Welcome back to the Mets Beat newsletter! Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007, including the past 13 seasons full-time on the beat.
On the surface, the Mets did little this offseason to improve a bullpen that ranked ninth in the Majors in ERA. They replaced Jeurys Familia with Adam Ottavino, which statistically appeared to be close to a wash. They lost Aaron Loup, who enjoyed a historic 2021 season, to free agency, then traded Miguel Castro for Loup’s left-handed replacement, Joely Rodríguez.
So far, it hasn’t worked out perfectly for the Mets, who struggled to maintain leads over the admittedly small sample of the first week of the season. But there is reason for hope in the form of Drew Smith.
For years, Smith — the return on the Lucas Duda trade in 2017 — offered promise as a high-upside reliever, but injuries interfered each time he seemed primed to make a leap. First, it was Tommy John surgery, which wiped out his entire 2019 season following a promising rookie campaign in 2018. Next, it was shoulder soreness that prevented Smith from making a run at last year’s Opening Day roster, then a lat strain that cost him the final six weeks of last season.
Now, Smith is healthy. And he may be improved as well. Two years ago, Smith added a cut fastball, which he learned in part by watching Clayton Kershaw throw. The pitch worked for him to a certain extent, but Smith believed it had a propensity to flatten out and hang in the zone, giving hitters more time to react to it. So Smith changed his delivery of the pitch, keeping the same grip but throwing it more like a curveball. The result has been significantly more downward movement — and plenty of whiffs.
Look at how Smith’s 2021 cutter broke mostly right to left: