The Mets are expected to designate Manny Acosta for assignment and call up Chris Schwinden on Tuesday, probably ending the lanky reliever’s three-year Mets career. Acosta was terrible in 2012 — he allowed one fewer run in 2012 than he did in his entire Mets career prior — but he was an effective member of an often-ineffective bullpen (118 ERA+) across 2010 and 2011. I liked Acosta, I think we said as much on the Mostly Mets Podcast several times, and he had earned some benefit of doubt coming into this season. But six home runs and 33 runs uses up a lot beneficial doubt in just 22 innings. So we say goodbye.
But before we do that, here’s two points re: Acosta and his usage:
1. Pitchers, even relievers, shouldn’t lose it this fast without some kind of injury, be it physical or mental or metaphysical. Acosta had been a decent pitcher for five seasons prior to these 22 innings, and I’ll bet that he’ll be a decent pitcher again someday. Something just wasn’t working for Acosta right now. He already matched his walk and home run totals from last year in under half as many innings this season, and it looked as though he just couldn’t put the ball where he wanted. He’ll figure it out again at some point.
But the Mets need a decent relief pitcher right now, and Acosta has shown he is unable to fill that role. So he gets the boot. Wish him well.
2. Terry Collins has an unfortunate habit of bringing in his worst relievers when the Mets are trailing by a single run. The Mets trailed 5-4 when Acosta entered in the ninth inning on Monday, and roughly zero seconds later they were trailing 8-4. Teams trailing by one run at home in the top of the ninth inning — the situation into which Acosta entered — win roughly 13% of the time. So not total garbage time. Teams at home trailing by four runs with one out and one on — the situation from which Acosta exited — win roughly 1% of the time. Total garbage time. The game was still in reach and the Mets bullpen was fresh after strong efforts from Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey the two previous games. That’s not the best spot for a struggling reliever to find himself.
At the same time, Collins does need to use all his relievers, and a random game in May against the Phillies isn’t all that important in the long run. And he’s been pretty decent at using his best relievers in the most important spots (via Fangraphs):
The stat there, gmLI, is “game leverage index,” or on average how important a situation a reliever faces upon entering the game. The higher the number, the more important the spots. An index of 1.0 is average. Terry Collins has done a solid job using his better relievers in important spots. (Jonathan Papelbon, for example, has been used on average in the fifth-most important situations by the Phillies this season, behind world beaters like Michael Schwimer.) The biggest exception here being Ramon Ramirez, who, for some reason, is being used as a multi-inning middle reliever by Collins. I don’t know why either.
Chris Schwinden will take Acosta’s spot for now, though I expect Pedro Beato will be in Queens whenever he’s ready. The 2012 Mets bullpen: Keep throwing stuff at the wall until something sticks.