3 20.3 15.8 12.0 12.0 1.25 25

 

Obviously, we’re dealing with very, very small sample sizes which is a really good way to write something stupid about baseball.

However, moving Mejia to the bullpen was a move designed with a short-term payoff. The concept was that he would be able to transition to the bullpen and after a few weeks of polishing in Buffalo, be ready to help the big league team. After four relief appearances and nine days in the bullpen, that schedule certainly looks like it will need to be updated and delayed.

Somewhere, Jerry Manuel shakes his head at this future closer’s performance.

Upper Minors Sunday: A Healthy Dose of Yuck

AAA: Pawtucket Red Sox 6, @ Buffalo Bisons 1

The first place PawSox finished off a four-game sweep of Buffalo to drop the Bisons to 37-33 and eight games back in the International League North.

Designated “bullpen answer” Jenrry Mejia certainly was not the answer on Sunday, retiring just one of the five batters he faced. He threw under 50% strikes (10 of 22 pitches overall) while giving up a run on two hits, a walk and a HBP before manager Wally Backman pulled him to avoid running his pitch count any higher. He just did not throw enough strikes, although Backman noted that his velocity was up to 96 mph. In his two relief appearances versus Pawtucket, he allowed a run on three hits in 1.1 innings. Even if he does eventually take well to relieving, he has not yet.

SS Ronny Cedeno was 1-for-4 from the #2 spot in the order. He’s 2-for-11 in three rehab games with Buffalo.

CF Matt den Dekker was 1-4 from the #3 hole. The single was his first in five games with the Bisons. It was the second straight game he hit third after hitting third five times in 58 games in double-A.

Garrett Olson: 2.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR – 5.00 ERA


AA: Altoona Curve (PIT) 15, @ Binghamton Mets 6

The Curve, who sported the fourth-lowest OPS of any team in the Eastern League pounded out a season-high 15 runs on 20 hits in a game in which the B-Mets made matters worse with four errors.

The pitching offenders:
Greg Peavey: 5 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 HR. (It’s never a good day when a pitcher allows more home runs than he has strikeouts) – 5.22 ERA
Adrian Rosario: 2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 HR
Robert Carson: 0.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. Carson’s ERA rose from 1.61 to 3.57 now in 22.2 innings after his disaster of an outing.

One bright spot in the game: 2B Reese Havens (.173/.306/.293) was 1-for-3 with a double, his seventh and two walks. He’s walking a ton, but the hits are not falling for the former first-rounder, who’s now 25 years old.

Thoughts About Jenrry Mejia to the Bullpen

In case you missed it, over the weekend, the Mets announced that RHP Jenrry Mejia is heading for the Bisons’ bullpen. Mejia, coming off Tommy John surgery has pitched very well over his rehab assignments. To my eyes, his curveball looks better than it ever did pre-surgery thanks to a more consistent release point on the offering.

I believe almost all of the rationale for the move is contained in the following chart:


Year IP
07 DSL 43.67
08 Total 61.67
09 Total 94.66
2010 Total 74.3
2011 AAA 28.3
2012 Total 35
Career 519.56
Innings/Yr 08-11 64.7325

When it comes to innings counts for their pitchers around the system, the Mets have become very conservative especially with respect to year over year increases.

Mejia was averaging over five innings a start in Buffalo. Say for the sake of argument, that he made four more starts for Buffalo before he was recalled to the Mets at a point when he was already pushing 60 innings. At that point about eight starts from his career-high in innings when the Mets would need roughly 15 more starts from their rotation members.

Is this too conservative? Perhaps. Mejia’s innings rose steadily as he ascended through the system from 2007 through 2009. His 2010 was marred developmentally by Jerry Manuel’s insistence that he needed Mejia in his big league bullpen. He was ineffective in the Majors, and then came down with a sore shoulder at the end of the year as the Mets moved him back into a starter’s pattern. Blame Manuel? Sure.

Developmentally, it would probably be best for Mejia to start every fifth day whether it’s Buffalo or for the Mets, if his performance warrants it, until he reaches whatever innings ceiling the team has set for him and then shut it down. In a starter’s role, he could continue to throw all three of his pitches, and work through game situations and setting up hitters.

However, development is not the only thing that matters. Big league wins matter too. Overall, the Mets are 22nd in baseball in ERA (4.28), but fourth in xFIP (3.72). Mets starters behind outstanding work from RA Dickey and Johan Santana and solid-mid rotation performances from Jon Niese and Dillon Gee are 6th in ERA (3.66) and third in xFIP (3.48). The relievers still boast the worst ERA in baseball (5.59) and 3rd worst xFIP (4.21) and that’s while throwing the 12th fewest innings of any relief core.

Mejia’s right arm represents one of the last potential in-house options to improve this bullpen. (Josh Edgin’s left arm is another.) The only pitchers on the 40-man roster who are healthy and not on the 25-man roster are Mejia, Pedro Beato and LHP Robert Carson. Since May 1, Carson has an 8/5 K/BB ratio in 13 AA innings. That’s not all that impressive. Beato on the other hand, has gone 10.2 innings without allowing a run in AAA, fanning nine and walking four, three intentionally, in that time with just five hits allowed.  Beato is probably next on the list if the Mets need a reliever.

Of course, the Mets rotation has its own question marks: will Santana and Chris Young’s shoulders hold up through the August heat? Can Gee maintain both his career-best strikeout and walk rates? Can Jon Niese maintain his career-best GB%, LOB% and BABIP? The Mets seem content to ride with Miguel Batista or Jeremy Hefner rather than turning to Mejia. Perhaps in a month or so, when Mejia would have been ready, Matt Harvey will be prepared to make the jump into the big league rotation.

I would have kept Mejia working as a starter to facilitate his development and preserve the team’s options to help either the rotation or the bullpen. Mejia’s value is so much higher as a 150 inning pitcher than as a 75 inning pitcher that the short-term, 2012 loss would be worth it.  It is far easier to go from starting to relieving than from relieving to starting during the course of a season. There’s no reason that with relatively normal usage out of the bullpen, Mejia could not reach 75 innings this year, and put himself in line for a return to the rotation in 2013.

Maybe it’s just short-term thinking, but big league wins matter. At some point, it’s time to expect young players to make the transition from prospects to big leaguers who help start producing those wins. Apparently, that time is now for Mejia.

Upper Minors Saturday: Jenrry Mejia’s Final Start, Matt den Dekker Extends Hitting Streak. Darin Gorski Bounces Back

AAA: Norfolk Tides 5, @ Buffalo Bisons 0

Jenrry Mejia shutout the Tides through four innings, but it all fell apart on him in the fifth after he was charged with an error when he couldn’t field a comebacker. The big blow came on a Lew Ford three-run homer in the frame. His line: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 10 gb outs/2 fb outs. It sounded like he stayed most fastball/curveball through the first few innings. He did break out a nice changeup on a 2-1 count in either the fourth or the fifth.

Pedro Beato struck out three of the six hitters he faced in two perfect frames.

The Norfolk lineup was kind of amazing, for its big league presence. In addition to starting Jamie Moyer, Brian Roberts played second, Lew Ford DHed, Miguel Tejada was the SS, Bill Hall played 3B, Nate McLouth patrolled centerfield. If you’re keeping score at home, there is an MLB MVP award in that lineup, nine MLB All-Star games, 51 years of MLB service and 22,777 MLB plate appearances. Are many of those players well past their expiration date? Absolutely, but don’t tell me AAA is the same as AA.


 

AA: Binghamton Mets 12, Trenton Thunder (NYY) 0

Darin Gorksi finished a career-high eight innings as the B-Mets offense blasted away behind him: 8 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 HR. Gorski suffered through a rough April (7.58 ERA, 19 IP, 5 HR, 10 BB, 18 K) but has bounced back a bit in June with one solid start and one very good one.

SS Josh Rodriguez led the way offensively with five hits.

Meanwhile, Jefry Marte was 0-f0r-3, but hurt his hand or wrist according to Amazin’ Avenue’s Jeff Paternostro. Marte left the game early in favor of Joe Bonfe.

In the leadoff spot, 2B Reese Havens was 2-for-6 with a homer and two strikeouts.

And we finish this segment with the red-hot Matt den Dekker who was 2-for-5 with a strikeout and a stolen base to lift his season line to .338/.395/.560 with 62 strikeouts in 57 games. He’s hit safely in seven-straight games and leads the Eastern League in OPS (.955).

Wednesday Links: Draft Signings and Harvey and Mejia Analysis

The Mets have already reached an agreement with their supplemental round pick, C Kevin Plawecki, and he “expects to sign it in the next few days,” writes Michael Pointer in the Indianpolis Star (via Mark Simon of ESPNNY).

At Baseball America, JJ Cooper explains that in an effort to limit the costs against their draft pool, MLB teams drafted lots of college seniors who have no negotiating leverage. These new rules are comically dumb.

At the Toledo Blade, beat writer John Wagner has a great detailed breakdown of Jenrry Mejia and Matt Harvey’s last starts, and a slightly less detailed look at Jeurys Familia’s start.

Jenrry Mejia: I Concentrate Better Now

At MiLB.com, John Wagner has a few nice notes about RHP Jenrry Mejia.

