Mets’ bullpen a strength?

An colleague recently asked me to rank the five NL East teams on offense, defense, starting rotation and bullpen heading into the season. Some of the choices were clear-cut: Phillies with the best rotation, for example (duh). Others, not so much.

When I submitted my NL East ballot, I had the Mets ranked highly in two categories: defense (in which I ranked them first), and bullpen. In my opinion, the Braves have the best relief corps in the division, despite the loss of Billy Wagner. After that, I grappled over whether to choose New York or Washington, in the end selecting the Mets because they possess a proven closer and the Nationals — right now, at least — do not.

After I sent in my picks, my colleague and I argued over that choice for quite some time. He pointed to the Marlins, who also revamped their bullpen this winter and look stronger than they did a year ago (in short, he accused me of drinking the blue-and-orange Kool-Aid). I pointed to the fact that the Mets ranked fifth in the league in bullpen ERA last year and arguably only got stronger this offseason, adding important arms such as D.J. Carrasco and Taylor Buchholz. Do I have concerns about the bullpen? Of course — most notably, I don’t trust Tim Byrdak to be the lockdown lefty specialist that Pedro Feliciano was in years past. But I feel strongly enough about the group as a whole to rank them ahead of the Nationals, Marlins and Phillies (in that order).

The point is, I felt somewhat vindicated today when I read this story on Fangraphs discussing the relative merits of New York’s bullpen. Does that mean the Mets will be great at closing out games this year? Maybe, maybe not — injuries and year-to-year variance always play a significant role in that. But consider that the Mets just left Jason Isringhausen and Manny Acosta — two very useful relievers — off their Opening Day roster. That, if anything, speaks to the strength of this new-look bullpen.

The Mets have problems heading into the season — that much is clear. I just don’t think the bullpen (or the defense, for that matter) is one of them.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

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