As Mejia said, “I feel I have better concentration now. I’m throwing all of my pitches for strikes. Last year, when I came back, I didn’t feel like I feel now. I feel my changeup is pretty good right now and my curve is getting better. I feel better than I did before the surgery.

As for his good start last night, Bisons’ pitching coach Mark Brewer praised his stuff. “As a matter of fact tonight was one of the nights where he pretty much had a good feel for all his pitches. He had a heavy sinker, his changeup was utilized to offset tempo, and after he established, he could throw the changeup over the plate at any time he had them on their heels.”

Both Brewer and manager Wally Backman (appropriately) deferred on Mejia’s future role when asked by MiLB.com, but pointed out he’s been effective as a starter in two go rounds in AAA.

Brewer: “I think it’s up to [Mets manager] Terry Collins and [Mets pitching coach] Dan Warthen from a standpoint of what they need. He’s very versatile and he’s able to slip into the bullpen and slip into the rotation.”

Backman: “I think he can fit in both roles, depending on the needs at the Major League level,” Backman said. “To me, from what I’ve seen, I think he can do both.”

Upper Minors Monday: Jenrry Mejia Strong in 2nd AAA Start

AAA: Buffalo Bisons 2, @ Toledo Mud Hens 1

Good: Jenrry Mejia: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. He induced nine groundouts against four fly outs and threw 60% of his pitches (43 of 72) for strikes. Both hits he allowed were singles. In two starts in AAA, he’s yielded just two runs on four hits, walked two and fanned five.

Also good: Pedro Beato: 3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K. In nine innings over six games in AAA, he’s allowed one run on a homer, with six strikeouts against four walks. He has not given up a run in 8.1 innings.

RF Dustin Martin doubled and scored the winning run on a throwing error in the top of the 10th.


For the second straight day, the B-Mets were rained out against the Akron Aeros. They’ll finish the suspended game and make up the other game in Akron on June 19.

Upper Minors Wednesday: Jenrry Mejia’s Sharp Rehab and More Bullpen Options

AAA: @ Buffalo Bisons 3, Columbus Clippers (CLE) 2 (10 innings)

In his first rehab start in AAA Buffalo, Jenrry Mejia was very good: 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR. His motion looked a little smoother than in years past. In turn, his release point on his curveball was more consistent. He threw the pitch a lot, and for the most part was effective with it. Notably, he hung a curve that turned into Matt LaPorta’s home run. Overall, his command was good: he threw 66% of his pitches (45 of 68) for strikes. He appeared to be low 90s most of the night and sprinkled in some 94. He was efficient with his pitches, at times letting Columbus hitters beat his sinker into the ground to get easy, quick outs. Given his performance Wednesday, I’d sure like to see the Mets keep him starting. However, they might well feel the bullpen demands immediate help, and again, given Wednesday’s results that would be a hard case to argue against.

After Mejia departed, two guys who could well appear in the Mets’ bullpen in short order, Josh Edgin and Elvin Ramirez each threw two scoreless, hitless innings.Ramirez fanned three and Edgin whiffed two. Ramirez’s AAA numbers are really, really good: 14.2 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 19 K. He’s got big league stuff, sitting 93-94 mph with the ability to dial it up harder, and a slider and a changeup. It’s time for Ramirez.

Edgin could use a little more time, but he’s pitching much better. After a rough beginning to his AAA career in which he allowed eight runs in his first 8.2 innings, he’s let in just four runs, only one of which was earned in his last 10.1 innings. In his first 8.2 innings, he struck out 11 batters and walked 6 while in his last 10.1, he’s fanned nine and walked just two. Lefties are 6-for-25 off him in AAA without an extra-base hit. They don’t really have an answer against him. Righties see the ball better against him, and he was trying to back-door his slider to them on Wednesday.

Josh Thole was originally scheduled to DH in this game, but the MLBPA had not signed off on his rehab appearance by game time. Instead, that clearance came hours later, and he grounded out to second base in his only at-bat as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning.

Josh Satin doubled and scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the tenth.


AA: @ Reading Phillies 5, Binghamton Mets 3

While Mejia was rolling in Buffalo, Miguel Batista was found the road in AA a whole lot bumpier. His line: 7 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 2 WP.

CF Matt den Dekker was 2-for-4 with a double and a homer to push his season line to .310/.375/.533 with 17 doubles, three triples and seven homers in 48 games. That’s good. The only blemishes on his account: his 53 whiffs and his .265/.345/.347 line versus lefties.

Meanwhile, an 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout dropped 2B Reese Havens to .148/.320/.235 in 26 games.